Drugged on a cocktail of Nyquil and spring pollen, I was rousted from my coma by growling and barking. Was our porch furniture being stolen again? Unable to focus beyond the end of the couch, I uprighted myself and peeped out the window into stark sunlight. There on my front porch, waving a silly half-wave, stood Eb from Green Acres. And parked on the street in front of my house, Mr. Haney’s truck.
Had I been transported to Hooterville?
By the time I realized Eb was atraveling meat man, it was too late to hide. I slowly opened the door to emphasize the severity of my condition,but cautiously left the screen shut.
Like a skilled auctioneer, he spewed forth his spielthrough the screen door and into my dilated pupils. My tongue was thick. Were my teeth green? I walked outonto the porch to shoo him away, leaving Lucy and Annabelle snarling inside. Maybein the harsh light, pale and zombielike, I would successfully scare him away.
“I don’t want to buy anything. I’m contagious,” I moaned.
“Just today I can give you 25% off.” Like a magician, hewhipped out a three-fold pamphlet likely detailing the foodstuff he waspeddling had I been able to see. Did he pull that thing from behind myear? “I’ve got shrimp and chicken andsteak and even vegetables.”
“Must.Lie.Down…,” I mumbled weakly. With those words he jumpedfrom the porch like a jackrabbit and raced toward his truck. Thank goodness, he was leaving.
I turned to shut the door, barely maintaining my balance, but ina flash he reappeared with a magic box of Angus beef. “I can sell you this entire case for only$150.00. It’s just twelve days off the hoof!” He crowed.
“Ewwwwww! Off the hoof?” Did I hear him correctly? “What? No! Wewouldn’t eat a case of anything in two years!”
“1,2,3,4,5,6…” he quickly starting counting and spreading variouscuts of beef all over the floor of my porch. Today’s dead cow is brought to you by the letter “C” and by the number25! My head was spinning. I thoughtI might faint.
“Oh my God NO! I’m NOT paying$150.00 for meat from your truck. You need to leave. NOW.”
“Harry Gibson buys our meat,” he beamed and pointed down the street to our neighbor’s house.
“Good for Harry Gibson! Go sell him this meat and get it off myporch.”
“So how much could youpay?” he asked. What!? Was I buying aChevy now? Was it really possible to make easy monthly payments on a side of beef?
“Nothing. ZERO. I don’t have any room in my freezer.” This was avery true statement. It was small and unorganized.I had drawers of frozen pecans from our farm in Arkansas, and the other shelves were filled with frozen lasagne and ice cream. “Really, my freezer is full.”
My energy waned.
As the room spun, he teleported into my kitchen! I had no idea how he popped inside my house. WhenEb tried to kill me, would anyone hear me scream? Or would he simply steal all my frozen pizzas bought from a real grocery store and peddle my food in his clowntruck?
Lucy was having a fit trying to protect her delusional mistress. Annabellewas now best friends with Eb.
By the time I staggered into the kitchen, Eb had rearranged twoshelves in my freezer, filling it with stacks of individually shrink-wrappedunmarked hunks of beef. “Where are mypepperoni pizzas?”
“I moved the pizzas down here and put your frozen corn and brusselsprouts here. I made room for a wholecase of New York Strips, but there’s no room for this ice cream.” He pointed to my half-empty half gallon ofHomemade Vanilla Blue Bell relegated to the side counter near the coffeepot. Itwas melting…
“What? No! I’m not buying a case of meat. We would never in a millionyears eat that much meat. I’m practically a vegetarian anyway. Put my ice creamback!” By this time I thought I might pass out. “I’m sick. You need to leave.” Iwas about to cry, and I don’t cry.
“What about lobster?” Hewas wearing me down, and he sensed it.
“If I buy something will you please leave?”
The next morning I felt much better even with my Nyquilhangover. After a dreamless sleep, Istood under the hot shower, somewhat revived. As the cobwebs began to clear frommy head, the prior days’ events came into focus… Was my Eb nightmare real?
“When you go downstairs to get the newspaper,” I mentioned to John, “you should probably check the freezer. I might haveaccidentally bought some steaks yesterday.”
“Accidentally?” Hestopped, turned, looked at me, and I knew exactlywhat he was thinking—you are turninginto your mother.
Sure enough, I had bought 8 steaks—4 tenderloinand 4 New York Strips. According to my checkbook, they cost $75. I spent $75 to make Ebleave my house.
“Oh but John,” I added, “the meat is only twelve days off the hoof.”
Mack the Knife, Bobby Darin