“Now you jest come on back here, Lilly Jean, and I’ll rassle
up something for you to eat.” Spank
helped Lilly Jean into a chair before tying on an apron.
“I don’t know that I
could eat, Spank. I hurt too much.”
“You’ll eat my
special soup. Wonton. Cures everything.”
“You’re shittin’ me, Spank.
You bin cooking in this here diner all these years making greasy shit
food and you kin cook Chinese?”
Spank beamed. “Yep.” He took a bunch of green onions from the refrigerator
and began to wash them.
“Where’d y’all learn
how to cook fancy?”
“Cable television. Bitsy
lets me experiment after the diner’s closed.” Spank cut the roots from the onion and began
“I can’t believe you’re making me wonton soup.”
“I’m making you more than that, Lilly Jean. I’m making you a feast. You just rest now. OK if I turn on the radio?” His hand hovered over the dial. “I won’t put on my oldies. I know you don’t like ‘em.”
“No, Spank. You listen
to whatever you want to.” Lilly Jean leaned
her head against the wall, closed her eyes and allowed herself to fall asleep
to the sounds of the Lawrence Welk band.
“Lilly Jean?” A hand
on her shoulder.
“Leave me alone, Daddy Sheriff.”
“You don’t cook, Daddy Sheriff.”
“I ain’t Daddy Sheriff.
“Oh, thank God.” Lilly
Jean opened her eyes. Spank had set a
table before her with a white cloth; a vase of flowers in the center. She took a slow, tentative breath: Her ribs
still hurt. “Oh my Lord, does that smell
good, Spank. I can’t recollect the last
time someone cooked for me.”
“Lemme’ get your soup.”
Lilly Jean watched Spank bustle about the kitchen, dishing
up soup into pretty bowls. Arranging egg
rolls on a plate. Dishing up rice and shrimp.
The man had energy, Lilly Jean had to
credit him that. And skinny? “Hey, Spank are them your legs or are you
riding a chicken?” Lilly Jean laughed. She instantly regretted it: Spank was the
only person who’d visited her in the hospital.
Spank walked over on his skinny legs and set two bowls of
soup of the table. He sat across from
Lilly Jean and took her hand. And Spank
laughed, too. “You’re beautiful, Lilly
Jean, anyone ever tell you that?”