If, in the days before the Catholic Church gave the faithful permission to eat meat on Fridays, you found yourself in Freeport, Minnesota, you lived by the rules of “No meat on Fridays.” If you happened to be Lutheran or Baptist or any other religion for that matter you were automatically by default, Catholic.
There is nothing like the wrath of a Catholic grandmother to teach you humbleness and humility. The Catholic grandmother in this story is a woman named Agnes, now long deceased, who was the fill-in daytime cook at the café where I worked, and she was as Catholic as humanly or inhumanely possible. I’ll shoot for inhumanely for this story. The regular daytime cook was off to the doctor with her, maybe pregnant, seventeen-year-old daughter. This was some six weeks after the high school prom, so the possibility that she was indeed with child were fairly high in those day before easily accessed birth control.
Agnes was also the grandmother of the freshly minted Trollip, so she was in one of her fairly normal foul moods.
On that bright, cheerful early summer Friday as I was busy with my chores at the restaurant a customer came in whistling some tune I had never heard, and he appeared to be happy. He plunked himself on one of the stools at the counter. I was responsible for the seven counter stools. Two of those stools were usually occupied by two old bachelors who rarely spoke English and drank a heck of a lot of coffee, so I had to make any fortune you can make in a restaurant with the remaining five stools.
I dropped a menu in front of the stranger, and he asked for coffee with lots of cream. I got the coffee while he checked out the short selections on the menu. It was just before noontime and every day there was a hand printed daily special menu inside the regular one. The choices that day were more than likely, tuna hot dish, deep fried fish, turtle, fish sticks and maybe a grilled cheese with French fries. The only one of these that even resembled real meat was the turtle. I think that the Catholic rule on meat may have been vague and only included turtle as a fish because it could swim.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I do believe dogs, cows, pigs, and many other farm animals can swim and I also know they are real meat, not fish. Oh, the fine points of old-fashioned Catholicism. I never understood them, so I certainly don’t expect any other real Christians, of other sect, to understand them either.
The man ordered two hamburgers and fries. I dropped the order in front of Agnes and got a prompt, “No red meat on Fridays” line out of her. “I don’t think he’s Catholic,” I said. “Tell him to order something else,” said Agnes. So much for the rule that the ‘customer is always right’ that my boss said was sacrosanct.
I returned to the man and told him Frau Hitler in the kitchen had said he couldn’t have meat. He looked at me with disbelief. “Can I talk with the cook?” he asked. I yelled into the kitchen, “Agnes we have a customer who wants to see you.”
Agnes in all her less than five-foot tall glory and carrying her greasy spatula nearly shot out of the kitchen. “What the hell is your problem?” she asked the man. “I want a couple of burgers and some fries that’s all,” he replied
“It’s Friday, no meat on Friday!” she bellowed.
“But I’m not Catholic,” the man protested, “I’m a Seventh Day Adventist.”
“You can have fish or shrimp or something, but no meat,” she said.
“Look miss, I understand Catholics don’t eat meat on Friday, but Seventh Day Adventist don’t eat unclean meats like rabbit or pork, and we don’t eat shellfish either, so I don’t eat shrimp. But I’m allowed to eat some red meat and the only one I really like is hamburger and I don’t get it all that often. I want a couple of burgers that’s all.”
“Look Bucko, in this town on Friday your Catholic, no matter what.”
The man was miffed to say the least and looked over at me and asked. “Do you have any non-Catholic candy bars?”
I gave him two Snickers bars and a Nut Goodie.
Arian is a short story contributor to the Sentinel & Rural News. Arian has written two full-length thrillers which have received critical and popular acclaim. Arian lives in Bruce, WI, with his charming wife, Arlene.Profile
The Sentinel & Rural News covers the news and events of Clark County and southern Taylor County, as well as regional news that affects those areas.