It was Black Friday and the coffee shop parking lot was nearly empty. One pickup stood out Eb Griper's rusty old Studebaker.
Sure enough, when I walked in Eb was sitting in his favorite booth staring into his cup of coffee.
"You look like a man who needs some intelligent conversation," I said as I slipped into the booth.
"Yes, I do," Eb said. "But I'll settle for a conversation with you."
Eb's belligerence is part of his charm so I let it go. "You're not shopping with Hilda today?" I asked.
"She doesn't have a gun big enough to force me to go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving."
"Yeah, I try to avoid the stores on Black Friday, too," I said. "So where's you're cinnamon roll? You always have a cinnamon roll with your coffee."
"I'm still full from yesterday," Eb said. "Ate too much."
"I ate too much, too," I confessed. "Did you have a nice Thanksgiving."
"Hilda's family was there. They're stupid."
"And you don't like stupid people?"
"Life is tough enough without stupid people being stupid."
"What else would you expect stupid people to do other than being stupid?"
"So what does Hilda's family do that you think is stupid."
Eb looked at me over his greasy wire-frame glasses. "You got three hours?"
"That bad, huh?"
"Yep. Her sister, Eleanor, insists on talking all the time. If you try to get a word in edgewise, she talks louder and faster."
"You know what they say, Eb if you can't get a word in edgewise maybe it's because your words are dull."
Eb ignored my attempt at humor and continued, "And all she talks about is her stupid cruises, her stupid sorority, her stupid grandkids."
"I take it you think her conversation is stupid?" I kidded.
Eb glared at me. "And another thing," he continued, "I can't stand her stupid husband. Oscar thinks he is so smart. He brags about his investment portfolio. Shoot, I'd be happy to have an investment portfolio or not. And he brags about his golf game. The only good car is the car he drives. The only good politician is the one he voted for."
"You know, Eb," I said, "you need to pretend you're sleepy and take a long nap. You're old enough to get by with that."
"I did. Slept for three hours. And I didn't have to pretend."
"Good for you."
"No, bad for me" Eb said. "Hilda chewed me out last night for not being hospitable to her relatives."
"Sounds like you're in a no-win situation, Eb. You know what they say: you can pick your friends but not your relatives."
"That's true. I helped Hilda work on her family tree. Found out Eleanor was the sap."
"That's not nice, Eb."
"Yeah, that's what Eleanor said.
"You actually said that to her?"
"The truth will set you free."
"Did that set you free?
Eb grinned. "No, but I felt better."
"Well, Thanksgiving is just one day out of 365." I said. "You can take solace in that."
"Just for a few days," Eb sighed. "Then we have to go to Oscar and Eleanor's house for Christmas."
"Don't you have any other relatives?"
"Why don't you spend Christmas with them?" I queried.
"They don't want to spend Christmas with us?"
"They're stupid, too."
"What do you mean?"
"They think I'm stupid."