When I went to Kansas City last week, Riff told me to meet Andy and that we'd be driving two minivans in tandem with each other. I had only met Andy once, and it was both a negative and memorable experience. He boasted about not bathing and took so much speed that his brain seemed to be fried. I was scared to ride with him. Only in this case, I wouldn't be, we'd be in separate vehicles.
Andy called me at dawn and told me to meet him at a Bob Evans restaurant near the pickup point. I mapped it out and then made my way over there. He had suggested that we have breakfast before we get started. As soon as I arrived, I could see him out front, wearing dirty wrinkled clothes and walking around in circles talking to himself. It appeared that he hadn't changed at all from the last time I saw him.
"Hello, Andy," I said as I approached him.
He jerked his head around and eyed me suspiciously. "Do I know you?"
"Yeah, it's me, Bill Thomas. We met a few months back when you gave me a ride to Columbia."
He shook his head. "If I gave you a ride, then why do I have zero recollection of it?"
I had a few answers for that question, but I just shrugged. "Dunno. But trust me, I remember you."
"Why in hell should I trust you? Huh?" He dug his hands deep into his pockets, as if he was hunting for something down there. "As you probably recall, I really do love movies."
"No, I don't recall you mentioning that."
"AHA! See, you would have known that about me if we had met. But while we're on the subject, I just saw THE SOCIAL NETWORK. Best damn movie of the year, and it blew my mind! I mean, Wow!" Andy pulled his hands out of his pockets and ran both of them through his hair with great intensity. "I mean, you have got to see that movie. Promise me you will. Promise me!"
"I'll see it."
"You had better see it. You hungry?"
"Hungry. You know, food. You do eat, don't you? To hell with you, I'm going inside to get some breakfast, I don't care whether you eat or not."
I followed him inside, and my cell phone rang. I answered, but no one was there. He sat at the counter, and I sat down next to him. The cell phone rang again, but once again it quickly disconnected. I could see Riff's number and wondered why he was calling. Andy was slowing perusing the menu. "I'll be back in just a minute," I said.
Andy eyed me hard and long. "Where are you going?"
"To the restroom."
"Hurry back, and I mean it."
I went to use the restroom, and when I came out I decided to try my cell phone and see if I could get through to Riff. He answered on the first ring. "Where are you, idiot?"
"I'm with the psycho you assigned me to drive with. We're at Bob Evans."
"Andy's a man's man, you just don't understand because you're a big sissy."
"What can I do for you, Riff?"
"I admire Andy, you could learn a lot from him."
"Yeah, you've told me that before. Now what do you need?"
"I need you to get those minivans and get on down the road, I'm putting together another run from L.A. to Miami for you. Is that OK with you, honey lamb?"
"I'll get there as fast as I can."
"Well that's not nearly good enough, because--" I hung up in the middle of his sentence, and went back to the counter. Andy's hand was shaking as he was stirring his coffee, pouring a massive amount of sugar into his mug.
He seemed rather sullen. "I ordered for you. And you're welcome."
"Just say thank you and be done with it. The waitress came and you weren't here. So where were you?"
"Liar!" he shouted so loudly that nearly everyone in the place turned to look.
"I'm not lying, I was in the restroom."
"I saw you on your cell phone, liar."
"Yes, after the restroom."
"Oh, I see. So who were you calling, hmm?"
"It was Riff."
"I knew it! You're trying to take work from me, sneak around and do an end run on me. You dirty bastard!" The waitress set down plates in front of each of us. "Oh boy, breakfast is here!" He began to wolf down what was on his plate.
I examined my plate and saw that it was identical to the contents of Andy's. There was lots of sausage gravy smothering something underneath, with big chunks of sausage on top. I can't eat sausage, even though I do love the way it tastes. I've found that it causes me great stomach pain, and my Doctor has ordered me to avoid it at all costs. I began to try to discreetly push the huge chunks of sausage aside, and looked under the gravy only to find big sausage patties.
Andy stopped eating and glared at me. "Please tell me in the name of all that's holy just what in the hell you're doing?"
"I can't eat sausage."
"Eat your damn sausage!" he screamed.
"It makes me sick."
"You are such a little pussy, you make me sick! How do you like that? Sausage makes you sick? Well you make me sick! Give me that sausage!" Andy began using his fork and his free hand to scoop the sausage and sausage gravy from my plate onto his own. He was practically inhaling it, and then he stopped and began to cry. "You know, my Aunt Bessie made the best damn sausage gravy in the universe. God I loved that woman. I miss her everyday."
"She passed away?"
"No she lives in Ohio, but I never go see her, she's a pain in the ass. But oh God, I loved that woman." Andy stopped crying and eating all at once and got a faraway look in his eyes. "I heard that they are remaking TRUE GRIT. How can they do that? John Wayne faces down Lucky Ned Pepper Robert Duvall in a field and puts the horses reins in his mouth. With a rifle in one hand and a colt in the other, he says, 'Fill your hands you son of a bitch!' And then he goes riding against four men, fearless and full of grit. It's sacrilege to remake that. What are your thoughts?"
"To be honest, I think I have to go the restroom again."
"Yeah, that's about what I'd expect from you. When the tough questions come, you run and hide in the toilet. Run along now, your Momma's calling you."
I really did have to go to the restroom, but I was sort of glad to get away from Andy. He seemed even more unusual than the last time I'd met him. What in the world was it about him that Riff admired so much? The guy seemed like a lunatic to me. And I did not understand why the two of us needed to drive two vehicles in tandem, I worked much better alone.
When I went back out to the counter, Andy was gone. The Waitress came up to me with her hands on her hips. "I hope you are planning to pay the bill."
"I didn't order or eat anything."
"Well your friend ate and ran, so I sure would appreciate it if you'd settle up."
I nodded and pulled out my wallet. I paid for both meals and gave her a tip, then walked outside to see a crowd of people gathered watching something. It was Andy, who had stripped down to his underwear and was galloping around the parking lot like a kid who's pretending to ride a horsey. And I heard him yelling over and over, "Fill your hands, you son of a bitch!"
I got into my rental car and left to go pick up the minivan I was supposed to deliver. Andy would have to find his own ride.