Better off Friends

Page 10


Well, except current growth spurts.
“Yeah, I know, she —”
I stopped myself as Macallan’s gaze settled on something over in the corner. I looked to see that some older kids were picking on an employee who was clearing off a few tables in the back room. They were pointing and laughing at him. I couldn’t tell why until he turned around and I saw he must’ve had Down syndrome or something.
“Are those guys —”
She cut me off. “It’s ridiculous. He shouldn’t have to deal with this.” Her cheeks became extremely flush.
“Should I go look for a manager?” I offered.
But Macallan had a different idea. She got up and headed over to the corner. I hesitated for a second but realized that I should be there in case she needed some help.
“Is there a problem?” she said to these three guys who were probably sixteen or seventeen.
“Oh, is that your girlfriend?” one of them asked.
I was used to the question being directed at me, but instead it was aimed at the guy who was trying to wipe down the table next to them.
“Oops.” Another guy dumped his soda on the floor. “Better go clean that up, retard.”
“EXCUSE ME?” Macallan’s voice boomed through the seating area. Even some people in line started turning around to see what was going on.
“I wasn’t talking to you.” The guy started laughing.
Macallan stood in front of the table. “Well, you are now.”
The guys were snickering and saying some things I couldn’t make out. Then Macallan slammed her fists on their table. The guy who appeared to be the ringleader jumped a little.
“What’s your problem?” Macallan asked, her entire body shaking. “All he’s doing is working, minding his own business, cleaning up after slobs like you. He’s making a contribution to society, which is a lot more than I can say about you. So who’s the real waste of space in this scenario?”
A manager approached. “Is everything okay?”
The guys all mumbled that it was fine, but Macallan wasn’t going to let them off that easily. “No, everything is not okay. These gentlemen” — she said the word with such disdain — “were harassing your employee, who is, I might add, doing excellent work.”
“Yes,” the manager, who looked to be around the same age as the guys causing the problem, said. “Hank is one of our best employees. Hank, why don’t you take a break?”
Hank took his towel and trays from the table and walked away.
The manager waited for Hank to be out of earshot before he turned his attention back to the table. “I think I’m going to need to ask you gentlemen to leave.”
They laughed. “Whatever. We were going anyway.”
As they got up to leave, one of them brushed past me and said, “You need to learn to put a muzzle on your girlfriend.”
I had been frozen the entire time. Macallan stood up to those three guys while I’d stood there like an idiot.
Macallan talked a little bit with the manager before he thanked her for stepping in. “It’s great what you did. It’s unfortunate, but it does happen.”
“It shouldn’t,” Macallan said coldly.
Once we were back at our table, just the two of us again, I asked, “Are you okay?”
“No. I hate people like that. They think they’re so much better than Hank. And they probably think they’re better than you or me. What kills me is that those jerks get to walk down the street and nobody ever judges them. I can guarantee you that Adam works a lot harder in one day than those guys ever will in their lifetimes.”
I’d never seen Macallan so mad. I knew she had very little tolerance for crap, but I’d had no idea how much it would set her off. “You’re right,” I told her. “And I’m really proud of you. I also know to never make you angry. That was something else.”
A smile started to warm her face. “Sorry. I can’t help myself.”
“No, I’m serious. That was awesome. I never saw you as the confronting type. Lesson learned.”
“Only when someone’s being bullied, I guess.”
“Let’s get out of here. I think this calls for a Buggy and Floyd marathon.”
“And some more custard.”
That was the Macallan I knew. “Like I’d say no to you now.”
She laughed as we headed back in line. I poked her in the ribs. “I’m telling you, no girl back home is as cool as you.”
Macallan froze again. I immediately looked around to see if the guys were back.
“You know” — she turned toward me — “I understand that you spent your first twelve years in California, but this is your home now.”
I wasn’t sure why she was suddenly annoyed at me.
“I don’t know —”
She interrupted. “You keep saying ‘back home’ all the time.”
“I don’t —”
She slouched her shoulders and did this low voice. “ ‘Yeah, my buddies back home, back home we did this, back home was all like this, and back home is awesome.’ ” I think she was doing an impersonation of me. But I so didn’t talk with that exaggerated Valley accent she was doing. At least I hoped I didn’t. She fixed her gaze on me. “This is your new home.”
She moved forward and ordered her second custard. And I stood there thinking about what she had said.