You either love liver and onions or you hate it. I grew up with liver and onions. And fried chicken gizzards, stew that was more potatoes and carrots than beef, and wings and necks before all the chicken wings flew into sports bars from Buffalo. I don’t enjoy it every week, but circumstances this Wednesday just worked in my favor. Still, few faced with sitting down to liver and onions react with indifference.
“What’s for dinner?”
“Liver and onions.”
You’re gonna hear, “Ugh! Think I’ll grab a bite later downtown.”
Or, “Um-um! Been a while since I had liver and onions. Let’s get to it!”
It’s rather like iced tea. In Claxbury Corners there is no “proper” iced tea, folks being rather evenly divided between “sweet tea” and “unsweet” tea. There are variations, tea with lemon, tea with mint, and un-tea disguised as ice-water. We don’t choose sides and go to war over it. That’s just the way it is. Says something about this place. Tolerance.
Fire Department Chief Drew Martin and I debated sitting down to one of the open tables at Madge’s Restaurant for supper. Seeing as the place was busy, we parked ourselves instead at the long counter. The lovely Corrine Waltham scooted over to take our orders. Suspect Corrine’s speed was because she has an eye for Drew, a helpless widower then for about five years, and she was herself unattached at the time due to unfortunate circumstances.
“What’ll you boys have tonight?” Corrine asked.
Drew took a deep breath, remembered it was liver and onions Wednesday and replied, “Corrine, I think I’ll just have some of yesterday’s barbecue, if there’s any left.”
“Sure. On a whole wheat bun? Some chips and a pickle on the side?”
“Why yes. And tea…”
“Sweetened,” interrupted Corrine, showing she really was paying attention to Drew. Addressing me with her voice but not her eyes, she said, “And you, Mr. OpEd, you’ll have the liver and onions, tea unsweetened with lemon, right?”
“Yes’m,” I replied.
“Won’t take but a minute. I’ll get your teas and be right back with your orders.”
Handsome Drew watched Corrine fly back to the kitchen.
“So Drew, what’s really on your mind? Wasn’t to chat about the Cougars’ Conference chances this year.”
“See where Tackertt has been helping Coach Elkins. He make those boys into outfielders?”
“Have to remember these are high school lads, sophomores and juniors. No seniors returning this year. About as good as any other school in the conference has. Two of’m good sticks too. Good offense. Defense will come along. Depends on the pitching.”
“Something else on your mind though?”
“Fire Department Auction coming up. In July. Want to talk about support from the Clarion.”
“I own the paper Drew, but I’m retired. Lawrence is Editor now, runs the paper. Have a chat with him.”
“Starting early this year. Want to make sure it’s okay. Need a new stove for the station house.”
“Lawrence is still your man. Early, late, Lawrence will do you up right.”
“Might point you to a deal on appliances locally.”
“Citizens feel more a part of the department if they’re contributing.”
“Doesn’t’ mean you can’t get a break from a local dealer. Use the extra for something else. Citizens still see they’re buying the station a new stove.”
Corrine sat supper down in front of Drew and me. Seems it took her a bit longer to properly situate Drew’s plate. If she took any longer, I imagine she’d commence to feeding the man. When she finally remembered she had other customers, albeit less interesting than Drew, she went back to the main dining area. I dug into Wednesday’s special. Don’t fault Drew for his choice. Tolerance, remember? Tuesday’s barbecue is even better on Wednesday. But this was liver and onions. It was dinner at Madge’s or a trip to Filo’s to restock a naked refrigerator at home.
“You’re smoking me Drew. Reporter’s nose. Something else. Something troubling you.”
“My son gets out next week. Contingent on a confirmed place of employment for Probation Office records.”
“Well, that’s good news.”
“Chances you can get him a job at the Clarion? Anything? Janitoring?”
“Lawrence is still your man. He’s as civic-minded as you. He’s got a need, he’ll see your son gets a shot at it.”
“If he doesn’t?”
“Let’s see then, if. Police Chief O’Connor might be able to help.”
“Chief arrested the boy. Testified at the trial.”
“That’s his job.”
“Why would he help Robbie?”
“O’Connor isn’t against people. He’s against breaking the law. Giving folks a decent shot helps keep them right with the law. In his best interest. In the best interest of everybody. Your boy going up broke his heart but it was his job, Drew. Lawrence hasn’t got something right now, O’Connor will help.”
“You can help. As Mayor.”
“Not Mayor yet. Talk to Lawrence. Then O’Connor. They’ll help. I’m sure.”
“Comes to it, me too. We all will. Whole town will. You know that.”
“Thanks. You don’t know how much this means.”
“I can guess.”
Liver and onions were exceptional. Tea was cold. Drew and I went back to talking about Cougars’ baseball. Passed on Lemon Meringue pie. Not knowing at the time what June and Leron were going to pull together, I didn’t bring it up. Maybe should have.
— Notes —
Good stick: a good batsman.
Returning Seniors – Suggests some top talent graduated the year before.
Flew in from Buffalo. “Buffalo wings” – a staple in “sports bars.” Chicken wings used to be cheap. Demand to feed bar patrons made it so at present, now trendy, wings are as expensive as thighs, costlier than drumsticks.