A bespectacled bald headed man was smiling up at Buddy from behind the table of neatly arranged badges and membership check lists. His hand extended under Buddy's nose.
“Hank Cockburn.” Hank was very matter of fact. “Don't think I've had the pleasure.”
Buddy shook his hand. “Buddy Rosen.”
Hank scanned the badges. “Well ... let's see ... I can't seem to find your name.”
“Really? Well, Hank I’m sorry …. must be in the wrong place …”
Buddy started to turn around. Ramon stopped him and turned him back to the table.
“It's okay, Hank. He's with me. Last meeting he attended was when you had hair.”
Hank smiled and pointed a "finger gun" at Buddy. “That was a long time ago, son’”
Buddy pointed back as he and Ramon walked toward the front. Buddy whispered, “I'll get you for this ... you ... Son of a BEACH!”
“Here, sit.” Ramon pulled out a chair. Buddy waved at the members circled around the table. They all waved back.
“I'll be back ... gotta get this thing started.”
Ramon stepped up to the podium, tapped the microphone a few times and called the meeting to order. “All right ... all right ... settle down you drunken SOBs. Let's get started.”
Carl Johnson yelled out, “What's the hurry, Ray ... Margarita waiting in the honeymoon suite?”
Laughter broke from the crowd.
“You should know about hurrying, Carl.” Stanley Young snickered, “Sally told me that's the way you always do it at home.”
“Very funny, guys. Stanley, since you were the last to speak, why don't you do the invocation?”
Stanley stood up and tried to look solemn. “Sure Ray ... okay ... let us pray. God, please bless this food we are about to eat today and bless our humble homes that sit on your beautiful beaches ... maybe you can strike down some of those bastards who oppose the referendum ...”
“Amen!” said Ramon and the crowd. “Thanks Stanley. Okay, let's eat.”
Buddy opened his silverware, as the old man sitting to his right peered over his half glasses in Buddy's direction. “Buddy? Is that you, son? Haven't seen you in years.”
Buddy shook his hand. “Hey, Mr. Sweeney. You doin' okay?”
“Aah, could be better. Robbing me blind at the store.” Sweeney leaned in closer. “Coloreds ... you know? What are ya gonna do? Gotta have workers.”
Sweeney stopped to take a big mouthful of green beans. Buddy looked across the table at Calvin
Robinson, the black attorney who caught his eye. Buddy raised his eyebrows as Calvin smiled and shook his head ... as if to say "heard it before".
Sweeney continued. “What about you ... still working up north?”
“No ... teaching school right here.”
“Well, they're all potty trained.”
Sweeney nodded. “Good. You're lucky.”
At the podium again, Ramon got everyone's attention. “Okay. Everybody can keep eating while I go on with announcements.” Ramon shuffled through his papers to find what he was looking for. He cleared his throat. “Let's see. Anyone interested in the softball tournament this Saturday, see Davey. We need the players. Davey said we're down three ... so please guys ... if you can do it, we need you ... also ... George Banks asks that I announce the passing of two of our dear friends and founding members of the SOB organization this past month. Timothy Hassford, 66 of Toledo, Ohio died in a fatal car accident and Benjamin Moskovitz, 68 of Newark, New Jersey died peacefully at home.”
Buddy listened intently and then jotted a note in his pocket notebook.
Ramon looked over at Buddy. “Buddy Rosen, would you please come up?”
Buddy hesitatingly stood and made his way to the podium, embarrassed by the request. Ramon continued “For those of you that don't remember our good friend Buddy Rosen ... back with us again after living in Baltimore (whispering to Buddy) 5 years ago ... Buddy's current address and phone number will appear in next month's issue of SOB Stories. Let's make Buddy feel welcome.”
Buddy gritted his teeth, red faced and smiled at the crowd. Ramon winked at Buddy and shook his hand. He squeezed Ramon's hand so tight that Ramon bit his lip. He broke his grip as Ramon winced.