Jeremy can’t decide what makes them the most conspicuous: the out-of-state license plates, the “Obama-Biden 2012” sticker tacked to the inside of the rear window, the ’80s girl pop blasting from the speakers, or Lucas.
Because Lucas is wearing leopard-print sneakers and a shirt with panthers all over it. Because his hair that morning had been swooped into a gravity defying pompadour in the style of late-’50s Elvis and pronounced “flawless.” Because his blond lashes are colored with a hint of mascara and the blue under his eyes is neutralised with a hint of concealer. Because he’s leaning head-on-folded-arms out the window with a cigarette trapped between pointer and middle fingers as he sings along to Kate Bush. Because his head snaps up like a Cocker Spaniel as they drive past the welcome sign for Scottsville, Kentucky, and he shouts over the road and the wind and the music,
“We have to stop here! They have an all-you-can-eat catfish diner!”
So when Jeremy pulls into the diner (Mama Catfish, H fucking Christ) he parks right in front of the greasy windows, and when they get asked by a sever “booth or table?”, he blurts out “booth” through his teeth, and when she starts to lead them into the back he ignores her and pushes Lucas to the one closest to the door.
He hears Lucas ask for “a plate of your finest catfish, ma’am” through water earplugs, garbled and fuzzy from a distance. Jeremy is a state-of-the-art security system, head swivelling on his neck like a sprinkler, cht cht cht shhhhhhhhhhh, cht cht cht shhhhhhhhhhh. He registers a glass of water being set in front of him. There are tiny air bubbles in a cluster near the rim and he wonders if the waitress spit in it.
Lucas is drumming his fingers on the table.
The waitress is shuffling behind the counter, drawling out the order.
The family in the corner is eating catfish.
A polo-wearing guy and his girlfriend are eating catfish.
An elderly couple is eating catfish.
The bearded man sitting at the counter with a cup of coffee is eating catfish.
A plate is put down in front of Lucas, and then he’s eating catfish too. He brandishes pierced pieces of crumbed white fish over the table, urging Jeremy to “try a bit, it’s like fried E.” Jeremy chews slowly. It tastes like nothing. Lucas is telling him how fresh it is, how good the crumb is, how flaky the flesh is, “oh fuck me Jeremiah, this is good catfish.”
No one’s looking at them. They’re all just eating their stupid catfish.