Hanson’s Hot Dogs and Hamburgers
Hanson Perry, President of the Deacon’s Board strolled over to the barbecue pit. By the time he stood in front of the grill, most of the other men gathered there studiously avoided eye contact, their jonesing noticeably louder and more raucous.
“I wonder how he gonna explain where he been?” mused Ms. Earline.
“Why don’t we just go over and find out.” Detective Mendoza led the way over to the gathered men.
“Mama Lou,” shouted Deacon Perry. “Come on over. The first dog is for you.”
“Sounds like a winner,” she said. “But if you’re giving out samples, I’d rather have that catfish.” The small group erupted into laughter. “Gentlemen, I’d like to introduce Detective Giancarlo Mendoza . . . a good friend and former student.”
“I remember Gianni,” said Uncle Frank. “You played football against my boy, Sam. Sam Boothe.”
“Yes, sir, I remember Sam,” Mendoza smiled as he shook hands with each of the men. “How’s he doing these days?”
“Fine, fine,” said Frank. “He and his family moved to Atlanta a few years back. I’ll be sure to tell him I saw you.”
“So, is this a social visit or do you have an official purpose here?” Deacon Perry eyed Mendoza over the cover of the grill.
“Nothing official,” he said. “Mama Lou mentioned free food and fellowship and here I am.”
“Well, come on ’round,” Frank laughed. “One of you boys offer the detective a chair. Hanson, how them dogs coming?”
The group scrambled to find chairs for the two of them. Hanson Perry grabbed a Styrofoam plate, plopped two hotdog buns in the center and then loaded them with the charbroiled dogs. He step over to the fryer table, lifted the lid of the aluminum pan and added two pieces of the still steaming fish. He handed the plate to Mama Lou, indicating the condiments on the side table. Once everyone was settled again, Mendoza said, “I was hoping to have the opportunity to chat with your Pastor this afternoon. I’ve heard good things about him.”
“I’m sure you’ve heard something,” Deacon Perry mumbled under his breath.
“We haven’t spoken to Pastor Griffin today but I expect he’ll be along shortly.”
“Was Mrs. Griffin able to give any indication of his time of arrival?”
Everyone within hearing distance stilled, even the birds seemed to wait with bated breath. Deacon Perry made a point not to look at anyone in particular. His tone, when he spoke was casual. “I don’t believe she said anything about it. But she’s around here somewhere if you’d care to ask.”
Mama Lou spoke into the silence, “What about the bank? Were you able to get an extension?”
“Turns out,” Deacon Perry said grimly. “Pastor Griffin has extended the loan several times already. In thirty days, we either pay off the loan or we lose the land.”