Garden Talk: A Tale of the Opinari

By R. D. Flavin

5-10-2013

      The young and overly chipper hostess placed a stack of six menus on a large table in the back of the restaurant and promised that their server would be right with them.  It wasn't a typically “dry” secret meeting of the Ancient and Accepted Fraternity of the Opinari, as they'd chosen to conduct their monthly discussion at the “wet” Olive Garden for a change instead of Denny's.  As they took their seats, all noticed the unlimited bread stick baskets were already on the table beckoning consumption, and the Opinarians hurried through their Greeting Invocation.

     “Bless our Lodge and may the waiter or waitress make accurate and true our wishes,” intoned Ken, the Master and founder of the Order.
     Ken's younger brother, Frater Keith, followed with, “Peace be upon this College and those whose tables are near to ours, especially if they're easily offended.”
     “May our Hides be thicker than our wallets and our credit-cards easily cover the cost of this Sacred Undertaking,” entreated Frater Bill, Ken's bother-in-law.
     “Let us not cease from Mental Fight, nor allow our Knives, Forks, and Spoons to sleep in our hands,” offered Frater Steve, Ken's best friend since childhood.
     Frater Chris, Ken's next-door neighbor, added quickly, “Grant us loose tongues without the Summoning of Police.”
     “With washrooms clean and unoccupied when called upon in Our Need,” finished Acolyte Harold, a lonely and divorced drunk who followed Keith around rather than sit in his small studio apartment and contemplate unassisted suicide.
     With the Greeting Invocation over all hands reached out at the same time for warm, soft bread sticks.  A smiling, middle-aged BBWaitress appeared at the head of their table and asked, “Can I get you guys anything to drink?”
     “A cold Bud Light draft for me, if you please, signora,” Ken requested.
     “I'll have a Mango Martini...”
     “Sam Lager...”
     “A Quartino of Rosso, thank you...”
     “Michelob Ultra...”
     “And can I get you anything from the bar, sir?” the waitress asked Harold, who looked like he was already well on his way to spiritual inebriation.
     “Coffee and lots of it,” Harold answered meekly.
     “I'll put on a fresh pot and I'll be back in a few minutes to take your food orders!”
     “More bread sticks...,” Bill called out to to the waitress as she left the table.
     The waitress back-flipped her hand in salute and Master Ken began the evening's discussion with his take on the latest House Oversight Committee investigation of the Benghazi embassy attack.  Ken wasn't a rabid Republican, he actually backed Obama on most issues, but he did have a strong conviction that Big Business and the Bildebergs were covertly running the American government.  “If we follow the money it leads directly to the spoil of oil and someone should investigate how Al Qaeda plans to market Libyan crude to China and North Korea,” Ken opined.
     “It was horrible, we should have had better security in all of our embassies in Muslim countries, but Congress wouldn't invest the cash because of PPDS or Political Poopy Diaper Syndrome,” Chris commented. “And if anyone's to blame, it's Congress for being cheap and disagreeable.”
     Bill tossed out a “Here, here,” as he snatched the last bread stick.
     “Those three young girls from Cleveland who were sex slaves for ten years is wicked way sad,” Steve said in his finest Bostonian hipster-speech.
     “Sick...,” all agreed.
     The waitress returned with the drinks, more bread sticks, and took their food orders.  Harold got the unlimited salad and everyone else selected something ersatz Italian.  Ken raised his glass and toasted, “To opinions!  All are equal, ...just some are more equal than others!”
     Glasses and a cup clinked and the group relaxed into commentary and complaint.

     The monthly meeting of the Opinari was its usual grand exchange of their eponymous opinions, though perhaps it was assisted by the addition of alcohol, as the beer drinkers ordered three rounds each and Frater Keith got a second Mango Martini.  Dinner was better than Denny's, but not by much.  The BBWaitress kept the table well stocked with fresh bread stick baskets, though it took a gentle pleading from Frater Steve for her to bring out a small dish of butter, as no one at the table would pony up the $3.50 for a special dipping sauce.
     Sharing their thoughts on gun-control reform comprised the bulk of their evening as the Opinari, like the Media, seemed unable to distinguish rights from privileges.  All agreed on necessary background checks and banning assault weapons for private ownership, but the College was split on carry-permits as Fraters Keith and Bill argued that as long as a gun was visible and not concealed one should be able to go shopping at Wal-Mart while packing heat.  Especially at Christmas time, they pointed out, when some of the sales get out of hand.
     Opinions regarding same-sex marriages or civil-unions were repeated by rote with everyone agreeing that benefits should be extended to the LGBT community, yet with most supporting the over-taxing to help the economy because they believed “those people” have more disposable income than heterosexuals.  “Except for the seniors,” Master Ken contributed, “as they've had a pretty rough life in the closet and should get some relief in their nursing homes.”
     Tempers flared briefly as the group was divided over whether the recent Boston Marathon bombings should be referred to as tragedy or terrorism.  While an act of “terror” was the admitted goal, as was death and grievous injury, some interpreted the bombings as a socially psychotic failure like the mass-shootings in Newtown, Aurora, Virginia Tech and Columbine, and not an Islamofascist attack like 9/11.

     “All serial-killers are mass-murderers, but not all mass-murderers are serial-killers,” Chris explained after his second beer.  “Sometimes it's a singular break from reality, like a suicide-bomber or someone wanting a 'death-by-cop' way out.”
     “So, radical Islamic fundamentalism is the new Heavy Metal and Goth music for Muslim young people?” Frater Bill asked for clarification's sake.  “Biting the head off of a live bat is a lot different than killing a bunch of innocent people and kids!”
     “Hate and darkness go with all religious fundamentalism ...and intolerant agendas like Capitalism,” Ken espoused between sips of his draft beer.  “Well, we know that the brothers were planning on more bombings in New York City and that would have bumped them up to the serial-killer category, but it's still not clear if whack-religion was the major impetus for the bombings, a contributing factor, or a cheap coat tossed over troubled shoulders.  Some youngsters malfunction and causes are varied and complex...”
     “The older brother finally got buried, so that's a good thing as long as no one finds out where and the grave becomes a magnet for the insane,” Keith shared with relief.
     Master Ken smiled at his younger brother and said, “I'd bet dollars to donuts that he got tax-payer money even in death, as the Commonwealth probably dumped him in a pauper's grave on Deer Island or someplace else in Boston Harbor.”
     “Dumped at sea like Bin Laden?” Harold wondered aloud.
     “I would humbly disagree with our courageously opinionated Master,” Keith rebuked his brother.  “The indigent burials on the Boston Harbor islands are yesterday's final resting places, as the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, the housing and food-stamps folks, pay out $1100 to funeral homes for expenses and all cities have mandatory pauper's graves.  No headstones, though, and identifying plaques can get tricky.”
     “You planning on dying penniless?  Does your wife know about this?” Steve inquired with feigned concern.
     “The more you learn, the less you know and the harder you try, the easier it is imagine a future where it's home equity versus recycled at the curb.  Bring out your Dead!  Pick-up only in authorized containers!” Keith said while enjoying the last of his Mango Martini.
     Though the pasta was over-cooked and the vegetables were rubbery, all agreed that they'd come back next month.  For most it was the booze, but Harold acquiesced because he liked Carol, the middle-aged waitress.

     As the busboy cleared the table, the waitress asked if they'd like dessert.  “The cheesecake is especially yummy,” she informed from personal experience.  Some ordered coffee, others another drink, but no one requested dessert.  Harold let go with a flirtatious smile, but was too slow in the attempt as the BBWaitress had already departed.
     “Getting back to Frater Bill's insightful take on Immigration Reform, how about we kick-start an adoption program?” Harold suggested.

     “What?  Like stretches of highways and bridges?” Ken asked.
     “Yeah!  Individuals could sponsor or adopt an alien...”
     “No one would pick Mexicans, Frater Harold,” Keith advised.  “Eastern European chicks would be in demand, but I can't see Joe Flannel footing the bill for bringing Latinos to Family Night at Chick-fil-A.”
     “There are no Chick-fil-A's around here,” Bill countered with feigned disappointment.
     “Ah, there's one in Peabody and another at the Burlington Mall,” Harold correctly recalled.
     “I say we give them a year to voluntarily return to their country of origin or start harvesting organs,” Steve unsuccessfully joked.  “There's serious money in livers and kidneys and they could use the cash to hire a good immigration lawyer!”
     Frater Steve instantly and justly received the Collected Groan of Disapproval from the other Opinarians.  Keith, as the fraternity's Recorder of Important Stuff (i.e. “secretary”), made a note in the Book of Mighty Minutes and warned Steve that if he received another Groan before the New Year he'd have to pick up the collective tabs of the following two meetings.  Steve grinned and let the warning go unchallenged.
     As a quiet spread over the table, Master Ken motioned to the BBWaitress to bring the check and began the Ritual of Closure.  “Our opinions are our own, my opinion is my own,” he declared.
     “My opinion is my opinion,” the other Opinarians repeated.
     “Who gets the damages?” the waitress asked.
     Six wallets produced six credit-cards and, as one, the Ancient and Accepted Fraternity of the Opinari pledged, “My debt is my own!”
     “You guys are sad creepy,” the waitress chuckled.
     The Opinarians began to individually tip by tossing a few or more bucks each into the center of the table.  As they left the table the BBWaitress said with a voice as melodious as the fresh bread sticks were warm, “Buona notte, dolci signori folli!”
     “What did she say?” Acolyte Harold asked of Master Ken when they were done paying, had left the restaurant and were in the parking lot.
     “Something about voting Republican, I couldn't quite understand her Tuscan, Arizona dialect,” Ken answered.
     “Is that near Phoenix?” Harold asked himself, as the Opinarians had disbanded the College and went to their separate homes.  As an acolyte he wasn't sure if it was rude for all of them to leave without saying goodnight and he promised himself he'd bring it up at the next meeting.  Taking a clearing breath and huffing with courage, Harold went back inside the Olive Garden to ask the BBWaitress what Arizona was like.

Da' End.

Rick

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