Wanda is a dumb blond, to put it kindly. She is not the sort of person I would normally choose as a friend, but we came to know each other through a mutual acquaintance. She is a good-hearted person, but intelligence is just not one of her qualities.
On the particular day under discussion, my friend and I were going to visit his mother who was in the hospital in a nearby town. Wanda was a perfectly capable driver, but being Wanda, was afraid to drive on the Interstate. She asked to go with us since she knew my friend’s mother too.
Naturally, it was impossible to refuse to let someone go along to visit someone in the hospital, so we agreed to take her with us. Wanda was the sort who talked incessantly and told rather amusing stories, more by accident than by any deliberate intent.
We had previously decided that after the visit to the hospital, we would stop and eat dinner at the nearby Catfish House. Southerners are connoisseurs of catfish, and passing right by one of the best fish restaurants in the area without stopping to eat was just an impossibility.
Besides, what could go wrong, even with Wanda along? After all, it was only a Catfish House, not an exclusive eating establishment by any means.
Catfish Houses are noted for their food, not for their fine dining atmosphere. Usually somewhat rustic in appearance, a Catfish House is nevertheless the epitome of fine country eating. Catfish Houses serve fried fish on heaping platters with all the “fixin’s” – hush puppies, French fries, white beans, and coleslaw, preferably made with vinegar. This is washed down with gallons of sweet ice tea. I don’t know why this is the standard, it just is. All Catfish Houses know the rules and serve the same thing.
Now to really enjoy catfish, it is necessary to order “all you can eat,” “All you can eat” means all you can consume at the food establishment and does not include doggy bags or taking home any leftovers, another established tradition of the Catfish House.
Everything went well on our little outing as we ate beans and hushpuppies and pigged out on catfish. Waiters continued to bring out additional platters of fish as long as we could empty them.
Wanda enjoyed the catfish even more than we did and kept us amused with true stories of her ex boyfriends and her less than perfect love life. When we were ready to leave, there were fish left on the platter. Wanda looked at the leftover fish with longing eyes and said, “I’m going to take that leftover fish home.”
We explained “The Rules” to Wanda, that you are not supposed to take food out, and that it’s against the policy of the restaurant. “They won’t even bring you a box to put it in,” we said, sure she would change her mind.
“I know,” said Wanda. “But I’m going to take that fish home!”
Nothing would change her mind once it was made up. We were horrified as Wanda proceeded to wrap the leftover catfish up in napkins and slip it into her purse. We were sure we would be busted by the management for stealing catfish.
Well, either the management didn’t notice or didn’t care. We paid the bill and left without getting caught and once outside were actually able to laugh about Wanda’s catch of the day. That would have been the conclusion of the great catfish caper, except for one more item. It seems that catfish pilfering has it’s own particular kind of self-inflicted justice.
The next time I saw Wanda, I asked her if she had eaten her leftover catfish. “Oh,” said Wanda, “The catfish was great – but my purse smelled so fishy that I had to throw it away.”