Chili mac

George could sing

I love chili and periodically make enough to last me and my omnivorous son at least a few days. Last time I added macaroni at the end for chili mac, which reminded me of an incident in grammar school when the mob ruled and I was right there with them.

Like most things, it started at recess. George was a nice guy, fairly quiet, never messed with anybody and was rarely messed with. In the pecking order he was a solid Beta, not Alpha by any means and not negligible either. Anyway, this day Buddy was poking George, not hitting—that was pretty rare at recess—just needling him about how uncool he was, which was kinda mean because George was completely uncool, and being cool was the most important thing in life. For example, we were just learning to dance, and I once saw Brenda challenge Stephanie to do the “chicken” one afternoon when Mrs. Sims was down the hall. Stephanie was so good I fell in love on the spot.

And although I knew that only delinquents and dummies were selected for the color guard—the four or five boys who opened assemblies by marching in with drums and flags—they were so cool when they strutted down the aisle between the folding chairs in the gym cafeteria assembly hall that I wanted to be a dummy, too, so I could carry the flag. I could pull it off now.

So Buddy was quizzing George about the latest music and accused him of not being familiar with a brand new record, “Red Hots and Chili Mac” by the Moroccos, a local group. George said he did too know about “Red Hots and Chili Mac.” Buddy said, “Sing it.”

It got so quiet I could hear George, who was mildly asthmatic, breathe. I was surprised that even Buddy, who was forever trying to be the center of somebody’s attention, would go that far. He should just chestize him—punch him in the chest—and let it go at that. Actually singing a song that only some of us had even heard of with no warning or rehearsal trapped in a doorway by eight or nine of your hypercritical peers was unimaginable. I felt sorry for him.

Of course, George sang the shit out “Red Hots and Chili Mac,” word for word and in key, and I dedicated my chili mac to him. He and I were classmates through high school, and nobody ever messed with George again. Brass balls gave him immunity.