Chef John Malik

a writer trapped in a cook's body

Goliath

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“Who the hell’s talking to you , ya goh-dang moe-rahn!?”

The words thundered out of his mouth on a vitriolic spray of spit, his bloodshot eyes burning into mine. My heart rate exploded and the bile immediately rose into my throat. This Goliath of a man had at least 100 pounds on me and towered over my six foot one frame by six inches or more, his hands were so big that if I fell into his grip…I literally feared for my life and the only thing separating the two of us was a shopping cart of local, organic produce. I could hear the woman behind me scrambling to back up as my shaking right hand tightened around the gallon of Happy Cow milk. I swallowed hard and kept my eyes on his.
I used to go to the farmer’s market twice a week, every Tuesday and Thursday morning. That was one of the advantages of having a 40-seat restaurant; I could buy exactly what I needed, when I needed it. On this particular Thursday in July I had excitedly picked out dozens of peaches, fragrant cantaloupes, spicy purple garlic, a few gallons of milk and buttermilk, sourwood honey, petit zucchini and straight-neck squash plus several gallons of blueberries so my Amy could make blueberry-lemon-vanilla bean jam. My weekday haunt was G & G produce, a six day a week, open-air retailer at the state farmer’s market and the two elderly ladies that typically worked the counter were always happy to see me and usually gave me good recommendations. The July peaches were just coming into their own and as I made my way to the counter, visions of cobblers, tarts and muffins filled my thoughts. As I waited for the lady in front of me to finish her chat with Anne; an enormous, sweaty, boisterous man parked in front of this woman’s cart and demanded from Anne the price of a 50-pound sack of green peanuts. I looked to my left and saw his peanut truck, an older Ford pick-up with a peanut boiler in the back. He was one of the many roadside vendors that dot Highways 11 or 276 during summer and fall when tourists make their way over these scenic routes. Anne’s response created an exclamation of highway robbery and he demanded to know where in the hell does she get off charging so much for her peanuts. The woman in front of me collected her change and made a hasty exit, the air around us suddenly tense and foul. Anne quickly snapped back that the price was the price, take it or leave it.
“I guess I ain’t got no dang choice, go get me them goh-damn peanuts woman, and hurry the hell up. I gotta go.”
Anne retorted that others were here first then asked him to wait his turn in line.
“And I’m next” I smiled then politely asked him to apologize to Anne.
He turned to me and fired off that aforementioned declaration, hitting me like hot exhaust from a revving tractor-trailer, jolting me out of my peach daydreams. My heart was about to pound through my chest and I’m this close to throwing up but I recognize the look and attitude of a bully. This is a man that has gotten his way through intimidation and because of his size few have bothered to challenge him. It’s safer to let him go first.

“I’m talking to YOU goh-dammit!”

Deep breath.
“Anne, will you call this man an ambulance please, because that’s how he’s leaving if he doesn’t apologize to you then turn around and walk away.”
Sorry pal, not today. I can’t let this guy yell at Anne then try to intimidate me. My world doesn’t work like that. My hand tightened around the milk, if he so much as leans towards me I’m going to smash that gallon of milk right into his pudgy nose then push him into the wall with my cart full of peaches. He’s staring at me, hard. I’m almost positive he’s never had anyone challenge him, especially someone in a pink polo shirt. Anne reaches for the phone, intent on dialing 911.
His facial muscles relax as he belches an apology to Anne, storms back to his truck and screeches out of the parking lot.
My hand relaxes but my heart is pounding as I attempt to casually place my produce on the counter. Anne hangs up the phone, puts her shaking right hand on her chest and admonishes me for trying to “git yourself killed”. I turn to my right and offer an apology to the two ladies in line behind me. One of them has her manicured hands over her mouth, her head moving slightly left to right as if she just witnessed an extra-terrestrial landing. Yet as my adrenaline rush subsides I’m greeted with a flood of nausea that is threatening to explode right here, right now. I cannot remember being so afraid. I finished paying for my groceries then made a pit stop in the bathroom, splashed my ashen face with cold water. Another slow, deep breath as my nausea subsides and now I could relax. I bought a ginger-ale on the way out to my car.
Have you been afraid to face your demons, your challenges, your own Goliaths? Rise to the challenge and understand that fear is normal, it’s there to keep us healthy and alive. Yet there are times when we need to embrace our fear, otherwise how will we ever know what success we’re capable of, or what we’re willing to do? Be afraid, just don’t let your fear win.

Author: ChefJohn

Cook without tattoo, writer without a pen

2 Comments

  1. When I’m afraid, I always think of the book, Dune. Fear is the mind-killer.

  2. Yes. My motto this year is #Fearlessin2013. I hope it revolves more around kitchen stuffs rather than fisticuffs, though! Good for you for staring this guy down. Maybe he’ll think twice before he goes the intimidation route again. Maybe not. But at least you broke his pattern that time. Good for you.

    PS I’d have thrown up, for sure.

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