Lars is a Hooters regular. Joining us several times a week, his favorite spot is on the right side of the bar, three stools down. His routine is always the same. Seldom eating, Lars will order a couple beers and say hello to every girl who passes by name. We all love Lars because he is just one of those people that is genuinely nice and unlike many Hooters patrons he comes for the conversation over the breasts. Lars is the surrogate Grandfather we all wish we had.
We also love Lars because he always comes bearing gifts: flowers from his garden, neckties by the bagful, inscribed dog tags from a booth at the fair and always candy. Lars would never show up at Hooters without his candy. As he sits in his usual place, the bartender presents him with two short glasses and ceremoniously he fills each with sweets. Not to exclude anyone, Lars will usually bring a chocolate candy as well as something chewy. And of course he remembers your favorites. He'll bring me dark chocolate M&M's, while Ariel gets sour gummy worms and yet another prefers chocolate covered raisins. Lars will never forget a favorite.
Last week, Lars saddled up to his usual spot and carefully dispersed bags of Hersey's Kisses and Skittles between the two glasses. Sliding both glasses to the edge of the bar, Lars smiled happily as girls came by to say hello and take a few pieces of candy. We were happy to see Lars and, as always, he was happy to see us. Someone however was not so happy to see this Hooters regular.
"I really wish you wouldn't bring the girls candy," huffed a manager leaning at the end of the bar. "You'll just make them all fat and ugly."
Looking confused, Lars cautiously apologized, "I don't mean anything by it. It's just a very few pieces here and there."
"Well a few pieces, turns into ten and you know where ten goes,” said the manager as he forcefully pointed to his ass. "Maybe try some carrots and celery next time."
As the manager walked away Lars was visibly shocked. Looking over at me he cautiously said, "I didn't mean anything by it. It really is just a few pieces."
"I know Lars, a little bit of candy is not going to make any of these girls fat and certainly not ugly," I offered optimistically. "Besides, most of these girls eat a lot worse things than four M&M's."
Letting out a tiny, unsure chuckle, Lars got up from the bar and headed for the door. He was noticeably dejected as he made his way out into the parking lot. Luckily, he'd left in time to miss the manager grab the glasses of candy and hide them away in the back office.
Days went by and Lars didn't return. Fearing he'd been frightened away, girls began lamenting about how horrible it was to dash the hopes of one of Hooters kindest customers. Everyone knew about the Lars incident and no one, other managers included, liked it. It seemed to all of us that Lars would stay away forever, ashamed that his gifts had been looked upon so very harshly.
Then one afternoon Lars came back. Pulling out his usual chair he sat down and looked at the bartender expectantly. After a deliberate nod from Lars, she carefully placed two glasses in front of the elderly man as he pulled two bags from the pockets of his windbreaker. Slowly, Lars filled each glass.
"There, fruit and a vegetable," Lars proudly asserted.
Looking at the glasses I noticed the contents. One glass contained sour watermelon slices while the other held candy corn. Fruit and a vegetable.
"Yes, fruit and a vegetable indeed," I smiled as Lars chuckled with the last laugh.