An aisle full of Indian products welcomes the family of four as they walk into the store. Rows of basmati rice, instant mixes, instant gravy mixes, packaged spices, pastes, chutney and sauces, roti, and much more were on display -neatly stacked- as they walk past the aisle. Like always, the Mother stops at the huge commercial fridge and looks through the glassy door, admiring the treasure in it: from halal meat and chicken, parathas, young coconuts, feta cheese, to frozen Jamaican patties and so much more.
She smiles and continues on. As she’s turning left at the end of the aisle, she finds her children squatting in front of the Middle Eastern collection, pointing at some products.
“Hey Mom, look! We have this at home,” says the Son.
“Those olives? Sure do,” replies the Mom.
“We have this too! Dad uses it all the time,” says the Daughter.
“Well, not all the time, honey,” the Mom says as she returns the Sultan’s brand of EVOO huge container back to the shelf.
“Hey, over here guys,” the Father calls.
Standing at the Kitchen, all the way at the back of the store, he points at a table of four with plates and silverwares ready to serve. The children run to it, try to pick their favorite spots to sit. The usual ‘I want to sit by Mom!’ was heard in a short moment, soon diminished when the Father gave them ‘the look’.
A tall Middle Eastern man comes out from behind the partition, smiles to see the family of four, and his laughter was booming. The Father approaches and the two men shake each other hands.
“Ha, ha , ha, good… you are here.”
“Sorry we’re late.”
“Ah, nonsense… you’re just in time, my friend.”
“Thank you for this dinner invitation. Very kind of you.”
“My pleasure. And how are you?” he asks the rest of the three, with a slight nod as he says it.
“Fine, thank you,” the Mother replies, also nods; not sure if the Middle Eastern man still practices the tabooness of shaking hands between two opposite sex.
“We’re really excited to be here tonight. Right guys?” asks the Husband, followed by three excited nods from the rest of the family.
“Ha, ha, ha, yes… he’s a very good customer. Not only he comes a lot for lunch, but also ordered to cater for his meetings,” the Middle Eastern man pats the Husband’s shoulder.
“And I’m always grateful for the leftover he brought home from those meetings,” the Wife quickly adds.
“Ha, ha, ha… good. I’m glad you like it too.” Then his tone of voice turns serious, “And thank you for hiring my son for your department. He has good future now.”
“Oh you’re welcome. He is a very bright kid. All I did was offer him the job and introduce him to the Human Resources. They interviewed him, and must’ve liked him, because he’s now one of my best tech.”
“Ha, ha , ha… you’re a generous man. Come… sit down, I will bring the food out now.”
What reached the cafetaria table first was not the food. It was the aroma of grilled lamb and fried onions. Eager, the Son asked, “How much longer, Dad? I’m starving!” The Father asked him to be patient and suggested, “Why don’t we go get some drinks from the fridge?”
He goes for ‘Ting’, a Jamaican soda, while the Wife grabs a young coconut juice. The kids were settled for root beer.
Soon enough, the Middle Eastern man comes out with plates on his hand. Lettuce salad topped with goat cheese and black olives plus pita bread with homemade hummus, was the starter. As he puts the plates down, he lowers himself and says to the Daughter, “Salaam.” The Daughter looks puzzled. The Mother whispered to her, “Just say Salaam back. That means ‘hello’.” But before the Daughter was able to open her mouth, the Middle Eastern man straight his self up, and boasts, “What? You don’t teach religion to your children?”
“No. I’m atheist and my wife is agnostic,” says the Husband calmly.
“But I thought you said she’s from a Moslem family?” pursues the Middle Eastern man.
“Yes, my family is mostly Moslems,” the Wife answers. “But I also have an aunt who married a Christian, then she herself became a Christian, and actually is now a preacher.”
“Hah! And what does your parent say about you being an agnostic?” the Middle Eastern man crosses his hands over his chest.
“OK. I will bring the rest of the food out momentarily,” the Middle Eastern man announced.
After the man left, the Wife gave the WTF? look to her husband. He shrugged.
Shortly later, the Middle Eastern man comes back with two plates of gyros with french fries, and two plates of grilled lamb chop with pita bread (to be eaten with the homemade hummus). After he sat the plates down on the table, he approached the Husband.
“So, I was at the lake last weekend. Fishing. All by myself. Guess what happened.”
“You caught a fish?”
“Ha, ha, ha, no. As I was fishing, all of the sudden, there was this fog. I couldn’t see through it. But then, as it got clearer, I saw a huge ship. Like a pirate ship. Can you believe that?”
Is this man trippin’? thought the Wife.
“I don’t think that’s possible,” says the Husband.
“Why not?” snapped the Middle eastern man. “You think the Universe just magically appeared, not by God’s creation. Why can’t you except my story about the ship?”
At that point, the Wife decided not to pursue the argument and ignored it. But the Middle Eastern man continues his assumption and at that point, the Wife decides not to go back there often.