The Square Peg - Bob Did Bang... Again
© S. Bradley Stoner
Bingo Bob’s fantastic fireworks went off with a bang starting around 2100 last night (we like military time here in Military City, USA). That would be nine in the evening for everybody else. But... and this is a big BUT, the celebration started earlier. Much earlier. Right around noon. That’s when Bob fired over the big grill/smoker and popped the top on his first beer.
Bob decided this was the year for ribs. He bought about six racks of the things. That’s a lot of ribs. He spent Sunday boiling them... getting them primed for the grill and his own special brand of barbecue sauce. He makes it sweet and hot... we’re talking pepper hot, not heat hot. Now old Bob knew that I had a habanero pepper plant. It’s going on three years old and, with all the rain this year, it got big. And it put out a lot of peppers. I’m used to little, acorn sized habaneros from this plant, but this year they’re as big as plums... a couple are even pear sized. Bob begged me for just one and I finally caved and plucked one that had just turned bright crimson.
“Okay, Bob... just understand these are hot.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Bob replied, eagerly grabbing the ripe fruit. “I’ve had habaneros before.”
“You’ve had store-bought ones,” I returned. “Compared to these, those are tame... they’re flat mild.”
Bob just laughed.
I shook my head. What Bob doesn’t know is that I’ve given these to folks from Mexico who are used to habaneros. And I’ve had them return, accusing me of substituting ghost peppers. Not true. This is just a really hot habanero. You’ll have to trust me on this. My wife gave a couple to a coworker last week. She knew she could handle hot and informed my lady that she was going to eat the small one on the way home. My wife told her that was a bad idea based on reports back on last year’s crop. Her coworker ignored the warnings. It’s a wonder she made it home without wrecking her car. Her tongue bled for a day and a half after eating it. Long story short, you take my habaneros in small doses.
Anyway, old Bob minces up this medium-sized pepper and stirs it in with whatever else he uses to make his barbeque sauce and let’s it “work” overnight. Come the 4th, he’s got everything ready to slap those ribs on the grill, which he does once he finished his first beer and had the mesquite coals red hot. You could hear the sizzle a block away when those ribs hit the grate. Bob popped the top on a second beer and brought out the sauce. When he gave those ribs the first coat, it smelled pretty good. I heard people were salivating in the next subdivision.
It takes Bob about two hours to bring those ribs to perfection. For the uninitiated, that would be about four beers worth. So, yeah, by the time they were ready, Bob had polished off one six pack and opened another. People had been arriving at Bob’s house for an hour previous, so he didn’t have to drink alone. Plus, they brought more beer. They weren’t going to run out anytime soon.
I heard Bob’s wife and her friends shout, “Everything’s ready... let’s eat!?
It was less than two minutes before I heard the first scream. “HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD!” That would be Bob’s priest.
That was followed by a series of screams that made Bob’s back yard sound like a Congo jungle... or maybe the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I’m not sure which.
Finally someone who had managed to hold on to their mental faculties screamed, “LEMONS! SOMEBODY GET SOME LEMONS!”
Discretion being the better part of valor, I retreated inside before that mob had a chance to learn where Bob had gotten that pepper. Somehow I don’t think saying, “I told Bob it was hot,” would prevent a lynching held in my honor. I avoided Bob the rest of the day. Of course, a few cases of beer later, everybody had forgiven Bob. I’m not sure about me.
I learned later that everybody had scraped all of Bob’s special sauce off the ribs, which made them passable, but still hot since some of that habanero had permeated the meat. As folks left for home, I couldn’t help but notice (from a safe distance, of course) that they looked like they had spent too much time in the sun and beads of sweat still rolled down their faces. Bet they won’t forget that barbecue for a while.
By the time eight o’clock rolled around, Bob had tried to quench the fire with several more brews. He was beery-eyed by the time he began setting up for the night’s show. The setup was very un-Bob-like. Gone were the neat rows of aerial shells. Absent were the carefully arranged pinwheels. Black Cats, Lady Fingers, and other assorted bang makers were haphazardly strewn about his driveway. I was particularly worried about the Roman Candles, most of which lay on their sides.
When the show started, it lacked the usual crescendo... building from small to big and then fading back to small. Bob set them off in haphazard fashion, touching the punk to whatever happened to be handiest. Frankly, it was kind of disappointing... right until he set off four Roman Candles, one after the other, and they all fell on their sides, shooting across the street... right at Duncan’s newly repaired pickup. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Duncan move that fast. That was pretty exciting.
I went out to help clean up the mess in the street this morning. Duncan came out to help. We didn’t think we’d see Bob, given that he seemed to have drunk a brewery dry the night before, but sure as heck, he stumbled out, still in a bit of a stupor.
“Hi Bob,” I called cheerily. “How were those ribs?”
Bob’s eyes didn’t quite focus, but I’m pretty sure he was addressing me. “Yer an a$$hole... you know that?”