Especially when the buzzard is the size of a Boeing jet and made out of ball-point-pen ink.
I had walked into the main room of The Feedlot in search of nothing more exciting than a chicken fried steak dinner and a gallon of iced tea, but the main room of the restaurant seemed to have been replaced by a jail-house tattoo of a buzzard staring down into a bloody huge canyon of cleavage ...
I took a couple of steps back, looked up and groped for my pepper spray as Pearl -- Big Mama's youngest daughter and Opal's baby sister -- squinted down at me through the haze of smoke generated by the panatela cigar dangling from the side of her mouth.
"Mister 'Dog," said Pearl, removing the stogie and thumping about two inches of ash onto the carpet, "Put'cher butt inna seat. You drinkin'?"
"Pearl!" yelped the voice of the restaurants owner.
Pearl sighed, rolled her eyes at the ceiling, replaced her panatela, and -- while making suggestive pumping gestures with a closed fist (tattooed with the word "l U V E") -- sing-songed, "Welcome-to-the-Feedlot-smoking-over-there-non-smoking- over-there-would-you-like-something-to-drink."
I stood there for a moment, taking in the mini-skirt, fishnet stockings, engineer boots and spaghetti-strap halter top that revealed enough pen ink to be a monument to the Bic corporation, not to mention waaa-aay too much of six-foot-four-inch, 340+ pounds of Pearl.
"What?" she grunted, planting a fist -- this one bearing the word "H a T F" -- on one hip.
"Umm," sayeth I, more than a bit flabbergasted, "You got a ... job?"
"Yeah," she snarled, "Mother[deleted] down at the Parole Office got a little [deleted], an' tryin' to prove he a man. Told me I hadda get a job, or he gonna revoke my [deleted]."
I looked at her, "The horror."
"Got that [deleted] right." She turned and clomped off through the tables.
I made my way to my usual seat, to be joined by Joe Bob, the owner of The Feedlot.
"You've got to do something."
"I am going to do something," I murmured, "I'm going to eat a chicken-fried steak."
"No, 'Dog, you've got to do something about her," he jerked a surreptitious thumb at Pearl, who was fishing around elbow-deep in her bra, "She's driving off my business." Pearl jerked a kleenex from the depths of her decolletage, gave it a brief examination, and dropped onto a table next to a (formerly napkinless) customer.
"Private contracts between private citizens are not my business, Joe Bob. You hired her; you want her fired, you do it."
"Now, see here, 'Dog, my taxes pay your salary..."
"Yes," I interrupted, "Your taxes -- personally -- pay about 1/5500th of my salary. That's about 2 dollars per year. Here's your two bucks worth: In a fight, Pearl goes for the wedding tackle; you might want to keep that in mind."
Silence, as we watched Pearl pick up a plate in front of a customer, cock a finger under her thumb, flick ... something .. off the plate, and thump the plate back down in front of the customer.
"Do you want me to beg?"
"I'm not going to fire your employee. That's your job."
"I'm begging you."
"I'll pay you."
"Not going to happen."
Long silence as the other waitress set my steak dinner in front of me.
"If she kills me, where are you going to go for another steak like that, huh?"
I chewed appreciatively, "To whichever diner hires your cook."
"You'll be sorry when I'm dead."
"I'll cry and tell nice lies about you at the funeral. Pass the pepper, please."
Joe Bob snarled wordlessly at me, and then stomped off to the office.
To my surprise, dinner was uneventful (compared to other run-ins with Pearl), the rest of the shift was quiet, and I went to bed happy.
About 0445, the phone rang.
"'Dog," said the midnight dispatcher, "We've had a break-in at The Feedlot. Sheriff said to meet him there."
I threw on some clothes and pulled up in front of The Feedlot about the same time as the Sheriff. Bubba, the night deputy, and Joe Bob met us at the door.
"I checked the alley at 0300 and the door was shut. I came back at 0430 and the door was standing open. I've cleared the inside, and Joe Bob says the only thing missing is three boxes of steaks from the walk-in freezer."
I squinted at Joe Bob, "Did you fire her?"
"Who?" grunted Sheriff.
"Yeah, I fired her last night at closing. No thanks to you, by the way."
"He hired Big Mama's Pearl as a waitress," I said to my sleepily blinking boss, "Decided he made a mistake and wanted me to fire her for him."
"Moron," grunted the Sheriff, "Anybody know where Pearl is staying these days? I think we might want to have a chat with that girl."
As if on cue, a 1970-something primer-grey Buick no-door pulled into the parking lot of The Feedlot, and Pearl eased out of the drivers seat through the gaping hole where the door used to be.
"'Mornin', Mr. Randy, Mr. Joe Bob. I done heard about the thievin' and I know some people who know some people and I thought since you was a nice man 'n' all, I'd get you a couple'a box of steaks to replace the ones that done got stoled."
She lifted two white boxes out of the back of the Buick and placed them on the trunk lid.
"Now, Pearl," murmured the Sheriff, laying a hand on a box, "That's almighty neighborly of you."
I'm sure that it was random chance that caused the Sheriff's hand to cover the orange-and-white sticker that read: "Deliver to The Feedlot, Bugscuffle, Texas".
I nodded, wandering up on the other side of Pearl.
"Hey," said Joe Bob, "That's ... OW!"
"Sorry, Sheriff," said Bubba, "I seem to have accidentally stepped upon Joe Bob's foot."
"Now, Mr. Joe Bob, I done bought these here boxes at twenny dolla's each. Just to show there ain't no hard feelin's 'tween you 'n' me, and 'cause you is in a bad way right now, I'll sell 'em to you at twenny each. I won't take no profit, 'cause I like you."
"Well, now, Pearl," smiled the Sheriff, "That doesn't seem hardly right. Tell you we're going to do. Seeing as how Mr. Joe Bob can't lock up his place, we'll take these steaks down to the office so they'll be safe. While we're there, I'm going to write you a receipt for the boxes, and we'll get the town Good Samaritan Fund to pay you fifty dollars for this good deed."
"That's awful nice of you, Mr. Randy," sayeth Pearl, as Bubba gathered up the boxes and put them in the back seat of his cruiser.
I smiled real big at Pearl, and held open the back door of the Sheriff's cruiser as -- with every indication of courtesy and manners -- the Sheriff gently took her arm, patted her hand and led her to his car.
"Are you blind?" bellowed Joe Bob, as he waved one of the stickers from the steak boxes in our general direction, "These are my own [deleted] steaks! Are you [deleted] stupid enough to pay her for the [deleted] steaks she [deleted] STOLE?!"
Things went rodeo from there.
Pearl planted her feet as the Sheriff attempted to shove her at the backdoor of the cruiser, I jumped forward and snagged a good grip on her other arm, and the night deputy came sprinting at us, unlimbering his can of OC.
I fired a solid knee-strike into Pearl's thigh -- which would theoretically distract her from what we were attempting to do -- but she was apparently too busy batting the Sheriff across the parking lot to notice. Seeing as how Plan 'A' was well-and-truly Paws Up, I knee-struck Pearl a second-time, and attempted a take-down.
Unfortunately, right after the knee-strike hit, I felt her arm straighten out, and then she got my full and complete attention -- along with a huge paw-full of the bifurcation of my jeans.
She yanked up, and I was more than happy to jump whichever way she was wanting to go. Unfortunately, I bobbled the landing a bit, and hit the parking lot at Pearl's feet.
Bubba lined up on Pearl's face with his can of OC, but held fire as the Sheriff jumped up onto Pearl's back and snaked an arm around her neck. She dug her chin into her chest, blocking the Sheriff's choke, reached out and got a paw-full of Bubba's face, and proceeded to throw him bodily across the parking lot, turned and started lumbering to her car.
Seeing no other choice, I reached up and wrapped both my arms around her leg, forcing her to drag me along.
She took about four steps, then stopped to try to pull the Sheriff off of her back, and I took the opportunity to weasel my slapper out of my vest pocket, then she started dragging me in a circle, while I held on for dear life.
Bubba pulled himself out of the gravel, took a couple of steps and then kicked the hell out of Pearl's other leg, rocking her and giving me the chance to wrap my legs around her leg and start beating the absolute whey out of her thigh with my slapper.
Between Bubba yelling, "Get down!" between kicks to her left leg, me wrapped like a rabid spider-monkey around her right leg while pounding it with a lead weight, and the Sheriff furiously trying to lock that choke in -- it was only about another five minutes before Pearl gave up the fight.
We got her 'cuffed and stuffed into the back of the Sheriff's cruiser; and we're taking stock of the various injuries, when Joe Bob bounced over just as excited as a litter of puppies.
"Holy [deleted]! That was better'n Monday Night Wrasslin'! That was like ... like ... a comic book! Wow!"
"Joe Bob," muttered the Sheriff, trying to staunch a gushing nose, "You are a moron. I oughta flat whip your butt. Go home, get something to lock your diner up with and come get your steaks at the office -- later. Let's go."
I swear: that was the shortest serious fight we ever had with one of Big Mama's offspring. I'm kind of proud.