It started as a joke.
I was sitting around with some friends and we were talking about Easter ham and wondered why nobody ever made Easter Spam. I came up with several recipes that we all laughed at, but the following Easter, I put one on the menu – Honey-glazed Spam, scalloped potatoes and spring peas with mint. I don’t know if people liked it because it was kitschy, or if they actually enjoyed the meal, but it’s become a tradition at my restaurant, Buster’s Lunch Box, every year since.
After my career in professional wrestling washed up, I returned home to Currie Valley, Illinois and opened my restaurant. Now here it was, another Easter Sunday – amiable weather, people wearing colorful, joyous outfits and the salty, sizzling smell of Spam filling the air. We didn’t over-do it with holiday bells and whistles, I’m not into religious stuff at all, but we had secular Easter music playing to create a little ambiance – stuff like “Egg Man” by Beastie Boys and “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane. Currently playing was Tom Waits growling “God’s Away On Business.”
“Give me the money.”
“Give me all the money in the register!”
It was the tail end of our breakfast rush and we had about a dozen people eating at booths and at the counter when the kid came in. He looked to be in his early-twenties and dragged his left loot a little when he walked. The way his eyes seemed to be both glazed over and trying to dance out of his head made the back of my neck itch with alarm. He came right up to the cash register and mumbled his demand without making eye contact. His breath smelled like he’d been smoking something that wasn’t tobacco.
I shook my head. “Get out of here.” It seemed ridiculous to me that he would try to rob us in the middle of the day.
He grabbed a fork off the counter, fumbling with the paper napkin it was wrapped in, and started threatening me. “I’ll cut you! I’ll make you bleed!”
“Please put down the fork.”
“I’ll get everyone in here!” His voice rose. “I’ll get ‘em all!”
“There’s no reason to hurt anybody,” I said. I opened up the register. There was a little money in it, but most people paid with credit cards nowadays. I took out the cash. “Here.”
His eyes narrowed. “Is this a trick?” he asked, waving the fork in what I’m sure he thought was a menacing manner.
“No. Take it and go.”
He reached out cautiously and snatched the money out of my hand, like a stray dog being offered a donut. Then he hurried toward the door, keeping his fork ready in case anyone tried to stop him.
Wrestling isn’t really a throwing sport like football or baseball, unless you count tossing bodies around. That didn’t mean I couldn’t hurl something if I had to. It helped that I still kept in shape, lifting weights and swimming a couple of times a week. We had a festive display of Spam cans set up in our prep area for the special day. I grabbed a tin, took aim and threw it, my seven foot, three-hundred pound body giving it as much velocity as I could.
The twelve ounce meat-filled metal brick hit the café bandit in the back of the head with a deep clunk, knocking him to the ground. While he was still in a daze, I hurried around the counter, took my money out of his pocket and dragged him outside.
“Don’t come back in here,” I told him. “You’re not welcome.”
Then I gave him a twenty-dollar bill and the can of Spam that had given him the lump on the back of his head. “In case you’re hungry,” I said. “You can keep the fork,” I added.
What the Hell, it was a holiday.