A Tender Tale

    The local wing place, a favorite of my wife, has an interesting and alarming habit of giving me more than what I ask for. What could possibly be wrong with getting a little extra when it comes to wings? It’s not the wings that get the extra. My wife gets the wings and I get the tenders. I love them. They are meaty and juicy and packed with flavor. They always come with a flavored dip which, for me, can only be a honey mustard. All of you ranch addicts can shove off! Honey mustard is the new ranch.

    Every time we go here, usually to get a take-out, I stand in front of the register with my eyes roaming over the chicken tender options while the missus orders her wings. When it’s my turn I have decided on the exact amount of tenders that I can eat along with an order of their fries. The fries are an integral part of the meal. These are hand cut and seasoned in a way that no other place does it. They are soft yet still a bit crunchy. These little spuds are the light at the end of my carb tunnel. They are the Jenny to my Gump. No meal from here would be even close to proper for me if I didn’t get the fries. With that fact in mind I know I have to weigh my appetite against the fries and order the right amount of tenders to fill in the remaining gap. Yes, it would appear that my actual meal is the fries and the tenders are the side. What can I say, you caught me. Now take your ranch to your table and leave me with my sin.

My order is the exact amount of tenders that will fill me up without making me drop painfully into a food coma. On this day, I order a three piece tender combo with the honey mustard. The man who rings us up asks for a name. My wife wastes no time quipping out “Beavis!” The young man blinks and opens his mouth to ask the obvious question but I cut him off with “Really and truly.” He throws his jaw hydraulics into reverse and nods once.

“Nineteen dollars and sixty-seven cents.” My wife forks over a twenty and drops the change into the tip jar. We retire to the assigned waiting area and take a seat.

I think most people don’t realize the dangers of extra food. I am a firm believer in ordering exactly the amount of food that I know I will eat. Nothing extra. Nothing wasted. I hate having a left-over anything from a take-out meal or an eat-in restaurant. Doggy bags are a waste of time. The food never tastes the same later, especially if you have to reheat in a microwave. Because of this quirk my wife and I favor restaurants with meals that are not over-sized and/or served family style. The last thing I want is a table covered in food that two people cannot possibly consume in one sitting. It is a blasphemy against reason and one of the driving forces behind obesity and food waste. Everything that we don’t eat while we’re there will be tossed into the trash, not rehashed and served to the next guest, which of course would be disgusting in and of itself.

The wait time was brief this day. It seemed like only ten minutes went by before the cashier carefully placed a crinkling paper bag on the counter, cleared his throat nervously and barked out “Beavis!” a bit louder than necessary. He looked surprised at his own volume and blushed as we rose together like a conjoined set of twins to claim our food. My wife thanked him and we left.

At home we spread the food across the coffee table so we could eat while watching the X Files on Netflix. The smell was mouthwatering. With my mouth already full of fries I opened the container of tenders and nearly choked. There were four goddamned tenders in there. Four plump, perfectly fried and seasoned chicken tenders with just the right amount of grease pooling against the paper. Four! I had ordered three. I wanted to eat three fucking tenders with my fries. Once I ate my three, the exact amount that I wanted and had ordered there would be a left-over tender. What in the name of fried blessings was I going to do with a single tender? Did those people even think about it? Apparently not. Clearly they put absolutely zero thought into what might possibly become of that extra tender. Were they trying to be friendly? Was it a plot to get me to eat more chicken? Was it personal? My thoughts raced backwards to the smile the kid behind the register had given my wife. Was he giving me extra food to make himself look desirable to her? Did he have designs upon my wife? Was the little shit actually a secret home-wrecker and I had not detected it? I was literally frozen with hatred over that extra tender.

“What’s wrong baby?” My wife looked curiously at me as I glowered at the food. “Is there something wrong with your chicken?”

“Yes,” I said pointing at the extra tender. “That nasty little schmoozing home-wrecker gave me extra.” I reached for more fries while I contemplated the tender puzzle, stuffing them into my mouth like a four year old and chewing angrily. “Ahm nhot gunna eht fo uh em.” My wife laughed.

“Then don’t. We can stick the last one in the fridge and I’ll throw it into a salad later.” I turned astonished eyes on her and forced the fries down my throat where they formed a gooey glob that hurt to swallow. I chugged a bunch of sweet tea to aid in washing it down before I could speak.

“You have a plan for it already?” My eyes burned accusingly at her. She chuckled and patted me on the back.

“Yes dear. I foresaw everything and knew that our random choice of dinner would result in the complete disintegration of our marriage whereby I would be free to run away and marry the kid from the wing place, secure in the knowledge that our plan had worked. Giving you a single extra chicken tender is the perfect crime.” I squinted at her and curled my lip in disdain.

“It would have been had you not just told me everything.” I smirked. “You are a terrible criminal.”

“And you have a really active imagination.”

“Fine, you can have your salad later with the extra tender but it’s going to be awhile before we go back there again. I don’t trust them.” I peeled open the honey mustard and picked up a tender.

“Yes dear.”