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Elegant: The Best of Balladbird Lee

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They always gravitated toward the six top with seven chairs. 

Blue-eyed Harry sat down first, and next to him was Bob. Brandon always sat on Harry’s left. The newcomer in the sunglasses fell into the empty chair across from Brandon, and the long-haired Lee.

 “Hello, boys,” their usual waitress was a bright-eyed girl with a gold tooth and dark brown eyes. She smiled and poured water into their empty glasses, her eyes on the task and her backside out of Harry’s reach.

Brandon sipped his water and ordered a cola. Harry wanted his usual scotch. Bob and the new man decided to share a pitcher of beer.

Lee pursed his lips and studied the drink menu.

“Still no tea?”

“No, I’m sorry,” she said.

“You’re on the east side of Billion,” said Harry. “It’s coffee only around here,”

“I’ll have a mango frappe,” Lee said.

Harry curled his lip, “Ew,”

Lee bent his bow, “Don’t ew my choices,”

Brandon grinned until he turned to the new man. Staring him down, he tapped the space between his eyes and said, “Bunji,”

Bunji quickly removed his glasses and the only one that seemed to care was Lee.

After the drinks arrived, the girl took their orders.

Brandon ordered a vegetarian pizza. This disgusted Bunji, who kept his sour face behind his menu. His winced when Brandon specified a tomato pie with green asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, corn, red peppers, green peppers, and onions.

“You’re still on that vegetarian kick, eh Brandon?” Harry teased.

Brandon nodded, cola straw between his lips.

“Man, it must be nasty going down on you,” Harry’s eyes shifted to Bunji.

Bunji started and then looked at Brandon.

Lee sucked his tongue, “What possesses you to say things like that where people are eating, Harry?”

“It’s true what they say about vegetarians, right?” Harry grinned at Lee. “You have the most experience with that sort of thing, Balladbird, have you ever been down on a vegetarian?”

“Once or twice,” Lee said, matter of fact.

Harry laughed, “Why not more?”

“It’s best not mentioned at a lunch table,” Lee said.

“I want a Nordic,” Bob said, and the girl wrote quickly on her little scratch pad. “Extra tuna and anchovies, no onions.”

The girl looked to Bunji, oblivious with his nose still in the menu.

Koo-gahshee-rah,” Lee sang.

“I want the barbeque, no onions because when I bite into an onion, it makes me want to puke,” Bunji then turned to Lee. “I ain’t northern, my name is koogah-sheera, quit saying it in your accent,”

Brandon shot Bunji a disapproving glare.

“How about I just pronounce it, dumb-ass,” Lee asked.

“I want,” Harry’s eyes shifted from the menu and to waitress, “To know what you’re doing later.”

The girl laughed, drawing attention to the table.

“It’s okay, I was talking to him,” Harry then stared at Lee, making the girl laugh harder. “I want the Camembert Mille-feuille. I won’t shit for a week, but what the hell.”

Lee sucked his tongue as the rest of them laughed, even the waitress. From behind Harry she watched Lee as he sipped his fruity mocha.

“I’ll have my usual,”

“The Giganta-meat,” she said, writing.

Bunji laughed under his breath.

Harry, Brandon, and Bob kept their smiles in check.

“Don’t you have an age limit for beer drinkers?” Lee eyed Bunji. “Don’t they have to be out of grade school?”

Bunji mocked Lee, “Don’t you have an age limit for beer drinkers,”

“I don’t sound like that!” laughed Lee.

“Yes, you do,” Bunji said, smiling.

“The day I sound like that,” Lee grinned. “I’ll let you shoot me,”

“Let me ask you, Lee,” Harry winked at Bunji. “If they offered foreskin as a topping, would you eat it?”

“Depends,” Lee sipped his coffee, “Are the toppings from a vegetarian?”

The eruption of laughter brought their table some attention. 

“Did you want your usual salad Mister Heat?” the girl asked.

“Not today,” he said softly.

“Are you sure,” she took his menu. “We have the ranch dressing?”

“No thank you,” he said, as Harry and Bob admired her backside as she walked to the kitchen.

Mister Heat can I suck your dick for you?” Harry emulated her. “Can I rub my titties on your dick, please Mister Heat?” 

Bunji laughed the strongest until Lee cracked, "Relax, try-hard,"

“All the chicks like Brandon and Lee,” Harry smirked. “It’s the long hair, it makes their pussies cream.” Lee produced a file and began buffing his fingernails and Brandon wondered wordlessly how Lee made the task seem so manly. “My receptionist Abby keeps asking when Lee’s coming by,” Harry began emulating her, “Is he married, does he have children?

“You going to cut your hair now, Brandon?” Bob asked.

Brandon shrugged his shoulders and said, “When I have to,”

“Abby’s your receptionist?” Bunji asked between gulps of his beer. “I thought that was Lee’s job.”

“You know,” Lee fixed his eyes on Brandon, “It’s customary to muzzle one’s dog when it begins barking in public.” 

Bunji turned to Brandon, "Hey bro, can I shoot him?"

“Don’t refer to him as a dog, Lee,” Brandon said, then scowled at Bunji. “And Kugashira, show some respect,” 

Lee turned back to his nails, and Bunji quieted as ordered; Harry and Bob shared a smile at their expense.

The pizzas arrived and elevated the mood, until Bunji and Lee reached for the red pepper at the same time.

“Ladies first,” Bunji smirked.

“Beast before burden,” Lee tossed it at Bunji, getting red flakes on his black shirt.

Brandon and Harry were oblivious to the latest tension, listening as Bob discussed placing microphones the size of pin-heads inside steam rooms; these were the best places to record conversations.

Disturbed by the unethical nature and Harry’s willingness to do it, Brandon shifted his attention to Bunji. The newcomer was engaged in a civil if not slightly confrontational exchange with Lee.

“What are you talking about,” Bunji’s spoke with his mouth full. “Billion State Correctional has the best food,”

“BSC is fine if like powdered eggs three times a day,” Lee argued. “Correctional East is the best hands down,”

When Randy appeared, all of them stopped eating, except Bob. Randy had arrived earlier with Big Daddy and Bear Walken, and the men always took their lunch upstairs in one of the private rooms.

“How are you, Mister MacDowell?”

“Fine as always,” Harry said. “What can I do for you?”

Randy spoke to Brandon then, “I’ve been told to ask if you’d join us,”

Lee eyed Harry and saw disappointment and frustration flash in those baby-blues.

“No thank you,” Brandon stood and bowed. “Not today,”

“Of course,” Randy smiled as if expecting it. He then shook Brandon’s hand before staring boldly at Lee. “How are you today, Mister Lee?”

Lee gave him a closed-lipped smile, "Still not interested, old man,”

“You might wish to reconsider,” Randy's humor belied his gravely voice. “Enjoy your lunch, gentlemen, Mister Lee,”

"Yo," Bunji whispered to Lee, "You want me to shoot him?"

“Are you nuts?” Harry snapped at Brandon. “You should’ve gone.”

“I didn’t want to,” Brandon said.

“I’m telling you, Brandon,” said Harry. “Acting stupid will get you nowhere,”

Brandon went back to eating his pizza.

“You don’t turn down a man like Big Daddy,” Harry added. “Is it because he’s banging Maria?”

“Harry!” Lee slapped the table.

“Excuse me,” Harry said. “I’m talking to my friend,”

“No,” Lee said. “You’re nagging Heat because you’re pissed off,”

Bunji stared at Brandon.

“I am pissed off,” Harry exclaimed. “My friend turned down a golden op,”

“You’re angry because you weren’t asked upstairs, and Heat was,” Lee lowered his voice. “You’ll keep harping on him until you feel better, and I’m in no mood for that shit today.”

Harry quieted down by rocking the ice in his empty glass.

“How about it, Brandon, am I making you uncom-?”

“—yes,” said Brandon.

“Fine!” Harry conceded with a smile. “I was pissed because my balls got plucked,”

Bob laughed out loud, and Lee resumed eating. 

Brandon turned to find Bunji watching Lee over his beer glass. Was his underling in awe of how Lee spoke up? Brandon was used to it and hoped to one day master Lee’s talent for speaking his mind.

The waitress returned and handed the check to Lee.

“Excuse me Mr. Poundmax?” she asked, standing behind Bunji.

“Yeah?” Bob handed Lee some cash for the tip.

“I was wondering,” she said, “This is weird but, if I gave you my number would you call me sometime?”

Bob looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

“Yo, you ain’t got to worry about going down on Bob,” Bunji said. “He ain’t no vegetarian,”