I asked, “Why did you invite all of those people to dinner?”
“Well, because I want to have a party. It’s not every day a man gets married, and I thought it would be a nice thing to do. They all seemed excited about our wedding, helping with the photos and leis.”
He got up and went to the wet bar, opening up a two-compartment leather container he carried on the airplane. Inside were two large bottles of Jack Daniel’s. He poured two shots into a glass and filled it with water, downing it like a kid quaffing a glass of milk when he wants to be excused from the dinner table.
Not wanting to appear to be unreasonable at such an early stage of our wedded life, I said in a mild protesting voice, “But, John! It’s our wedding night. Why aren’t we having a romantic dinner, just the two of us? We don’t owe these people anything but a thank you. And there is the cost of all of this—what will the cost of this dinner be with drinks? I’m sure they will all want drinks.”
He poured another two shots and filled the glass with water, again downing it quickly, and then turned to me.
“I like parties, Veronica. The cost doesn’t matter. The store will pay the bill.”
Ah, the store, the store, the goddamned store. But at this early stage of the marriage, I did not have intimate knowledge about Stewart’s Market, the family business. It was a grocery store in Moraine, a small rural community about fifty miles northwest of Los Angeles. John’s father opened the store during WWII, and then John took it over in the early 1950s after he decided pro football was a dangerous game where he could get seriously hurt. And so, he became a butcher instead.
But Stewart’s Market became more than a store; it was John’s political base, as he stood in his white apron behind the butcher counter and talked politics to the district attorney or county supervisors who came to him, seeking his sage advice. It was behind the butcher cases where he evolved his business from that of a small grocer to a wholesale meat distributor, and finally to a highly-respected caterer.
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