A side-of-the-road restaurant. Way out in the sticks. The young boy was seated at the table with his mother and father.

His mother had green hair. His father was bald, with tattoos on his face and on his scalp. The little boy was using a wheelchair.

I was eating lunch in Small Town, Alabama, USA. It was a crowded meat-and-three. I had just finished making a morning speech for a convention, and I needed to meet my saturated fat quota for the day.

I found this restaurant by chance. I pulled over because the sign advertised field peas.

I am a field-pea enthusiast. I would crawl across a sewage plant on my lips to eat a good field pea.

I appreciate field peas in much the same way I love, for example, mullet haircuts. I am a big fan of mullets, which were popular during my heyday.

The horrendous hairstyle has made a stylistic comeback among America’s youth. These days, I see all sorts of kids wearing “Tennessee Tophats,” “Camaro Cuts,” “Neck Warmers” and “Achy-Breaky-Big-Mistakys.” And I think it’s wonderful. Why should my generation be the only generation who looked like dorks?

Anyway, field peas. I like them almost as much as I like homegrown tomatoes. Both of which were served at my wedding.

The heirloom tomatoes at my wedding came from my mother-in-law’s garden and were served on a giant plate. Everyone in the wedding party ate slices. The best man received the highest honor by drinking the tomato water.

When it comes to field peas, I like them all: Crowder peas, purple hulls, lady peas, zipper peas, big red zippers, turkey craws, Hercules peas, Double-Ds, whippoorwills, rattlesnakes, slap-yo-mamas, homewreckers, foot-tappers, and tail shakers.

But getting back to the young boy I saw.

He was using surgical prosthetic implants to help him hear. His mom and dad both ordered the field peas and the fried chicken. So did the boy.

They received their food and everyone at the table folded their hands and bowed their heads.

The little boy began to pray in a voice that was louder than normal conversational tone. I overheard his prayer, and here is what he said:

“Dear God, thank you for today. It is such a beautiful day, I woke up this morning and thought it would be a bad day because I didn’t sleep well last night. My new medicine makes it hard to sleep. And the doctor says that it’s not helping my heart after my last surgery.

“And I have to have open-heart surgery again, God. The last two surgeries were so hard. I don’t know if I can do it again. Give me strength.

“But today turned out to be a great day, God, even though I didn’t sleep at all last night, and my mom had to hold me all night long because I was scared, because I’m always so afraid my heart is going to stop beating when I go to sleep, God.

“But you know what, God? I’m glad. Because my family is together. My dad is out of jail—I mean prison. And this year, having him back, oh, it has been so great…”

The father draped his arm around his son.

“And thank you, God, that I am able to hear now with my new implants. Thank you that I can hear my mom’s voice when she talks to me and my dad’s voice when he sings to me. It’s so nice to know what they sound like again…

“Please bless our food, and give me strength for today, and help me to remember that even though I screw up, you’re still there, and you love me.

“And when I DO HAVE my open-heart surgery again, please help me to be strong. And help the doctors to know what to do when they cut me open. And if I die when the doctors are operating on me, help me to remember that I’ll be with you and with Grandma, so maybe that’s not so bad after all if I die…

“In Jesus’ name, amen.”

The most bittersweet field peas I ever had.

Sean Dietrich is a columnist and novelist known for his commentary on life in the American South. He has authored nine books and is the creator of the “Sean of the South” blog and podcast. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.

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