Why did you go to dinner at Applebee’s?
That’s something I kept asking myself during the dinner itself. I suppose the easiest answer is guilt. I hadn’t seen my mom in a while, and she asked if I wanted to grab dinner “somewhere nice,” which I took to mean like a steakhouse or something. We’d had a falling out a few months ago over Zeke, and I felt like this meal might be a good opportunity for us to move past all of that. Ultimately, I was very wrong. I think she ended up choosing Applebee’s specifically because it was somewhat equidistant between the two of us.
Who indeed? Zeke is this guy that came out of the woodwork about a year ago and began courting my mom. At first, I thought it was nice for mom to have a suitor and someone to keep her company when I wasn’t around, but then I met Zeke, and I very much felt the opposite. The first time Zeke and I met, he did that thing where you tickle someone else’s palm with your middle finger when you shake their hand. That’s when I knew he was going to be trouble.
That’s unsettling. What does Zeke do for a living?
Zeke is a restaurateur without a restaurant. He says he’s “between restaurants” as he recently sold his last one for “more money than you can imagine.” Everytime I ask him what the restaurant he sold was called, he gives me a slightly different name and sometimes the cuisine changes too. One time it was “Zeke’s Surf & Turf” and then the next time it was “Zeke’s Zesty Sammies and More.” He says his restaurants are impossible to find online because they are “hidden gems,” which strikes me as being a bit convenient. In my opinion, Zeke is a fraud and a conman.
Those are pretty big accusations. Can you back them up?
Yeah, I routinely catch Zeke trying to steal the wallet out of my pants. Mind you, this is while I’m wearing them. When he does this, I’ll grab him by the wrist and give him a stern look, and he’ll just kind of shrug and say, “Zeke Twyyyyy” in a baby voice. Zeke is big into doing baby voices despite the fact that he’s in his late 50s. My mom thinks the wallet stealing thing is this hilarious inside joke between Zeke and me. It’s not! He tried to take my wallet like three times when we were at Applebees.
Wait! Zeke was at Applebees with you and your mom?
He sure wasn’t supposed to be! Somehow Zeke weaseled his way in like he always does. I got there first and ordered a really tall beer, and as I was taking my first sip, I just about spit it out when I saw Zeke in his signature oversized Oakland Raiders leather jacket, arm-in-arm with my mom, walking toward the table. I think he wears that jacket, so he can steal things, like he did the ketchup and mustard bottles immediately upon sitting down at our table. Mom said Zeke wasn’t going to be there and that we would be able to have a frank and open discussion, but with Zeke around, those things just aren’t possible. He spent most of the meal trying to relay the plot of Rambo III to us. The frustrating thing was he was giving the plot to Rocky III. I tried to correct him, but there is no correcting Zeke.
Sounds frustrating. Was the food good at least?
I got the Whiskey Bacon Burger and fries. What I had tasted okay, but Zeke kept quietly taking fries off my plate and stuffing them into his jacket. I don’t know if he didn’t think I would notice or what, but he had at least half of my french fries. My mom got the Oriental Chicken Salad, which is a favorite of hers. Zeke ordered “the most expensive thing on the menu,” which is what he always does whenever he eats out. He says those exact words. After he receives what is usually some massive piece of meat or obscure seafood offering, he’ll proceed to complain about the price and quality of the food for the remainder of the meal. He’ll say things like “we’d never serve something like this at one of my restaurants,” which is probably true because his restaurants are all made up.
So who footed the bill?
Kidding, he doesn’t have any money. He’s a real “I’ve got to go to the bathroom” kind of guy when the bill comes. I tried to pick up the check but my mom insisted. I think she felt bad that Zeke tagged along. After the bill was paid, Zeke suggested that I call him “Daddy,” as he stuffed his used cutlery into the aforementioned Raiders jacket. I just acted like I didn’t hear him.
What do you think your mom sees in Zeke?
She really finds the whole “Zeke Twyyyyy” babytalk schtick to be pretty endearing. Beyond that, I suspect it might be a physical thing, which I try not to think too much about for obvious reasons. I think he’s slowly working to drain her bank accounts, but while in the process of doing so, he does seem to make her quite happy. Ultimately, I would rather my mom be happy in her twilight years than for me to be enamored with her partner. With that said, Zeke is one of the worst people I’ve ever met in my entire life.
Any plans to return to Applebees in the future?
The three of us are going next Tuesday. It’s Zeke’s treat, or so he says.
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Adam Dietz is a writer and the host of the Home Improvement (the sitcom) podcast “Home Impodcast.” His work has been featured in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Slackjaw, and The Art of Autism. He lives in Milwaukee with his partner and their two cats.