Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Fruit (10/10/05)
TITLE: The Stock Boy
By Joseph Civitella
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An hour later, and still wide awake, I bolted out of bed. I tiptoed to the kitchen, and stole the last banana from the counter. I’d buy fresh ones for my roommate tomorrow.
Tomorrow? Why wait? There was a 24-hour grocery store on the promenade of our complex. And the night air might rescue my body from these caffeine invaders.
The lights were bright in the store. I happened upon the fruit section, and saw a stock-boy pulling at the lid of a crate. I grabbed a bunch of bananas in a section close to him. "What’chu got there?" I asked.
The young man appeared startled. "Oh! Ahhh... I... I thought you... you were my b-boss."
"Nope. Just a night prowler."
"Ummm... s-sorry, sir... I... I don’t know wha... what these are called."
"That’s okay," I shrugged. "Not that I was gonna get any." I smiled, and tried to put the guy at ease.
"Can I... I help you... with s-something?"
"I’m just browsing. Not really looking for anything." I smiled again, and walked over a few aisles to where the apples were stacked. I tore off a couple of plastic bags from a roll mounted on a wall, and selected six of the biggest apples. The stock-boy came into my line of vision, and while I was tying a twist-tie onto the bag, I observed him holding a grapefuit, all the while looking around. Was he trying to find where they belonged?
Just then a huge slab of a man exploded out from a set of double doors at the back of the section. "Jack, what the hell you doin’ with the grapefuits? I told you to take the oranges out! Can’t you get nothing right?"
The young man hung his head and dropped the grapefruit back in the crate. He strained with the dolly, pushed it towards the double doors and disappeared into the stock room.
I walked to another aisle to find the nectarines, and choose six of the most juicy looking ones. A loud voice echoed from the stock room. "I don’t care if you can’t read! If you can’t do your job, I’m gonna fire you, you understand that?"
Moments later, the double doors opened in slow motion, and the stock-boy emerged pushing a dolly with three unopened crates on it. He appeared confused, like he didn’t know where to go. He hung his head and pushed against the dolly.
I heard a lady’s voice yelling in the stock room. "Larry, stop being so mean to that boy! You know he can’t read and he’s color blind."
"This ain’t a daycare," shouted back the male voice. "If he can’t do the job, I’ll have to find someone who can."
The female voice sounded exasperated. "Oh you’re such an idiot! Just help him."
While the verbal confrontation was going on, I walked over another two aisles, picked up a fruit, and looked towards the young stock-boy.
He gazed at me, and eventually struggled his way to where I was standing. "Is... is that an or-orange?"
"Yeah," I replied. "Why, do you have to restock this section?"
He nodded. "Y-yes."
"Well let me get out of your way then, so that you can do you job."
"Not a problem." I was about to leave, but turned back to him. "Actually, I think I’d like a couple of those oranges you just brought out. Are they fresh?"
"I... I think so."
"You would really make my day if I could have six of them."
A shy smile enlightened his face, and he began pulling at one of the crates with all his might.
And I thought, why do we not appreciate the gifts someone has, instead of deploring their failings? Don’t we realize what a little help can accomplish, even when we can’t tell the difference between grapefruits and oranges? What we make of the challenges and opportunities of our lives is all around us. Nothing is too small or too big that it can’t teach us about ourselves.
Back in bed, even though I was struggling with my own crates, I fell asleep feeling a Presence waiting for me where I am meant to go.
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