Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Groceries - deadline 8-23-12 10 am NY time (08/16/12)
TITLE: A Day at the Market
By Myrna Noyes
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"You little scalawag!" I shouted as I started around my produce table toward him, but he zigzagged between the crowded stalls and out the back. He was too quick for me, and I resigned myself to the loss while hurrying back to my untended spot before anything else was stolen.
I carried on a grumbling inner monologue: Is it worth doing this weekend market? I get up at the crack of dawn; pull and pick fruits, berries, and veggies; pack and load them into my truck; drive 13 miles; unload it all; set up...for what? So little boys can "pinch" the produce and middle-aged women with shrill voices can complain about the price, quality, variety, and size? Add to that the sick people who bring their germs along, coughing and sneezing all over the fruits of my labor. Am I just plain crazy? Will I even make enough money to pay my gas and other expenses? Maybe I should call it "quits" after today.
Standing behind my table again, I wiped my damp forehead with a cloth and surveyed my snappy-crisp green beans; ruffly lettuce; sweet, plump berries; the aforementioned tomatoes; and other of my garden's yield. Just then an older, scruffy-looking man stopped. He began methodically pressing and poking one thing after another, while I bit my tongue. Finally I asked in a tone I tried to keep friendly, "How can I help you, Sir? We have beautiful purple and red plums this morning, the first of the crop fresh from our own trees."
The man barely looked up, mumbled "I'm just looking," and after sticking several plums right up to his rather runny, slightly encrusted nose, wandered off without buying a thing.
While straightening up the disorder he'd created, I caught the eye of Florence Darby in the stall across from mine. She smiled sympathetically, "Having a rough time, Clyde? I noticed you chasing the kid earlier and then the old guy manhandling your produce."
"Yeah, Flo, this isn't my best day so far! You're lucky you sell homemade preserves, salsas, and chutneys. The customers can't squeeze your jars and bruise your merchandise!"
We laughed, and I returned to business as an elderly lady with a cane hobbled up to my table clutching a bulging canvas bag.
"Young man," she quavered, (Note: I'm 47 and graying.) "Young man, I'd like a head of that Buttercrunch lettuce, two of those small zucchinis, and one box of blueberries, please."
"Yes, Ma'am, " I nodded, as I began to bag up the requested items. "That will be $6.25."
She dug around in her bag as she replied, "Oh, I don't have any money, Sonny. I'm going to pay you with this lovely pair of socks I knitted." Triumphantly she held up a pair of thick, mustard-yellow things that looked like they would be just right for the feet of a giant but which would never fit me.
My mouth fell open, and I began to stammer a protest when she grabbed the filled sack from me, plopped the hideous socks down on top of the green peppers, and called "Thank you, Dear" over her shoulder, scurrying off much faster than she came.
"That does it," I muttered under my breath. "I'm through here after today!"
However, after a brief break, an eager "twenty-something" couple stopped. "We just got married, and we're so excited about learning to cook fresh, healthful foods!"
They actually purchased several items--with money! Things were looking up at last.
Near day's end, I cut up a few of the ripest plums and set the fruit on a paper plate as samples. A pretty woman holding the hand of a preschool-age boy came by.
I held out the plate toward them. "Would you like to try my plums?"
The boy's eyes opened wide with pleasure as he reached for one and popped it in his mouth. "M-m-m-m-m! Thank you!" he said as he chewed happily. "Can I have another one...uh, please? They are so 'lishus!"
Grinning, I offered the plate again. "Take two, if you'd like."
His little face glowed as the juice dripped down his chin. "You're the nicest man to share your food with me! I'm going to come back every Saturday to see you. Okay?"
That's when I realized I would be back at my stall next week after all.
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