Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Fruit Stand: A Magpie Tale

It began as a simple camping trip with friends.  The day they left to return to town, I ventured into the local village to pick up a few supplies for my last night at the campground.  The fruit stand beckoned me with its hand written signs:  "Fresh Peaches" and "Sweet Corn."

After I pulled off the road, it seemed strange that there weren't many baskets of fruits and vegetables on the table.  Most of the tables were filled with root-bound flowers in old pots. A dilapidated building with a tin roof stood behind the sad array of produce.  Equally dilapidated and misshapen additions were attached to the sides, much like the pop-up campers back at the campground.  Chicken wire covered what was left of the windows.

As I selected a small basket of peaches, the old woman who came out of the even older building rattled off a litany of what other fruits and vegetables were available.  Look at the onions... no soft spots on those. The muslin dress, sprigged with tiny blue flowers, hung loosely on her. Tomatoes are nice and ripe... $2 a basket.  Both her hair and body were wiry and one of her front teeth was missing.  Nectarines are nice and sweet.  The remaining teeth reminded me of yellow and white sweetcorn.  We have fresh picked Silver Queen inside, $4 a dozen.  She kept talking as she transferred the peaches I selected to a brown paper bag.  Give the money to the boy. 

I turned and saw a slightly younger man I hadn't noticed before. Likely her son, if the matching dentition was anything to go by.  His hair was a dark blond and was cut unevenly.  The overalls he wore had large pockets to hold the bills and coins I handed to him.  He and his mother looked like they'd just stepped out of a Dorothea Lange photograph, while I felt like I'd just stepped into one. 

Fresh sweet corn inside.  Perhaps I could use a few ears of corn after all.  My son would enjoy that for dinner when I get home tomorrow night.  So, is your son camping with you?  He's working this week, but will be home tomorrow.  There's some summer squash over here... got both yellow and green.  No thank you, this will be plenty enough for tonight.  Kids these days don't get enough fresh air.  Yes, camping is great for kids.  The corn is inside the building.  Were you caught in that thunder storm last night?  Yeah, that was pretty wild!   How old is your son?  Twenty two.  Did you say he was camping with you?  She falls into step behind me as I move closer to the building.   

I wandered into the building after the young man.  There was even less inside than there was outside.  No corn in sight, but then it was hard to see anything in the gloom.  The boy will have to bring it out for you... it's in the back room.  Old fruit crates stack the walls as though they're the only thing holding them up.  So, you say you're camping by yourself?

As I sit on an old fruit crate, staring at the door in front of me, I wonder again how I came to be in such a predicament.  The lock stares back at me, the scratches that I've made on it mirroring the blood vessels in my eyes.  There's nothing to do but sit and wait.  The muslin dress, sprigged with tiny blue flowers, hangs loosely on me now.  It's getting hard to remember what I wore the day I stopped at the fruit stand so many months ago.  Loneliness does such strange things to people.

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Willow over at Life at Willow Manor  has been providing inspiration for bloggers with her photo prompts on a site called Magpie Tales.  Be sure to check out the other fabulous writers participating in Magpie Tales this week.  You'll be glad you did!
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