Green or yellow?, my dilemma, as I stood before the bananas. I hate shopping and my wife knows it. But I’m a nice guy and here I am. I don’t mean it’s woman’s work but I’m an abominable shopper and my wife is so finicky. So it ends up being labor. If I get green, she’ll tell me she’d preferred yellow. She wants them small, too, saying always they’re 90 calories. Scanning the bunches for color and size, I heard a voice from behind me.
“Are you going to start thumping them?” the voice inquired.
I turned to see a little, old woman smiling sardonically. It was silly to hover over bananas. I mean I wasn’t picking out flawless pearls, but tell that to my wife.
“Would you rather be choosing between apples and oranges?” she asked, and I sensed a tone of seriousness in her voice that prompted me to be candid with this little old lady in red orthopedic shoes.
“I would rather be deliberating peace talks that end in total disarmament,” I said, looking passed the bananas and into the watermelons, shaped like imperfect planets. Realizing how silly I sounded, I looked around, hoping no other person was in earshot, and even more, that this little old lady was hard of hearing.
She scooted closer and parked her cart behind me. I could see she had Flamin’ Cheetos, a jar of jalapeño peppers and a box of hot cocoa powder, the kind with chili. She put her hand on my arm. It felt quite hot and I feared she was ill with fever, so I backed up a bit.
“That’s not so hard. Peace is a point of view. Good talking points, negotiations, food for thought, wine for thy stomach’s sake,” she said in a creaky voice. “Peace is not elusive as you people make it.”
She wasn’t making much sense, but I enjoyed the conversation.
“Yeah, but what about wars,” I rebutted. “That can’t be in our heads.”
“How will you know peace if you don’t taste war,” she jabbed. “How ‘bout we make a small deal, you get your peace and I get your soul?” she added abruptly and bluntly, grinning all the while.
I looked around. We were still alone. I, standing dumbfounded before the bananas, and she, talking in fairytale dialect.
“Well? Well, mister?” she pressed, her body heat too close for comfort. I could see shadows moving about in her un-spirited eyes.
“Yeah, sure,” I agreed, humoring her. She had one red shoe in the grave and the other in delirium. “We’ll shake on it.”
“Oh, no, that wouldn’t work,” she snapped, starring intensely at the bananas. “It must be more substantial. Here, these look perfect.”
She picked up a chartreuse bunch. I placed them in my basket and headed for the checkout. She followed close behind. She had only a few items and, in her frailty, I insisted she go ahead. Her total, $6.66, caused the cashier’s eyes to widen. The old woman rummaged through her satchel, taking out everything from a fork to a little black book, but no change purse in sight.
“Let me take care of this,” I insisted.
She wouldn’t hear of it until she wrote out an IOU in duplicate, which she tore from the black book.
“We’ll both sign them,” she said, “businesslike.”
I wasn’t going to hold her to it. I took my slip of paper as a memento for this awkwardly, funny day. It was worth the six bucks. I watched her hobble out into the dark night like she had forgotten her walking stick. The red flash of her shoes was the last thing I saw.
“Sir, that was very kind,” said the cashier and kept on about it.
“Well, we have to help each other in this crazy world of ours,” I said, basking in my glory.
My heroics continued when I noticed a couple of men arguing behind me. It seemed they had both staked claim to the same item.
“I left it there!” said one man.
“No sir, you are mistaken, it’s mine,” said the other.
“Excuse me,” I intervened, “There’s no need to argue, I’m sure there’s more where that came from.”
They both looked at me with distaste, ignored me and proceeded to argue. I was persistent too.
“Gentlemen, look around us. We are so blessed to have never known famine,” I said, taking it upon myself to know so much about these strangers. They looked at each other then at me.
“Mind your own business!” said the second man.
“Yeah,” said the first man as he punched me in the stomach.
I fell to the ground with the wind knocked out of me. The escape felt surreal and my vision blurred for an instant. I noticed the two men stood above me.
“You can have it!” the first man said as he threw the little bag on me and turned to the other man, “Let’s go have a drink for every interfering jackass in the world!”
I sat up to see them walking out laughing, leaving their baskets at the register. The cashier ran to me.
“Sir, sir, are you okay? You want me to call the manager?” she said with concern. “Can you believe those two, fighting over whose peas it is?!”
“Peas?” I repeated. I looked down at my basket and the bananas were black.
Copyright © 2013 Shainbird. All rights reserved.
This was written in response to short story prompt #4, The Devil’s in the Details! by Because We’re Poets, who challenged us to write about a meeting with the devil while narrating it in the opposite gender’s standpoint.