Friday, April 10, 2009


Next Week's Ten Word Challenge will be: acrobat; grocery store; ceiling fan; dandelion; bumble bee; alabaster; scissors; chartreuse; strenuously; cube

Mini Challenge: iPod; poison ivy; computer; interpreter; optometrist

Fatima Maysarah passed her days as a cashier at the Rainbow grocery store in the lively Uptown district of a midsized Midwest city. Typically, she was assigned to the 10 items or less checkout lane because of her perennial sunny countenance and her willingness to serve as interpreter for Ethiopian clientele. She had diligently committed all the produce codes to memory in her first week of employment. These rigors afforded her the luxury of easy banter and free mind play. She delighted in watching the implausible array of items bob along the conveyer belt after the obligatory computer scan. And imagined each sale to be an anthology.

The first customer of the day bought a pint of chunky monkey and a bottle of witch hazel (which she knew to be a remedy for poison ivy). She imagined him making a hasty stop at Hollywood video, then settling in with Penelope Cruz under the whirring consolation of a basement ceiling fan.

Next up: kitchen scissors, a 75 sq ft roll of parchment paper, a jar of capers in brine and a compact package of cheesecloth. Fatima instantly recognized the giddy visage of anticipation, akin to the hope she felt when pouring through seed catalogues in the dead of winter.

She could expect her regulars as sure as afternoon rain.

The acrobat. Who appeared to float on dust motes in the aisles. Checking out in retrograde tie dye leggings: pistachios, watermelon and evian.

At lunch time, a swarm of city workers, lit up in chartreuse uniforms, stampeding towards the deli. Emerging with self contained meals partitioned in black plastic: macaroni, fried drummies, quivering desserts.

When school let out, distracted adolescents, ipod nodes nestled in their ears, loading up on butterfingers, batteries and ramen.

On weekends and holidays the predictable ice cubes, 12 packs of pepsi on the lower rider, hamburger buns and chips.

Fatima had a special place in her heart for the crazy cat ladies who swooped down on defenseless stacks of bumble bee tuna, on sale for 47 cents. No matter how many cans they mustered, she would ring them up. Sometimes she wondered: in times like this who the tins were really for?

Then there were the “serious” shoppers who spent hours trolling the store, armed with facts and determination. “ You really need an optometrist to read the labels,” one of the young moms complained. “And still you could not be sure of the ingredients.” Hydrogenized canola oil, xanthan gum, natural flavors. Buy fresh! She wanted to shout at them. There’s nothing strenuous about putting a stir fry together.

In quiet moments, Fatima dreamed about growing things. Back home, flowers were interspersed with vegetables. This helped with predator control while adorning the changing landscape. In the raised beds of her adopted urban home, red tips of Russian kale were crowning, nascent alabaster squash were slumbering, knobby bamboo strewn across the paved walk were patiently waiting her return.

Dandelions so reviled on lawns tunneled tap roots deep into the loam, slurping up trace minerals to deliver. A weed is just a plant that is in the wrong place, she mused.


Raven said...

Love the last line. Wonderful story as always.

Akelamalu said...

You packed so much into your wordzzle - amazing. I had to laugh at the bit about the tuna - I have a thing about tuna, if it's on offer I have to buy it no matter how many tins I already have in my store cupboard! I think I have about 20 tins at the moment! :0

Dr.John said...

A perfect story and a perfect setting for the words of the day.

Fandango said...

So much food. Visiting blogs today is really making us dragons hungry. Yours is just filled with food. All kinds of food.
Well written.

Richard said...

What an excellent story. I would shop at Fatima's anytime.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful story Gabrielle. First I just love how it's the Ethiopian language and not the typical Spanish, French or Japanese. Very clever. And the best was the acrobat...retrograde tie dye leggings and floating on dust motes. Wonderful use of all the words :)

Alice (in BC Canada) said...

Hello. Sounds like a long, drawn out, boring day she has working there. Good use of all the words!! Happy Easter weekend.

Christopher said...

I tend to shop daily. Sometimes my purchases are restricted to tonight's dinner and other times its a true potpourri of disparate bits and pieces. I often wonder if the checker is trying to construct a relationship for what is coming down the belt. I really enjoyed this - thank you.

Anonymous said...

I too love the last line. I also rather like dandelions, but please don't tell Amoeba!

I liked the character in your story. She sounded like a free-spirit and a genuinely kind person.

Late! Late! Late!
I finally got my Wordzzle up!

gabrielle said...

Raven - Thank you. A wordzzling we will go!!!

Amelamalu - Fatima would love you!

Dr. John. - Thank you. Happy Easter to you and your family.

Fandango - There's more than enough to go around, especially for hungry dragons. Help yourself!

Richard - Thank you for stopping by. Fatima would enjoy serving you.

Thom - Afraid I can't take credit for the Ethiopian immigrants. I live in Minneapolis, a city that is vibrant with newcomers. Glad you enjoyed the whimsy of the acrobat.

Alice - Fatima sees the beauty in everyday things. A life that would be dreary for many is filled with wonder for her.

Christopher - Thank you Rainbow shopper. Sometimes, I think they are busy making lists or worrying about their kids. In this piece, I tried to focus on those moments where the glow of life breaks through.

quilldancer - a kindred dandelion lover. Your secret is safe with me. Have fun writing your worddzle! I'll be by soon...

Lu' said...

I too liked the tuna shopper. Good story.

Stephen said...

I enjoyed reading the story. I sometimes go grocery shopping, and I sometimes suspect that the people behind the cash registers make judgments about us based on what we buy. The story thus felt very real to me, though from the perspective of the buyer.

Stephen from Scottsdale, Arizona, USA