August 10th, 2009

A little habit for the excursive kept Adele cuffed to the checkout of her own free will, where an admitted bout with trivial compulsions kept her in a known place all day for a pittance in pay. At least she wasn’t lost these days when emerging from her fog, always waking up welcomed by the comforting flicker of the barcode reader. And with so much to do and so many to see, chances had slimmed of falling into her derelict daze, and that wouldn’t be missed. She was on her way, one jar of organic cashew nut butter at a time.
Right, organic. It wasn’t your paper-or-plastic sort of market, not for our Adele. She’d thought, smartly, that the health-food co-op type might be met with those more understanding of her condition. These were the slow-food movers, those born of social politeness and understanding (or an affect theretoward), those for whom a lack of speed is an appreciated sign of the meticulous, the thorough. And so, at a pace later described in the language of the painful or interminable, Adele’s mind went off on its own while she scanned labels and zipped credit cards for endless lines of reluctant shufflers. Only the children were candid enough to express impatience; the moms generally preferred knowing glances, shifting weight, and on occasion, crossing into the express line, where their exceeded purchase limits were tacitly ignored with the barest of sideward tilts. And those who deigned to wait became proud and masterful time biders, with countless minutes, some considering themselves waiting artists while others beam with the social nobility of an almost medieval ability to tarry. Adele scanned while they waited for as long as she could see through her mental brume, and when she couldn’t, by this time those who might take notice were ensconced in these fantasies. It worked for them all.

The afternoon’s reverie was snapped just in time for the mathematical quandary the likes of which’d put hair on your crest, as Adele’s aisle’s belt was loaded with wild rolling locally grown Mcintosh apples (whose price she could never remember). They have to be weighed, and with apples it’s always a delicate process, with they always threatening to roll right off the scale and she trying to make absolutely certain not to try and check their balance as her fingers added weight to the scale and sauced the whole procedure. It was hard enough with one or two of these rolling daggers, but she was looking at thirty, forty apples at least, and was just far enough out of her fog to wonder what this lady planned to with such quantities of deep-skinned delicacy. A decision would have to be made here, the sort whose paucity here was a condition of her gainfulness. Willing her uncertainty out of existence, glancing twice, no, three times, at the patron and uttering a mental Caveat Emptor, she began the most delicate procedure of lining up apple after apple on the belt, apples so fresh their sugars could be smelled through their skin and even through even the hemp candles and tabouli take-out that generally pervaded the joint (or maybe it was just her imagination because situations like these lend themselves to heightened, if not trustworthy, sensory engagements). So, sensorily here but lacking in aquacity, she continued lining them up on the scale, barely breathing and hoping the others were too, focused to the point of chesty perspiry, and once the bottom of the scale was full, carefully, she began a second row, slightly wobbly at times but structurally sound, she’d determined. And when the second row was complete, she affected the work of the ancients and created a third tier to her pyramid, this time with the weight of clearly shifty patrons building quite the queue, an admixture of the restless and the awe-struck, and when she finished this third story, the to-stack pile was down to five reasonably sized fruits. And while sleight of hand wasn’t her trick, she knew her tower of apple well enough to shift around a few blocks and add one of the free-floaters to the third layer for perfect-squared support, leaving her just enough for a fourth story and a topper. One of those attention-getting expectorations from somewhere down her line brought her back just as her palming hand was positioning the fruit about half an inch from its resting place, which means, of course, that focus was broken, the apple stirred, and her own hand unsteadied, forbidden from finishing its task at hand. And all this meant was that the whole stack, of what was now well-established as fifty five brilliant deep red bits of luxury priced fruit, came tumbling off the scale, over the belt, striking knees, children, carts and baskets of those rendered silent by their rounded open mouths.

There was no apology necessary, the manager had later noted by interruption of her usual self-recrimination. Everyone is accepted here. “But you must be more careful with the fruit, Adele.”

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