Saturday, 13 January 2007

Talking backwards

A man pulled up outside the shop at twenty past five and hurried to the door. "Are you still open, I wanted a stalk of brussels sprouts?" I welcomed him in. I had started to bring everything in from outside ... I say 'everything', but so much has been sold today that my display of produce was considerably diminished.

He bought several things and chatted for a while. He lives in the next town, nine miles away, and doesn't often come to Yagnub, but always calls in at the shop when he can. It's the welcome, he said, the quality of the food and the care in the display, Al's friendliness and interest in his job.

Actually, you could say that of many of the shops here, I'm sure it's because so many of them are run by their owners. But I was happy to hear it.

Not long before, I had been considerably cheered by a woman and her daughter who came in and spent over thirty pounds - what a nice thing to happen at the end of a Saturday afternoon. The teenage girl enthused over the fruit - she loves fruit, she said. I'm not sure how many there are in the family, but a lot, I imagine - they bought 20 satsumas, 5 mangos, 10 apples --- whole lots more, plus a sack of potatoes. They said that all the fruit would be gone by Monday.

A little before that (I'm sorry, I am ending the day on a 'Memento' note, although I haven't tattooed its events over my body) a man had come in and, after a minute or two's conversation, I suspected he was newly out of prison and so it proved. I was in the middle of serving someone else; I wish I had done more to help him.

He simply asked how I priced the fruit; by item or weight, and how much a banana, for example, cost. I weighed a few of different sizes to give him an idea. He said that where he had been, they served very small pieces of fruit that didn't taste of much, which is a pity as he loves fruit. He said he would come back and buy some after the weekend. He was newly released and money should have been available for him today but it hadn't arrived so he would have to manage without for the weekend. His solicitor would contact the authorities for him on Monday. "It isn't supposed to happen like that, for someone charged under the Mental Health Act" he said. He raised his trouser leg and showed me the tracking device. "They keep track of me, but don't tell people I have shown you, I don't want everyone to know" he said.

He left and I called him back to offer him a box of various fruit that had marked skin - it was quite all right, but I'd put it on one side to take home. I gave him a few bananas too, and said I hoped he would not be offended - not at all, he said.

He went out quickly, before I realised I should have checked if he could cook food where he lives - a couple of pounds worth of vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and greens would see him through the weekend and my fruit won't take him past the night. I'll drive through the town tomorrow and see if he's about. I hesitated because I didn't want to land Al with someone who might be a bother to him - I was friendly at any rate and, at least, did something, but really not enough. He seemed a nice man, very polite, and quite simple.

Unfortunately, although the family had a lovely time away, in the night Dilly became ill and today both the babies did too. Nothing they've eaten, it's a stomach bug. Al is fine but nervous as he suspects he will be next. I've said I'll go in the shop on Monday morning, but I'm doing staff interviews at the High School in the afternoon and can't be there all day. I have something on on Tuesday too, but I can ditch it if necessary.

4 comments:

jen said...

you did quite a bit, dear z. quite a bit. you shared your humanness with him, and allowed him to share his with you.

Z said...

Thank you Jen. A bit more practical help too wouldn't have gone amiss.

Wendz said...

You put the brussels sprouts bit in there to torment me, I know you did.

I feel sad after reading that actually. You did good though.

Z said...

The unfortunate thing is, Wendz, that brussels sprouts are irretrievably linked with you in my mind.