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BETWEEN THE LINES

Life Imitates Art

A couple of months ago I started a new novel. One of the first scenes I imagined took place in a grocery store, much like the chain store where I shop when I’m too lazy to drive to the food coop. In the scene, an older woman with early dementia is doing her weekly shopping with the help of her teenage granddaughter. The older woman is furious when the bagger, texting on his cell phone rather than paying attention to her veggies, smushes the lettuce. She throws a large onion at him and is hauled off to the manager’s office.

Today, in that market, there was no bagger, just me and the cashier. He was about the age of my imaginary bagger, pimply-faced and a bit surly. He passed my veggies through the scanner and I packed them, carefully, into the oddly sized and shaped fabric bags I carry for the purpose. When there was one bag’s worth of food left, it was time to pay, so I swiped my card and signed while he proceeded to put two avocados, one mango, and the bunch of bananas on the bottom of the last cotton bag. On top of them, he arranged the jar of salsa verde, a can of black beans, and a large pineapple.

I do not have dementia, and I did not throw the pineapple at him. But I thought about it and I wanted to. And I did mutter a nasty word, almost – but not quite – under my breath.

It tickles me when something like this happens. No, not having my veggies squashed, but the opportunity to live life’s moments – annoying or tender or funny or profound ones – more than once. To play with them, to change or re-imagine or simply savor them. To know that my work involves gratefully observing and recycling the exquisitely ordinary details of everyday.
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