Laurence Musgrove and Terry Dalrymple
At the grocery store today,
There are old people like me
Cooling off on the hottest day of the year.
An old fellow in big tennis shoes
Wanders off—his wife is going too slow.
He likes jawing over the meat counter,
Flirting with the floral department.
Now his wife is checking out,
So glad she left him at home.
Anne has been squeezing bread for ten minutes. Joseph has been standing in front of the basket, bored and staring blurry-eyed at loaves with the sale sign above them. Vaguely, a line or two of a Beatles’ song tickles his memory. Something about someone finding small holes and having to count them all. He knows Anne will squeeze every package of bread on the shelf. At wit’s end, he finally says, “The bread you want is right here.”
Anne pulls another loaf off the shelf. “I have to be sure what’s freshest.”
He huffs. “You wanted the bread that’s half off.”
She squeezes the loaf. “I want to be sure.”
Joseph shakes his head. “I’m going to the bakery.” He loves the smell of fresh baked bread and wishes Anne would buy some of that. He wonders why she’s won’t, then wonders how much money they have.
The lace on one of his large tennis shoes has come untied, and the aglets click against the light tan floor tiles. When he nears the meat counter he stops, having forgotten about the bakery. He peers through the glass at fat steaks. How long, he wonders, has it been since he has eaten a tender, juicy steak?
From behind the display, a young man in a white apron smiles and says, “What can I help you with today?”
Joseph points to the T-bones. “One of those.”
The man pulls a steak from the back of the row, drops it on the scale, prints a price tag, and wraps the meat tightly in butcher paper. He hands the package to Joseph and thanks him, and Joseph turns and walks toward the cashiers at the front of the store. But before he gets there, he smells the bakery’s aroma and angles toward it. A young woman who has just slipped a tray of bumpy, sticky-looking buns into the display case says, “Good afternoon, Mr. Davis.” She flashes a large grin at him.
He is startled by her greeting. “You know me?”
She laughs. “Oh, stop, you big tease. I see you at least once a week.”
“Oh, yes, of course.”
“So, what’ll it be? Maybe a fresh, warm bear claw?”
He sets his steak on the top of the display case. “Yes, that sounds good.”
She uses tongs to drop the pastry into a white bag. “You’re all set,” she says.
He takes the bag, turns again toward the front of the store. The cashier greets him, calls him by name. Again, he looks startled, but he says nothing, just nods. “Just the pastry?” the cashier asks.
“Yes. I think so.”
“And how’s Mrs. Davis today?”
Joseph looks to his right, looks behind him, then turns back to the cashier. “She’s fine. I guess she didn’t come today.” He pays with cash and takes a few steps toward the doors before the cashier calls him back to get his bear claw and change. Outside, he opens the bag and looks in. He thinks he just might eat that Danish in the car on his way home so Anne won’t even know he bought it.
Laurence Musgrove is a Texas writer, teacher, and editor. His previous books include Local Bird – a poetry collection, One Kind of Recording – a volume of aphorisms, and The Bluebonnet Sutras – Buddhist dialogues in verse, all from Lamar University Literary Press. Professor of English at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas, he teaches courses in composition, literature, and creative writing.
Terry Dalrymple lives in San Angelo, TX, where he writes, takes photographs, and gardens. His most recent books are Dancing on Barbed Wire (coauthored with Andrew Geyer and Jerry Craven) and Love Stories (Sort Of).