Nice MelonsThe rooster crowed. A piercing reminder that it was time to get up and start the day. The little asshole seemed to be waking earlier and earlier. I had half a mind to wring it's little neck and enjoy a nice meal of fried rooster that night at the dinner table. There was little time to contemplate it's demise though, as I had to pack up crates of fruits and vegetables and haul ass to the swanky shopping center where I peddle my wares on a weekly basis. A single man running a farm does more work than a one armed paper hanger. Though why a one armed man would go into paper hanging is beyond me. But from 8 am to 1pm every Saturday, I sit and watch hipster douchebags and collagen filled harlots handle the literal fruits of my labor and try to talk me down from $3 a pound for strawberries while carrying purses that cost more than my pickup.
"Are these certified organic?" If I hear that question one more time, I might scream.
I get to the market and go to my assigned booth. I glance briefly at the paper sign indicating the name of my neighbor. I groaned as I read, "The Tea Lady." She is the absolute worst for business. She wears flowing scarves and calls everyone darling while trying to get them to sip her swill from paper cups she crams on a plate in order to shove them in the faces of passersby. People avoid her like the plague, and their avoidance trajectory typically takes them far past the booths on either side of her. Looking around to see if I would get caught, I grabbed the sign off her table and switched it with the sign of the booth on her other side.
More vendors started to arrive as I attempted to make spaghetti squash look appealing. I don't understand why human beings need their produce stacked and symmetrical, but if it makes 'em buy, I'm doing it. I was so engrossed in the placement of plums to notice that my new neighbor had started unloading. Their fruit. And their vegetables. I realized my mistake too late to do anything about it. Hoping that the quality of their product would cause more traffic to head my way, I peered over the side of my table to get a view of their goods and noticed a figure hunched down over a crate. I saw a ponytail of brown hair with the gold highlights associated with working outdoors, not chemical treatments, pulled through a tattered baseball hat. A long tanned neck stuck out of a ratty flannel that had certainly seen it's share of days drying in the sun. I continued to stare, taking her in as she stood.
"Good God, " she said, hand flying up to her chest. "You scared me!"
"Sorry 'bout that," I answered, suddenly embarrassed and bashful now that the full force of her cornflower blue eyes hit me like a sickle bar mower knocking down an alfalfa crop. "I was just looking at your melons."
Her eyes narrowed, her hand reaching up to the buttons on her shirt as I realized how that sounded. "NO! I mean...no. I meant your melons. Your MELONS. I can never get mine to grow that big. " I pointed at a stack of watermelons the size of toddlers laying on the table. Her eyes moved towards the large fruit as her eyes crinkled, a smile turning into laughter as she realized what a ridiculous scene we had just made.
I laughed with her then introduced myself. "I'm Will."
"I'm Stephanie, " she said, reaching her hand towards me in a gesture of friendship and goodwill. Her handshake was firm and her hands calloused.
"Stephanie," I repeated, liking the way it felt on my tongue. "It's a pleasure. Tell me something...do you like fried chicken?"