by Pat Richards
Winn Dixie’s ad is glossy: fat roasted turkeys, rich pumpkin pies, fruit platters. *Cast it aside,* I tell myself. “Thanks giving,” the words twist and turn and feel bitter in my mouth.
Another sympathy card… Read it later, the small voice in my head counsels.
It’s already a month since John died. The cards are still coming. Fine man, good friend, community builder, the words jumble and blur.
*Do something! Anything!*
I’ll go to Winn-Dixie. Make a list: just a few things, bananas, bread, and milk.
The market is crowded with holiday shoppers.*Do the bakery/deli first.* French bread, whole wheat rolls… the warm bagel looks appealing.
The fried chicken smells so good: warm and greasy with all that coating. Mashed potatoes, green beans, and thick yellow macaroni and cheese fill the shiny metal trays. The hair-netted clerk scoops portions of each side dish into plastic containers for a burly construction worker.
*Someday, when the queasiness goes away, I’ll treat myself.*
The voices: old men calling out to each other in undecipherable black cadences, young Hispanic mother’s promising treats in Spanish, weary old women buying one chop or a half pound of ground meat.
The young butcher smiles a gold-toothed smile. “Could I help you?”
“No! No thank you. No meat today.” I exit the meat aisle, dodge the canned-good display almost bumping into the old black man in baking aisle.
Obviously confused by the multiple packages of corn meal he holds out a box and asks, “Missus, could you help me?”
I take the package and read the label aloud —feigning trouble with the fine print—fairly certain that he doesn’t know how to read.
“What is your wife going to do with the meal? “Coat fish, make bread?”
“Make cornbread,” he says. “I’ve already returned one sack.” I nod in sympathy. “I bought a cart full of goodies for the grand boys last summer and most of it wasn’t the right choice.”
He laughs. “Isn’t it the truth?” he says, and adds, “I was in the grocery business with my daddy when I was young man.”
He finally makes a choice, not the one named Corn Jif which his wife requested but the one I thought might do just as well.
He wanders away clutching the sack of corn meal shaking his head.
*Do I look so lost and helpless?*
The phone is ringing as I rush to open the back door.
Mom! Indignation rattles across the miles. “Where were you?”
“Winn-Dixie! Why don’t you go the new Public’s?”
“Winn-Dixie is small and neighborly. I only needed a few things,” I say, hugging the small bird of panic that the thought of Public’s crowded aisles and Christmas music engenders in me.
“Under stocked and inefficient,” Jenna says.
“It’s close by.”
“How are you?” Jenna asks, lowering her voice sounding more like the child, Jennifer.
“Have you been to bridge? Mrs. Curry sent an e-mail saying she hasn’t seen you.”
“Mrs. Curry should mind her own business.” Tears threaten. “They only gossip anyway.”
“She means well,” Jenna says but she doesn’t sound convinced.
“When are you planning to come?” Jenna asks, getting down to real reason for her call.
“I haven’t made plans to come north. It’s too soon…” The wave of vertigo hits hard. *Wait.*
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Jenna pauses, another phone is ringing in the background.
The vertigo passes.
“Call me, will you?” Jenna says. “I worry when you aren’t there.”
“I will. I promise.”
“Stay off the street. No stealing shopping carts,” Jenna says.
We both laugh and hang up.
*I can do this! I can do this! I can do this! Piece of cake!*
The tears will not be stayed. The fat turkey on the shopping bag watches unmoved. Thanksgiving is coming heeded or not…
Pat Richards, author, writing coach, fiber artist resides in Kingston, New York and Sarasota, Florida. Her print credits include: Catholic Digest, Family, CWFI Newsletter, Doorways, The Upper Room, Byline, New England Writers' Network, The Blue Heron, JAWS, New Century Voices. Online credits include Flashquake, Beliefnet, Inkspin, and Cayuse Press: Book of Remembrance. She is currently developing an online writing group called "ThePorch Ladies." Contact Pat.