Haibun Today
koi

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 5, Number 1, March 2011



Lucas Stensland
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

 

Your Local Grocer

It was a slow Monday afternoon, day after Easter. Flat rays of sun cut through the front glass wall of the store. Wade, working customer service, read the St. Cloud Times in between selling packs of cigarettes to college kids. The paper reported not much. Retail vacancies were soaring, and many people gathered for a "dryland" dogsled race.

He spent Easter alone, and did nothing for the occasion except hard boil a few eggs. To Have and Have Not was on television, and he caught most of it. The comedic moments struck him as out of place, though maybe his sense of humor was waning. Since he moved back, a sense of seriousness encroached upon his light spirit. In grocer terms, these days he was more band-aid aisle than candy aisle.

future birthplace for many
my hometown
now a stranger to me

A chubby boy, wearing a winter parka too big for him, looking about ten years old was circling the rack of Easter Bunny stuffed animals on display next to the discounted Peeps and various egg-shaped candies. The boy looked familiar to Wade; maybe his family were regulars. His round face was partly covered by Coke-bottle glasses also too big for him. Even though the snow was nearly faded, he wore bulky and heavy winter boots with one lace untied. He picked up a stuffed bunny, squeezed it, put it down and tested the next. Wade put the paper aside and watched the kid out of boredom.

A chubby, short and bald man, also wearing a jacket too big for him, walked up behind the boy and watched the hare testing. The resemblance was striking, leaving little doubt this was his father. Wade recognized the man as a regular customer, though never paid him any mind. But now Wade thought the man looked quiet, maybe introverted, the kind of person who only grew out of shyness from the hoods: adult and parent.

The boy started to look back, sensed his father and looked no further for him. He continued his testing, one after the other, seeking the perfect rabbit, while the man stood silently, not rushing his son. The boy stopped, and thought. He picked up an earlier bunny and stared into its eyes, and then picked up another that he gave no further inspection. He turned, holding them both, green and pink, looked at his father and nodded his decisions were final. The man was not holding items or pushing any cart, and Wade deduced they were here for the sole purpose of buying Easter Bunnies.

his reason
to quit smoking
Matchbox cars

The father and son began meandering to a register when Wade called, "I can help you here," causing them to turn and walk to customer service. They avoided eye contact with Wade as the boy placed stuffed rabbits next to the cash register. Wade scanned them, half expecting to see attributes of obvious bunny superiority. Nothing hopped out. "Fourteen ninety-six," Wade said while he put them in a thin white plastic bag. Green and pink shined through.

The man looked at the boy standing beside him and said in a near whisper, "Thought you said they were half off after Easter?" The boy shrugged with worry in his eyes.

"Oh," Wade said. "Sorry about that. Easter Candy is half price, edible seasonal items, not merchandise. Expiration dates and empty warehouses, you know?"

The man and boy were locked in eye contact for a moment. Wade said "sorry" again and meant it. The boy stared ahead at the cigarettes behind Wade, and probably beyond them. After taking a deep breath, the man handed Wade a twenty from a blue Velcro wallet. While making change, he saw the man grab the back of the boy's neck and wring it, playfully. The boy, however, didn't smile, didn't change expression, seemed in the moment, a moment the grocer recognized and tried to place.

Wade left customer service and watched them leave through automatic doors, cross the parking lot and get into a rusty and orange four-door pick-up truck.

paging through a diary
kept in middle school
pressed tulip

end

 

 

 

 

 

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