We had a busy night at water aerobics last night. Over the weekend, there'd been a big, hot house fire and a four-car pile-up on a straight stretch of the highway just south of Brookdale. The aerobics group swapped facts, experiences, rumors and suppositions as we worked our abdominal muscles.
Driving home, I felt considerably more cheerful. There's nothing like a dose of small-town gossip to get your mind off your own troubles. Other people's tragedies are more interesting and less depressing than my own.
At the natural foods store, I stopped to pick up a few necessities. There was a couple in the produce section buying fruit. She works in the deli, and I nodded my hello as I selected my own fruit. She's in her early twenties. The guy looked more like mid-forties, with a well-kept body and a hard-boiled attitude. They hassled back and forth about which pieces of fruit to buy. I escaped gratefully to the back of the store.
Delta V wasn't working in my favor, though, so I found myself at the check-out stand just after they'd concluded their fruit shopping. I listened to them bicker while I put my groceries on the conveyer belt and the cashier rang up their fruit. The guy wandered out of the store, leaving his lady friend to pay for and bag their fruit.
The cashier was a trainee. He had to identify the pieces of fruit and locate their codes on a list. The woman was helpful, pointing out the various fruits and volunteering some of the codes.
"That's an interesting looking plum," I commented, caught up in the game.
"It's an aprium," said the woman, "code 400."
"Probably a hybrid between a plum and apricot," I said.
Once she'd bagged the fruit, the woman looked around for her man friend.
"He's wandered off," she said, "Isn't that just like a man? So considerate."
"Probably needs training," I bantered, "Better do it before you have kids or it's hopeless."
(I have no idea why I said that. I sometimes think that I'm just reading the script from other people's dramas, saying what they need me to say to move the action along.)
The woman gave a short, harsh laugh and left.
The cashier at the next checkstand said, "He's my girlfriend's father. He already has kids. I don't think he wants any more."
"Who?" said my cashier, thoroughly confused.
"The guy who was with her."
"He seemed a lot older than she is."
"Oh, he is. He's got three teenagers, my friend and her brothers. That woman was hanging around all the time, pretty intense, and then they started having trouble and broke it off. I thought it was over, but now they're making fruit salad."
Suddenly, I had this image of fruit salad as an exotic sexual act, of kiwi and plums and Rio Ruby grapefruit spread out on the sheets next to oiled naked bodies.
"Have a great night," I waved to the cashiers before hefting my more prosaic groceries out into the night.
The moon was rising over the mountain as I drove home.