The fruit stand guy seemed perfectly fine yesterday. He looked like a fruit stand guy – short, squat, baggy sweatshirt beneath his blue apron, sagging pants, fingers like cigars, and a wool newsie cap screwed down tight as a jar lid on his bean bag of a head. He acted like a fruit stand guy, snapping a paper sack open with a flick of the wrist. He even spoke like a fruit stand guy, stringing all his words together to ask questions like "wattulitbee?" There was no reason to suspect any foul play.
I purchased two bananas – ripe ones – and he smiled as I folded a $5 bill into his fingerless gloved hand. His face was rippled with fat wrinkles, and full of rosy health. And, when he rested his unwrapped and half-eaten bagel sandwich on a bunch of oranges to free up his banana hand, it was business as usual.
But today the fruit stand guy was not alone. While he chatted up a girl in Apple Bottom jeans, his eyes occasionally darting up the block, and they negotiated over the right selection of apples, a second fruit stand attendant took my order. He was a wiry, loose-limbed hispanic kid with braids peeking out beneath his knit ski cap. Polite as all get-out, he plunked five navel oranges into a bag, made with a lot of pleases and thank yous, and sent me on my way.
I wondered why it would require two men to operate a fruit stand that, by itself, was no more than five feet wide and half as high. Then, just as I was turning away, I noticed the fruit stand guy had a new addition to his rosy countenance: a painful-looking shiner beneath his left eye. Was his new employee protection? Or was he a low-level member of a gang, assigned to make sure the fruit stand guy wasn't cheating the bag man when he came around to collect? And isn't muscling a fruit stand guy the kind of crime that only happens in comic books? Either way, I felt sorry for the guy, but not sorry enough to pay $3.99 a pound for his SHITTY FUCKING STRAWBERRIES.*
*this is what's known as a tight wrap-up. you can't premeditate this kind of thing. it usually only happens when you're being called away from your computer or it's 12:40 a.m. and you're wondering if you've time to watch M. Night Shamalama's 'The Village' before you go to sleep. Next time, I'll work harder.