Everything in the shop looks as if it is wilting. The stalks of celery lie flaccid and pale in the veg bin, and once tidy bunches of red lettuce and chives droop in sullen, unruly heaps. The boxes of cereal and macaroni and nappies are covered with a thin sheen of dust. What meats remain in the cooler are gray and unappetizing, like the refreshments at a wake. For nearly a week now The Greene Grocer has wallowed in an odd malaise, a ghost ship foundering in a windless sea.
Perhaps it’s time to call it a day and start again tomorrow. I gather my things, turn out the lights and head for the rear door; but I’ve forgotten to lock the front door and flip the “Open” sign. As I turn to retrace my steps, the door bells chime and the exquisite Mary Robins Higgins walks into the shop. She is radiant and beautiful – a pleasant and unexpected contrast to the dreary miasma in my store.
“Hello, Simon,” she says in her dulcet drawl.
“Mary Robins!” I fumble. “I was just leaving – I mean, hello.”
“Well, then,” she replies with a smile, “my timing is perfect. What do you say we get some dinner?”
“Right,” I manage to say. “Yes, that would be nice.”
I lock the front door and she grabs my arm, guiding me toward Mitzi’s Bar and Taxes, the saloon next door. Mitzi, a certified public accountant by day, serves delicious American fare by night in her colourful and seedy establishment. The proprietor herself shows Mary Robins and me to an appropriately secluded Naugahyde booth. Mary Robins orders two watery, tasteless beers and stares tenderly at me for a few moments. I get the hint.
“Sorry I haven’t called since New Year’s, Mary Robins,” I offer. “I’ve been so busy in the shop. But of course, I’ve thought about you every day. I’m glad you came by.”
Marys Robins continues to smile, but she says nothing. Instantly, it dawns on me why I have worn an albatross round my neck lately: I am depressed, and it is because of her. I must admit that my visit to the palatial Higgins home at Jericho on New Year’s Eve has dampened my spirits. I hadn’t realised precisely why until now, but seeing Mary Robins has enlightened me. I no longer believe I am good enough for her.
But I must also admit that I have cocked things up royally. I really should have called.
“Simon,” says Mary Robins, breaking her silence and reading my mind. “I am the same person this year that I was last year. Nothing has changed. I like you, and I want to spend more time with you. Forget about the house and everything else you’re hung up with, and focus on me. Can you do that?”
Deep in the recesses of my mind a fresh wind begins to blow. It is faint at first, but it soon gathers strength until the ghost ship I had been stranded on for the past several days picks up speed and sails blissfully out of troubled waters. Before long, Mary Robins and I are engaged in delightful conversation, and everything feels like it did before. Time flashes by and all too soon it’s time to go. Mary Robins leans close, a mischievous grin playing around her lips.
“Now,” she whispers puckishly. “What’s this I hear about a case of condom mints?”
© Middlechurch Musings, LLC