The rain slowed enough that I felt good about sprinting into the grocery store for fruit and nuts for the salad I planned to take to the Super Bowl party at my neighbors’ home. They had been dieting since the January 1 and shared neighbors should only bring healthy foods. I argued with my wife that bean or Buffalo dip would be healthy, but she said no. I told her they had never kept a New Year’s resolution and wouldn’t get any healthier or escape death any more than us, but she believed they could buy time, push death back a bit.
The pineapple in water seemed healthier than the fruit steeped in syrup, the pecans seemed fresh, but the gala apples either had puncture wounds or bruises, as if they’d been fighting after hours. I asked the produce worker about them: “These apples look bad. You got any others in the back? I need some for my fruit salad.”
“Can’t bring anymore out until these are almost gone.”
“How do you know these haven’t been tampered with?” I recalled my mother with her magnifying glass inspecting each piece of fruit in our Halloween bags, telling me and my siblings how there were evil people out there who take great pleasure in seeing others suffer and dying.
“Sometimes, if one of the stockers hasn’t stacked the apples right, there’s an avalanche and they get bruised when they hit the floor, but most people eat around the bruised or damaged part or cut it. Sometimes, they come straight from the orchard that way, and sometimes they hide the bruised ones in the bottom of the shipping crate.”
“So, they send you bad ones and you pass them to the customer at the regular price, which keeps going up?”
“I just work here.”
“Yeah, but you need to speak out when you see injustice, or you’ll always be at the bottom just like these apples.” He turned away, straightening oranges, and I went to the red delicious apples from Iowa, found enough that weren’t bruised. I picked up a pack of blueberries from Maine and checked out, cautioning the cashier not to mishandle my apples.
When I got home, I hummed the fruit salad song from The Wiggles show my kids had watched when they were young. I sliced the pineapple rings, tossed blueberries, and pecans in the bowl, and added the carefully peeled and cut apples. I added mayonnaise, stirred, and then put it in the refrigerator in a sealed Tupperware container.
My neighbor Sam snubbed the fruit salad and went straight for my other neighbor’s Buffalo dip, pink from hot sauce.
“I thought you were eating healthy, Sam, trying to give your body a break, buy some time.”
“Well, I’ve never been good at those damned New Year’s resolutions. If I get hit by a train tomorrow, I will have eaten what I wanted.”
Niles Reddick is author of a novel, two collections, and a novella. His work has been featured in over four-hundred-fifty publications including The Saturday Evening Post, PIF, BlazeVox, New Reader Magazine, Citron Review, and The Boston Literary Magazine. He works for the University of Memphis in Tennessee. http://nilesreddick.com/