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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Auld Lang Syne. By John von Daler

                      The door to the supermarket opened and shut and opened and shut. The young mother waited patiently as the old man hovered on the little ramp, taking a step forward and then a half-step back. He had on a dark, green overcoat and tied under his chin a fur hat with earmuffs. She was clothed perfunctorily; she lived almost next door to the store. But it was cold waiting behind her baby carriage for the old man to move on.

                 Finally he reached the top, flat part of the ramp. The electric door threatened once again to close - this time directly on him. Sensing his fragility, the young woman took a step forward along side the carriage and stuck her arm between him and the door. He paused and turned toward her ever so slowly. Reaching up to his head he made a gesture to tip the fur hat, but it was tied on, so he ended up giving the mother a little wave of thanks, his pale hand fluttering shakily like a moth on the dark side of a screened window.
                He turned back and walked through the door, approaching the next obstacle, the swinging gate through which customers had to pass. Happily he tripped slightly, so that the tip of his cane came down on the floor and served as a fine lever to open the gate. Suddenly he found himself on the other side of it in the row of vegetables and fruit. Now he moved into the little shuffle that was his normal way of walking. The mother followed him slowly, pausing to pick up six apples for twenty kroner. These she put on the cover of the baby carriage and then slowly rolled after the man as he moved into the store.
                He turned left into the middle of the place, so she stuck to the aisle she was in. By the large section of beers, a whole long set of shelves filled with the inebriating products of thirty or forty lands, he stopped and pounded his cane into the floor. Then he started to mutter.
                The young mother stopped at the cans of baby food. She brushed back her frazzled, blond hair and stuck her face right down to the row of factory packaged, mashed vegetables. She wanted to see if there were any additives that might hurt her child. You had to read the fine print to figure that out. Just as she started to read, the man raised his voice.
                "Here!" he muttered. "Right here it was!" He turned around in place, trying to find a recipient for his words.
                "Yep. Born right here!" He looked around with a face full of pride, but with a hint of uncertainty too.
                "Isn't that just strange! Isn't that just, well, I mean now its not here, but before it was, back then, you know. 1935 it was. Right here by the beers and whatever."
                The young woman looked up from her jar and saw his face looking at her. I am the only one who can hear him, she thought.
                She gave him a little smile.
                "But it was a house then. Four rooms. Solid brick. With a black roof. Pointed it was."
                She smiled and shrugged a little bit this time, as if to say, What can you do?
                The old man tried once more to reach up to the fur hat, but it was as untippable as the supermarket itself. Then he turned and shuffled along the aisle, past all the beers, then the sweets, and finally got to the check out counter. Here a young man sat reading the label on a carton of cigarettes. It read, You could die if you smoke these.
                The old man shuffled by the young man without stopping. Behind his counter the clerk looked up and decided not to say, Hey, D'ja buy anything? He looked back down at the label. Die, he read, You could die.
                The young woman decided on three jars of mashed carrots, unsprayed and without additives. She wanted her baby to get a healthy start in life.
                The old man hobbled through the door as it opened and shut and opened and shut. He winced as it hit him on the arm. He made it down the ramp and onto the sidewalk without a hitch, and walking alongside the concrete, flat-roofed building, soon he was gone.

If you enjoyed this little story, you might enjoy my book, "Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude". You can buy it
by clicking on the cover below:

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