This week, I am without tangerines. The reason I am without tangerines is an odd one. I am without tangerines because an extremely smelly person was standing over them when my wife and I were still by the bananas. We always get bananas before we get tangerines. The bananas are next to the potatoes, which are directly across from the onions � red, white, yellow, sweet, pearl. I like that term: pearl onions. We never buy packaged lettuce. The packaged lettuce is kept in a cooler with the salad dressing near the door that leads to where the produce man and his helpers trim vegetables before they bring them out to fester and rot beneath the timed overhead sprinklers. The door is right next to the tangerines. When we looked in that direction, the door was shrouded in the smelly person�s aura of stench. It was a foggy day on the docks. The pier groaned as the shopper shifted his weight from one foot to the other.
This same man spoke to us once. Rather, he lectured. Briefly. He explained that the overripe bananas were cheaper than the edible ones, the bananas with a future. It was very important to him that we understand. But he smelled so bad that the only thing we could understand was the necessity of our escape. This man can afford soap. He wears glasses, shops every week, and uses a cart. There are items in his cart. But soap is not among them. Neither is shampoo.
I said, �Too bad. I really wanted some tangerines.�
My wife said, �Let�s get the milk first. Then we can go back for the tangerines.�
I said, �I�m not going back. He�ll be gone, but his stench will still be there.�
My wife said, �Then I�ll go.�
�No,� I said. �It isn�t safe. We�ll just have to skip the tangerines this week.�
And so we did. That was Saturday. Now it�s Monday, and I�m already dying for a tangerine. I like to peel them, and afterward to count the seeds. The record so far is forty-two. I count them, then throw them away. But it occurs to me now that this might be considered a criminal act. Seeds should be planted. Then again, it�s too cold where we live to grow tangerines. They�d freeze. I could save the seeds, and collect them for an entire winter. I could collect them every winter for the rest of my life. And when I die, the seeds could be discovered, and people would marvel. They would say, �Wow � he really was crazy.�
I don�t hold it against the smelly person. He is a sad being, and is doing the best he can. He weighs far more than my wife and I combined. He can�t turn around or bend to bathe, and his feet are killing him. He has a life, a past, a story. I would speak to him and listen to him if I could. He is obviously ready to talk. But it isn�t safe, and I am sorry. I am truly sorry, even if he should turn out to be ignorant and obnoxious, and harbor all sorts of malicious and evil thoughts. I am sorry even if he believes in war and likes �American Idol.� He is still a person � a person, moreover, who probably thinks I�m weird, and who feels pity for my wife.
Next week, maybe I�ll ask him if he has tried the tangerines. On the other hand, I am almost positive I won�t.
Also by William Michaelian
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
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