the mango man

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

a strange free-write tale born from a prompt that was this story's namesake.

Echoes of idle chatter echoed and jammed their way through the grocery store. Abbey practically ducked and weaved through the onslaught of busy-bodies. The pounds of her throbbing heart made her skin moist, yet she couldn’t understand why. Crowds weren’t a big deal to her–social gatherings were another demon entirely–but as she moved to the side to make way for a lady in a red dress, heels clicking with every step, and ducked as a bearded man hoisted up a watermelon over his shirt, stress piled up further.

The grocery basket bit its plastic handle into her shoulder. She double-checked the crinkled shopping list, mangoes were last. And, within sight, a gracious pyramid of the kidney-shaped fruit loomed.

She needed two for some arcane recipe her mother was going to whip up. Dips had become the woman’s new craze, and Abbey was her unfortunate guinea pig.

She weaved past a few customers, reached out to grab the closest two mangoes her fingers could reach.

A sudden giggle stopped her.

On the other side of the pyramid stood another girl with black eyeliner and skin no doubt powdered for that ivory gothic tone. She looked Abbey up and down, then furrowed her brow like Abbey had been a piece of dog shit in need of getting picked up.

Abbey’s palms clammed up, thumbs drawing wet traces in the skin. She swallowed hard and dismissed it, eyes narrowing down on her greying overalls. The fabric's color, dubbed Purple Plum, had long since faded out and became more of an ugly grey hue. Still, it made her feel like an honest worker. Why the judgment? Was there some unwritten rule that her femininity had to be proven? Between her carrot top hair and long, delicate fingers, she felt attractive in her own right. But the look made her question herself, a new weight settling down at the pit of her stomach.

She reached out for the mangoes, grabbed one, and right before she could drop it in the basket, a giant, bronze hand grabbed her wrist.

“You crazy?”

She looked up to see a giant of a man, his shadow covered her as dreadlocks parted at the sides of his golden face. Amber eyes drove into her.

“I’m sorry?”

He took the mango from her, twirled the fruit on the tip of his finger like a basketball. It spun with impressive velocity.

“This one’s green! You planin’ on using this next year or something?” The man shined a white grin. “Something tells me you’re not familiar with the powers of a damn fine mango.”

“No, not really,” she choked, now feeling even smaller.

The man smirked, placed the green mango back on the pile, and retrieved a yellow one. “One of these’ll do you.”

She reached out to take it, the man pulling it back by a few inches. “Remember to skin it and remove the pit. Bite into this sucker unprepared and you may lose a tooth!”

She grinned, then thanked him.

“I’m afraid I don’t know my fruits very well.”

The man picked up another yellowed fruit, carefully placed it in her basket, somehow knowing she needed two. He took a third and retrieved a small paring knife from his pocket before slitting through the fruit’s peel and cut away to a mouth’s amount of fresh meat. He traded the knife for a salt shaker and gave the meat a couple of healthy doses.

“Chili powder. Don’t ever eat a mango by itself without God’s favorite spice.” He held it up to her mouth.

She blushed, looked around–no one seemed to notice–then bit into the meat.

A great assault had erupted inside her mouth. An overpowering wave of sweet and tart warred, making her head thump. The tastes melded as a nervous couple, slowly ebbing together to compliment one another.

 They mingled in zesty perfection, the waterfall on her tongue caused her to gasp as she fell over, landing on soft beach sands.

The sun raised high up in the sky. There was no glass, no concrete, no idle chatter.

Palm trees danced in the graceful winds, a sweet scent glided freely among them. The man sat cross-legged before her, his unmentionable clothes replaced with a red robe with six sleeves, all of which were occupied by their own tree trunk-sized arms. He was a god, of what he resided over had been a mystery.

“Where am I?” Abbey asked, raising her head as grains of sand trickled down her hair.

The god’s fingers all folded with their partners in a psychedelic, insectoid visual. His mouth did not open, but the words were heard.

“Paradise. I am the Mango Man.”

Crabs scuttled around them, each carrying a mango between their pincers as they dropped off their treasures in hand-woven baskets.

“You didn’t drug me, right?” Saying it out loud made her lessen her resolve, her brain didn’t feel cloudy. Shocked, of course, but her sensations felt intact. Maybe an upper, then? Yet, she felt so relaxed, only the cognitive part of her brain felt alert.

“But of course not, we are having a simple moment, my friend.” His voice, still emitting from her brain alone, felt gentle, a companion rather than a predator. Still, Abbey kept a ring of wariness about her.

“Where did you come from?” she thought back to him.

He closed his eyes, his lowest right hand taking a red mango from an ongoing crab.

“That would take a year to tell, and that’s using an especially abridged version, Abbey. I have lived the lives of many a single man–only recalling all the ones before him when I bit into a mango for the first time. You would be amazed by how many that aren't familiar with the taste.”

“I used to chew mango-flavored gum,” Abbey said. “You had to try something out with it as a basic ingredient.”

The bottom four hands greeted in a sharp clap. “Such limp imitations won’t do. It must be homegrown to awaken the eternity that is me. Mere chemicals are but a weak imitation. I dread that perhaps a few lives have slipped past my subconscious due to that caveat. I do not recall the Great Depression.”

“Maybe for the better, my grandfather lost teeth he was so malnourished.”

“A damn shame.” The Mango Man dug his nails into the skin of the fruit, pulled back, and the skinless fruit bled into the sands. He bit in, sharp teeth gnashing at the flesh as fluid ran down his chin.

A scream screeched from behind. Abbey turned to see the pale goth girl. She kicked and screamed as crabs covered her, pinching and tearing into her face and body as more juices ran into the sands, thicker. Copper now mingled with the aromatic sweetness of the wind.

“Stop it!” Abbey yelped.

The Mango Man shook his head. “Such cruel sacrifices are necessary; not for the sake of tradition, but out of conservation. The planet’s destruction urges for blood to be spilled to keep the mango around. New sacrifices claimed to cover the old ones.”

Abbey looked away as a crab scurried off with an eyeball. Its olive color iris leaked.

“Take me back.”

“With pleasure.”

Cold air-conditioned air chilled her hot flesh to saddened goosebumps. She swallowed, then felt herself nudged back in the store by a plump man.

The Mango Man was nowhere around, no goth girl either. It had been a waking dream, hadn’t it? She thought about abandoning the mangoes, but scooped up two yellow ones anyway and paid for them, getting the hell out of there.

A quick drive back home found her exhausted. She staggered to the door with grocery bags dangling on each of her arms as she got inside and sat them on the kitchen counter. She turned to go to her room. Then it came to her, that scent, sweetness–the mango sweetness.

Her mother picked up the mangoes and observed them.

“These should work just fine. Thank you, Ab, I was scared you might come back with green ones.”

Abbey took a step back, blinking. The six-armed Mango Man stood behind her mother with a grin of approval.

“They look marvelous,” he said, smoking from a long peace pipe like-stick. “These are the fruits of hard-earned, sacrificial labor. Should be perfect for the dip.”

“Abbey?” her mother said, then turned to look behind her. “Oh, you never met Riley. He’s my new boyfriend.” She placed a couple of fingers under her chin. “Can’t think of why I never thought to introduce you two.”

Abbey blinked.

“Fuck mangoes.”

Submitted: January 11, 2021

© Copyright 2021 S. Serpent. All rights reserved.

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Whoa! That was one crazy, creepy shopping trip, Sleepy Serpent. Great build up of character for a short story, with Abbey, the Goth girl, and of course the Mango Man himself.

Tue, January 12th, 2021 11:39am

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