The man at the grocer's

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
John tried to ignore the man, who seemed to arouse instant revulsion with his red stained teeth and dark skin.

Submitted: April 25, 2007

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Submitted: April 25, 2007



John had felt feverish throughout the day. It was the cold mango drink he had had the previous night that had given him the chill. He still however went to work, and did his best to complete his routine tasks. Coming back from work, he decided to skip the normal dinner, as he often did when he was sick, and treated himself at his usual eating place, a local restaurant, with fruit juice and spicy vegetable soup. The change in diet, the spices, and the fruit juice did an instant trick, and he felt relaxed and re-vitalised while on his way back home.f

Living free means taking care of oneself, and skipping the evening meal was not the wisest decision, as John, feeling hungry, realised laterin the evening. It was still quarter to ten, and the grocery store was just a block away. John packed up a few notes in his pocket, donned back the shirt he had worn to work that day, and took to the store in his night pyjamas and slippers.

The grocery store, as John observed while inside, was a small shop but going by its goods looked more like a superstore, stocking everything from grocery to toiletries, eggs and eatables to sports goods and children's notebooks. The lone storekeeper, tired of the day's work, stood with dozing eyes as he gave John his requested packet of biscuits and crisps.

Done with his shopping, John was about to leave when he felt hot, and a strong urge to gulp down a cold drink. Even as he was about to inquire with the storekeeper, he observed a balding, old man approach the counter. The man, he was five four or near about in height, and fat in the middle, handed over a few slips of phone counter slips to the storekeeper and began to pay for the calls he had made. John would have ignored the man but for the loud conversation the latter began while making his payment. This is how the conversation went:

"I don't calculate these small things. It hardly matters to me. What is important is that the work was done, and that is that," the old man said in Hindi, grinning and casting a glance at John. His teeth were stained red, a result of chewing betel nut.

The issue at stake, prompting the old man to react, was the exact phone bill that ran into a few more dimes than the nearest round figure.

John tried to ignore the man, who seemed to arouse instant revulsion with his red stained teeth and dark skin. Yet, his open and lively nature, and the substance of his subsequent remarks, forced John to pay attention and nod his head in instant agreement.

"Fifty four years...I've spend 54 years in Bombay, and never did I look down on people who worked with me as either porters or coolies or manual labourers, when it came to spending money."

"This attitude has blessed me with the goodness of life. Look at can see me...look at my content disposition!" the man continued with his monologue, giving a broad smile, and glancing toward the storekeeper at one time and John at another as he tried to leave the store.

For a moment he stood at the open, door-less entrance, and continued:

"I still work because my children are not up to the mark yet... not yet into anything. My son has got into trouble...for no fault of his...just like that. And my daughter."

The man did not stay to elaborate further, and the storekeeper appeared to know the story his children.

The sleepy storekeeper called John back as he tried to leave the store after quietly sipping at the cold drink. He seemed to have forgotten that John had already paid him for the goods.

"That old man's talk put me to sleep," the storekeeper tried to justify, though quite unconvincingly to John who had observed his sleepy eyes right in the beginning. John walked back home, as yet another day of toil came to an end for him.

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