I’m standing in line at the checkstand marked “Albion,” because Harvest Market thinks that it is cute to name the lanes after local towns, rather than numbering them. Behind me is a wheelchair user, and I note that the conveyor belt for groceries is too high to reach, so I ask him if he’d like a hand unloading his handbasket. “Nah,” he says, “I just kind of shove the basket up there and let the checker sort it out. But thanks.” “Fair enough,” I say, and we both turn to watch the checker trying to remember the produce code for cherimoyas.
Another man gets into line behind us.
“Hey,” he says, leaning down to the wheelchair user. “You should check out this book. I bet you could walk again!”
The book is some sort of natural healing volume, thick with postits, softback covers curling up at the edges. It is obviously very well-worn and thoroughly thumbed through, the cut edges of the pages are stained and dark and I suspect that they probably feel velvety to the touch. The photograph of a smiling woman with dark hair dominates the cover. She appears to be surrounded by fruit, surrounded in a halo of disembodied vegetables.
“I ate carrots and apples for two months and cured my cancer,” the man says.
“Uhm, ok,” says the wheelchair user. “No thanks.”
The man turns to me.
“You could cure your cancer with this book,” he announces. Now I have cancer? I think.
The checker rescues me, perfect timing, by announcing my total. We are caught up in the minutia of the transaction, “debit please” and “no cash back” while the man with the book corners the person behind me in line. You’re kind of a captive audience, waiting in line at the grocery store, and I feel deeply uncomfortable but too shy to say anything. I bag my groceries and flee, dodging the epic displays of strongly scented flowers positioned by the door to guilt trip people in relationships into buying them.
In the parking lot, returning my cart to the cart corral, I see the man with the book again.
“Seriously,” he says, “you HAVE to read this book!”
“No, thank you,” I say, trying to dodge around him to get back to my car. I can see its cheery orange bulk, so secure, yet so far away.
“Well, you should at least take a CD,” he says, pulling a fistful of CDs out of the pocket of his jacket.
“I’m really not interested,” I say, feeling for the security of my key.
“Well, FINE,” he says, and trots off across the parking lot to find his next victim.