I've been vaguely intending to include some short fiction on here ever since I started up Stuck-in-a-Book, but wondering how to go about it - it might be a bit of a jolt to those of you expecting a review. But since I've put up some jovial poetry of late, I thought I might indulge myself with this, called 'Oranges'. I actually wrote it with my friend Mel's flash fiction site The Pygmy Giant in mind, but that's on hiatus, so... it will be here instead! Be kind :)
The ‘five a day’ campaign was a real blessing to folk like me. I can see people slowing down as they walk past, probably on their way back from a day in the office, counting in their heads (and occasionally on their fingers)… and realising they’re one short. Next thing you know, you’ve sold an apple or a pear or an orange. Half the time it’ll probably go uneaten, put optimistically on the table and left to shrivel up – but that’s not my problem, of course. Once it’s sold, it’s sold.
It’s mid-morning and I’m doing ok today. I’ve stacked up my oranges nicely, and that’s not as easy as it looks. You have to have larger ones towards the bottom, to keep the structure secure – but, of course, customers don’t want to be cheated, and there are plenty who’ll spend five minutes trying to get the largest orange from the bottom of the pile. But today I seem to be doing better with strawberries – two pound a box, bigger and juicier than you’ll get in the supermarket – because the sun’s out. It makes a real difference to our work.
Andy beckons me over. He sells veg on the stall next to mine, and he’s a good lad – although the price he tries to get for leeks is a joke, believe me. I have a quick glance around, to make sure I won’t be missing any sales, and pop over to say hello. But I don’t get the chance – as soon as I’m in whispering distance, I hear the words I always dread.
“They say he’s in the area.”
Oh no. Not today – not with the sun out, and a good day’s business ahead of me. But of course, the sun always is out when he makes his appearances.
“Are you sure? Who’s said?”
Andy just shrugs – but nine times out of ten he’s right, and I know better than to ignore his warning. But what to do?
I sell a couple of boxes of strawberries to a nice old dear who’s a regular, and an apple to somebody who looks late for work, but my mind isn’t on it. I start packing up a few bits and pieces, and Andy has boxed up some tomatoes, but we know there’s nothing we can do really. There isn’t a proper way to prepare for what’s coming.
And, suddenly, it’s all happening. The first sign is the shrieking and shouting, but that only gives you about two seconds of warning before it’s too late – he’s here, he’s on you, at the speed of light – this time on a motorbike – heading straight for (ALWAYS straight for) those beautiful oranges I spent all morning arranging. Fruit is flying everywhere, the awning is torn to shreds, and he doesn’t give a monkey’s. He’s gone as soon as he came, destruction everywhere in his wake.
It doesn’t make any difference now, but I can’t help shaking a fist at the already-distant motorbike.
“Damn you, Mr. Bond!”