150 and Counting

leaf dropletsI just posted my 150th Drop.  When I started writing these little guys three years ago, I didn’t know how long I’d carry on.  I was too ambitious at first, trying to post them too often, then lost interest and motivation for a while, before picking up again and finding a good rhythm in posting one every week or two.  I had to remember that as well as being productive, and creating something worth reading, this project, this blog, is supposed to be fun too.  And it has been.  And I’ll keep doing it for the foreseeable future since the ideas don’t seem to be running out.

Anyway, it’s cool to see people all over the world reading them, and always rewarding when they mention one or say they enjoyed one in particular.  OK, I’ll stop blabbing now.  I’ll just link a selection from the last 50 Drops posted below.  See what you missed, or read them again.

Till next time, with love and an ongoing stream of very short fiction,

E.M.

116: Lunch

119: Cup of Tea

124: Leopard

106: Moth

138: CAB

140: Cough

143: Pressure

147: Invitation

 

Drop #150: Beach

beachHot day at the beach. We rent two sun beds, pay cash. They’re a bit expensive and a little far from the sea, but they’ll do. After a while two attractive women take the beds beside ours. Tim quickly strikes up conversation and soon we’re all chatting and laughing and learning superficial things about each other. They are cousins from Sweden, traveling through Europe together. One is a teacher, the other is in marketing. As usual, Tim tells the story of how we became friends: two guys who grew up in the same small town, but only met in a far away big city years later.

The sun is relentless, the sky cloudless. We suggest a swim but the girls want to tan some more first. ‘We’ll watch your bags,’ they say.

We thank them and head off over the hot sand. Takes a good five minutes to reach the water’s edge. The water is clear, calm and much colder than expected. Waist deep, the thought first strikes me, and I say it out loud: ‘You think those girls can be trusted?’

‘What?’ Tim asks.

‘We just met them, and we’re pretty far away. They could easily steal our shit and be long gone by the time we get back.’

‘They didn’t seem the types.’

‘We have all out stuff in those bags.’

‘I’m sure it’s fine,’ Tim says, doing breaststroke in a small circle. ‘We’re kind of broke, anyway. Not that much cash in there to steal. Couple hundred, max.’

‘Dude! What about the credit cards and IDs?’ I’m still standing in the same spot, with arms folded over my dry torso. ‘My passport’s in there too. Think about it, it’s a perfect plan. Two hot girls make friends with two guys, charm them–’

‘Thought I was doing the charming!’

‘Gain their trust, wait for them to leave for a faraway beach, stay behind and suggest watching their bags–’

‘They did suggest that, didn’t they? And they did choose those seats.’

‘They could have sat anywhere. You really think it was because of our good looks? Come on, I’m getting paranoid. Let’s head back.’

‘OK.’ Tim makes an immediate move for the shore. He’s a good guy.

We hurry back, nervous, fearing the worst. Of course they are still there, all smiles, blonde hair and tanned legs. They both really are quite beautiful. Relieved, we buy a round of beers that go down way too easy in the sun as we chat and flirt.

‘Our turn to swim,’ the taller one says, fanning herself with a magazine. ‘You coming?’

‘Nah. Too lazy.’ ‘Keep an eye on our bags?’

‘Of course.’ We watch them walk off, mostly watching their lovely behinds.

As soon as they are out of sight, Tim motions towards their bags. ‘You thinking what I’m thinking?’

‘You read my mind, buddy. I figure we have a good ten minutes. We can be gone in three.’

‘Good. Let’s roll.’

By E.M. Vireo

Drop 149: Pimp

pimpAfter three months, I was excited to see the gang again. I’d lost 12 pounds and was toned from all the running and working out, had a new hairstyle that really looked good, had finally fixed my teeth, and was tanned for just about the first time ever.

I arrived and they all greeted me cheerfully, but mentioned nothing about my looks.

I sat down and ordered a coffee. Still nothing.

Finally Tom stared me right in the face and said: ‘Jesus, buddy, look at you!’

I smiled.

‘You’ve been busy since we saw you, haven’t you?’

My smile grew.

‘Busy growing a zit! Spent the whole summer on the task by the looks of it.’

‘What?’

‘Yes, very impressive,’ Paul added. ‘A beast.’

I stopped smiling. Christ, of all the things they’d noticed, it had been the pimple between my eyes. Whatever, I only cared what Sally, who wasn’t there yet, thought anyway.

Just then she arrived, hugging me warmly, stirring my insides with her scented softness. God I’d missed her.

‘Wow!’ she said, grabbing me firmly by the shoulders to look me over. ‘Check this guy out!’

I got excited again.

‘Someone splice some rhino genes into your DNA over the summer or what!’ She laughed. ‘That thing is huge! You’re more unicorn than man at this point. Shall we order you a nice bowl of rainbow-colored grass?’

By EM Vireo

Drop #148: Happy Ending

on the roadAn hour from the hotel she said she had left her mobile there and we had to turn back.

‘Did you check everywhere?’

‘Yes. Everywhere.’

‘You sure?’

‘Positive.’

We were already late and this meant a two-hour round trip delay, at least. We’d just finished a lengthy stretch on a mountain road so terrible it felt like it had been laid right out of Satan’s anus. Getting off it onto tarmac was such bliss, like taking your shoes off when they’ve been killing your feet for hours. Now we’d have to do it again, twice.

The road back had further unexpected delays: in a gruesome accident, a sheet of sheet metal had skidded off a truck and beheaded a man on a moped. Ambulance. Indifferent cops. Blood stained sheet.

Shortly after, we got a flat. I changed the tire in the rain, which had just started.

We arrived to find the front desk deserted. They hadn’t picked up the phone on five attempts either. We were already so behind schedule to reach Sam and Trudy’s wedding, still hundreds of miles away, so, when no one answered our shouts, I went behind the desk to see if the mobile was there. A quick rummage found nothing so I opened the door to the little room behind the desk and went in, hoping to find it in there, or at least find some incompetent sleeping person I could put on the case. Nobody home, but as I was snooping around, I heard a man’s voice: ‘Hey! What the hell are you doing?’

‘Oh, just looking for my wife’s phone. Did you guys find a phone?’

‘Never mind that. You can’t be trespassing in there.’

‘Oh, sorry,’ I stepped out of the room and moved to join my wife, but the clerk—a large man we had never seen while staying there–grabbed my arm saying he had to call it in.

‘Get off me,’ I said, trying to shake him off, and he got angry, grabbing me harder and pushing me against the wall.

‘Get off him,’ Sarah echoed, but the guy only got rougher, pinning my arm aggressively behind my back. ‘You’re hurting him!’ she said, stepping towards us.

‘You just stay right there, missy,’ the ogre threatened, pulling out his phone.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: that the irony is that she’d had her mobile all along, having overlooked it in her bag, or that it was on the car floor. That we had gone back and suffered all those delays, setbacks and conflicts for nothing.

No. I wish.

It was gone, perhaps stolen, with all the photos and videos from the birthday party the night before: Grandpa Smith’s 100th and maybe his last. Turns out we were also the only ones who’d fully filmed his epic speech—probably also his last. Sam and Trudy are pretty much our best friends but we never did make it to their wedding since I was arrested and held overnight. I have a court date in a month—oh, and it turns out the guy fractured my wrist so I’m in a cast. Not ideal for an illustrator with crazy deadlines. So no, no irony here. Just life doing it’s best to be a pile of shit.

:-) By EM Vireo :-)

Drop 147: Invitation

lovers‘Want to come up? No one’s home.’

‘You want me to?

‘I asked, didn’t I?’

I pause, tapping a sneaker against the curb. ‘Don’t think I will.’

Her disappointment is at once recognizable and foreign, like a childhood home revisited as an adult. She is wearing one of the many similar simple dresses that suit her so well, and those olive-green knee-highs that remind of all I must have missed in the sixties. She is playing, as she often does, with the tiny gold seahorse hanging from her neck, and she is beautiful–a little too alluring to have to deal with, really. Too much expression in her face, too much roundness in those cheeks. No one wears glasses better, and that practiced naïveté she flaunts only belies a sensual cleverness, a roguish greed.

‘So, that’s a hard no?’ she asks, sliding hand under cloth to gently scratch collarbone.

I look at her as a quiet man might watch the winter sea from a deserted beach. ‘I can’t,’ I say. ‘I won’t.’

We kissed earlier—kissed in a way that stole something back from time: some magic, some truth. We kissed for several minutes, naturally, comfortably, as if we had always been in love.

‘Really?’ She leans against the door frame and smiles, mocking my attempt to postpone the inevitable.

I have already, over the course of the afternoon, imagined her a hundred kinds of naked, met so much of that nakedness with fingers, mouth, and face, been shattered over and again by the thought of her tightly around me. How gorgeous it must be in there. How perfect.

‘Is it your wife?’ she asks, ‘or my husband?’

After three weeks of close, almost daily interaction, the project is finished; we won’t be working together any more. Nothing happened in all that time, until today, but it was instantly flirty and easy between us—and almost immediately I had also imagined this moment, this invitation. The possibility has lived with us since, like terrible, lovely, exciting disease that is never discussed, but will not just go away.

‘I guess,’ I say, watching her stare at me, unblinking, ‘but that’s not the whole of it.’

She looks down coyly, and I resent already missing her eyes. I know it spells madness, but it’s a deep relief when she looks back up.

‘I fear if I touch you again today, I won’t be able to let go.’

‘Hm. Fear.’

‘Look at us together. Look at what we already are. This could never be a passing thing. Of course I want to come up—the thought is beating me to a pulp, but I if did it would be too good, and prove what I already know: that I like you too much. We’d definitely do it again, start a proper affair and be really into each other. I might even leave Sarah for you, and you might leave Will. We’d move in together, and it would undoubtedly be wonderful, maybe even for years, but who’s to say it won’t lose that drive and wonder?–it would already have to carry the weight of all we have given up: everything we have hurt, and risked, and betrayed. We might fight, and get frustrated, and start new affairs and only end up back where we are now. Why set all that up when we could just absorb this perfect moment, this perfect day between two recent strangers and move off into the night?’

‘Wow. Someone’s a fucking downer.’

‘Sorry.’

She shrugs but I can tell she feels this same tectonic force, but for some reason is was willing to act, as I might be willing to do on another day, or maybe still am. I have always been careful, though: too careful to throw something great away for something else that is sure to be incredible.

‘No, that was a good speech. Articulate and charismatic.’

I know this sarcasm is used in defense, maybe as a stalling technique too. Even now the invitation remains draped on her face, and I still haven’t formally refused it. Minds are seldom made up with the words they sell to mouths. Half of mine has already climbed the stairs to her bedroom, or is it more than half, or less? Sex itself is not so dangerous but there’s no room here for love. Not today, in this falling dusk. Not for love the destroyer, love the callous cunt. Souls are impatient; we tend to appease the offhand passions they peddle, riding them on into the new and the immediate. But not every time, on every watch.

The hug goodbye is brutal, so heavy with the sadness of sense.

By EM Vireo

Drop #146.5 : Jumpsuit Revisited

A friend mentioned he thought my Drops were getting a bit predictable, so I figured I’d rewrite the last one and take it somewhere different. Click here for a comparison, and let me know what you think of this second version.

 

jumpsuit copy‘Where d’you want your drink?’

‘Oh, wherever, Don,’ she says, bouncing from bed back to dresser. ‘Jesus. Just put it down and help me choose. We’re running out of time!’

She’s a whirlwind of muscle and tanned, smooth skin in tiny pink underwear. She’s worn her heels for what seems like hours: indiscreet YSL numbers, all strap and suggestion.

The bed is flush with dresses, skirts and tops that haven’t made the grade; other castaways lay crumpled on the floor.

‘What about that blue one?” I ask.

‘Remember where we’re going, darling. I couldn’t show up in a drab old rag like that— Christ!’ She looks at her phone. ‘We have to leave. We’re late.’

‘We have a few minutes.’

‘I still have to do my make up, and hello! I’m still standing here in lingerie.’

‘What about that polka dot one?’

‘That’s a summer dress, sweetheart. Nothing season appropriate here. Half my wardrobe’s still in Geneva—and look at you, all dressed already, shiny shoes and all!’

‘Just had to shave and step into my suit.’

‘Dashing. You’ll kill tonight, I’m sure.’

‘As will you, no doubt.’

‘I should hope so, or we’ll have a problem.’

She looks great exactly like this, feverishly dancing all that skin around the room. I wish, as I’ve done often lately, we could take a break, stay in and just be alone together as a couple, without always having to go out and play these roles.

She slips into a gray skirt, then a maroon blouse, looking in the mirror, one foot forward, tilting her head. ‘God, why is everything so wrinkled? It’s unacceptable!’

She’s out of both in a second, now yanks an olive green dress off a hanger. She veers one lithe leg curtly into it, and then the other, like an aggressive gymnast.

‘That’s a winner,’ I say.

‘Seriously?’ She strips more pointedly still, kicking the dress away. ‘Come on, Don. Why are you settling? I need you to be on form tonight. To stand strong beside me. There’s plenty at stake.’

‘I’m fine.’

She stares at me for a silent second, then sits on the bed, palms in eye sockets, glaring blindly up at an invisible God.

‘This is ridiculous!’ she says, standing back up. ‘Nothing fits. Nothing works. I feel like an idiot.’

‘How about the jumpsuit?’ I say, scratching my old shoulder wound, which has started to itch.

‘The jumpsuit?’

‘The cream jumpsuit.’

‘The jumpsuit! Of course!’

She’s into the dresser headfirst, like a vulture into carcass, emerging triumphant and climbing right in.

‘No wrinkles,’ I say, smiling. ‘And it matches the fall foliage.’

‘I think you’re right,’ she says, passing a final test in the mirror.

She looks incredible: a woman that can do any man’s task. She’s too good to be my partner, really, but I am not allowed to think that way.

‘I did it, honey,’ she says sarcastically. ‘I found something to wear tonight! Let’s celebrate—oh, where’s that drink?’

I hand it to her. The three ice cubes have only shrunk six or seven percent.

‘Oh Campari soda, you ruby jewel, you bitter bitch, come to me.’ She grabs it greedily. ‘How I need you now!’

She takes a small sip, speaking again as she does: ‘thank god for this jumpsuit. Can’t believe it was the only thing that would get the job done! Literally the only thing I could possibly wear tonight.’

She smiles that preposterously alluring smile, her first in an hour, then takes a bigger gulp, not quite connecting with her mouth, but gaining back control with ease. ‘This is one well mixed drink, Don,’ she says, almost finishing it.

‘I try,’ I say. ‘Stirred; never shitty.’

‘Time check,’ she says, all business, and I tell her: ‘twelve of eight.’

‘Good. Alert The Fat Man that we’re a go.’ She yanks the weapons drawer open and grabs her customized pocket pistol with silencer, slipping it into her Hermes purse. ‘I’ll do my makeup in the chopper.’

I make the call, then pick up my trusty Glock.

‘I doubt we’ll need them,’ she says, admiring herself one last time in the mirror, adjusting her bangs. ‘If I do it right, it will seem like a heart attack, and we’ll be long gone already, but better to be prepared.’

‘Yes.’ We won’t need them, I’m sure. In the sixteen jobs we’ve done together, she’s never come close to making a mistake. ‘Better to be prepared.’

By E.M. Vireo

Drop #146: Jumpsuit

jumpsuit‘Where d’you want your drink?’

‘Wherever,’ she says, bouncing from bed back to dresser. ‘Just put it down and help me choose. We’re running out of time!’

She’s a whirlwind of skin (tanned and mesmerizing) and underwear (silk pink panties and bra), already in her heels (mouth watering YSL numbers that are barely more than four thin straps: ankle, toe, one joining these, and one linking ankle to heel along the Achilles, combining to draw a direct line, in leather, to fetish. Somehow the shoe makes the foot seem more naked than if it were bare.)

The bed is covered with clothes, mainly dresses; others have already been discarded to the floor.

‘What about that blue one?” I ask.

‘That old thing? It’s a smart event, dear. I can’t show up in a drab old rag like that—God,’ she looks at her phone, ‘we have to leave. We’re late already.’

‘We’re OK.’

‘I still have to do my make up, and hello! I have literally nothing to wear.’

‘What about that polka dot one?’

‘That’s a summer dress, sweetheart. Most of these are. Half my winter and fall clothes are still under the bed, messily folded and probably half molded. It was so God damn hot this summer. Really. Just ridiculous—and look at you. You’re dressed already, shiny shoes and all!’

‘Just had to shave and step into my good old suit.’

‘And you look great. So dashing. Man, that suit is so well tailored.’

‘Thanks.’

She looks beyond great, exactly like this, a little frazzled without a dress, dancing all that skin around the room. She could not look better.

She slips into a gray skirt, then an aubergine blouse, looking in the mirror with one foot forward, tilting her head. ‘God, why is everything so wrinkled?’

She’s out of both in ten seconds, now yanks an olive green dress off a hanger. She shoves one leg violently into it, and then the other.

‘That’s a winner,’ I say.

‘Seriously? You like me this dumpy?’ She strips more ferociously still. ‘Christ! Nothing fits anymore. Too much of your mother’s gnocchi.’ She sits on the bed, palms in eye-sockets, staring blindly up at an invisible God. ‘I’m gonna lose it. I swear, I’m gonna lose my shit.’

‘How about the jumpsuit?’ I say.

‘The jumpsuit?’

‘The cream jumpsuit.’

‘The jumpsuit! Of course!’ She’s into the dresser headfirst, like vulture into carcass. She emerges triumphant and climbs right in.

‘No wrinkles,’ I say, smiling. ‘No mold.’

‘You don’t think it’s too pale? Too light for the season?’

‘No. It’s perfect. Matches the fall foliage.’

‘I think you’re right,’ she says, passing a final test in the mirror.

She looks incredible, though I already miss her naked legs, her stomach and her thighs. But this outfit accentuates that charming neck, those smooth arms, her sleek, delicious length, and the cleavage, downplayed just enough to provoke.

‘I did it, honey,’ she says sarcastically. ‘I found something to wear tonight! Let’s celebrate—oh, where’s that drink?’

I hand it to her.

‘Oh Campari soda, red goddess, come to me.’ She grabs it greedily. ‘You bitter jewel, you ruby bitch. How I need you now!’ She takes a small sip, speaking again as she does: ‘thank God for this jumpsuit. Can’t believe it was the only thing that would get the job done! Literally the only thing I could possibly wear tonight.’

She smiles that preposterously enticing smile, her first in the last hour, then takes a bigger gulp, not quite connecting with her mouth. The drink spills down her chest.

Ugly ochre stains.

By E.M. Vireo

Drop 145: Have a Nice Day

wonton noodle soupSam called the Chinese take out place.

‘Yeah, two #7s, one #12, a 16, a 19 a 22, and a 24. Oh and two Cokes. How long? Cool. Extra chili sauce please. Thanks.’

He hung the menu back on the fridge and went to wake his roommate, Jack.

‘What did you order?’ Jack asked sleepily, as he plopped onto the couch in dirty sweats a few minutes later. ‘I’m friggin starved.’

‘Two scallion pancakes–’

‘Aw, yeah. Those are the truth.’

‘Hot and sour soup, barbecued pork, soy sauce noodles with duck, shrimp fried rice, and morning glory with salted fish.’

‘You know what you’re doing, son. All my favorites.’

‘Mine too. We’re about to feast. Should be here any minute.’

The guy arrived with a big paper-in-plastic bag. Sam tipped him well, then carefully unpacked each little container onto the table before starting to open them up.

‘What’s that one then?’ Jack asked squinting at the first.

‘What the hell?’ Sam said, when half of them were bared; then he opened the rest. ‘I can’t believe this.’

He called back: ‘Listen, our order is totally wrong. Not one item is correct. You gave us two orders of chicken feet, some kind of fish head curry full of bones, an intestine stew of some sort, a tofu dish that smells just awful, a cold purple pudding with weird floating beans, and I don’t even know what the last dish is. The gray wobbly thingy. What we ordered was scallion pancakes, hot and—’

‘You order number 7, 12, 16, 19, 22 and 24, right?’ the man said.

‘Yes, but–’

‘I give you 7, 12, 16, 19, 22 and 24.’

‘But we didn’t order any of these dishes.’

‘Yes, you order them. We change menu. New numbers. Different item.’

‘Yeah, but–’

‘You know next time. You try other dish. Stinky tofu. Very tasty. Jelly fish salad. Very fresh. Pig stomach in brown sauce. Good for blood. You enjoy.’

‘But.’

‘You enjoy. Thank you for business. Have a nice day.’

By EM Vireo

Drop #144: Boucherie

pig headI picked Frank up at the station early Sunday morning. I hadn’t seen him in years. He’d emailed Friday out of the blue saying he’d be in town for a day. First time in New Orleans.

As the local I’d immediately felt pressure to show him a good time, and arrange the type of stuff you can’t do anywhere else. He’d said not to put myself out planning anything and had suggested a couple of restaurants he’d read about but I’d never heard of. Said they were popular joints but that we might still get a table at if we booked that day. As if that was going to happen! What kind of host lets the guest pick the restaurant?

How you been? We shared an awkward hug. Two pats on the back. Good, and you? Then we drove off, heading for the highway.

‘Such a short visit!’ I said, stepping on the gas.

‘Yeah, just a layover. Leaving early tomorrow  – but we have the whole day.’

‘Just as well. There’s something special going down and I managed to get us invited. Only got confirmation last night. Had to pull a few strings and I owe Big Lou a favor but it’ll be well worth it.’

‘When, later today?’

‘Right now, buddy. We’re already on our way.’

‘OK.’

‘It’s a ways out of town, and starting soon, so no time to stop off to shower or change. Hope you don’t mind.’

‘Not at all. But now I’m curious. Where are we going?’

‘Ever heard of a boucherie?’

‘Can’t say I have.’

‘Oh boy, it’s something else! An iconic Cajun ritual, but really quite uncommon nowadays – usually only happens around Mardi Gras. Man, your timing really is immaculate!’

‘Cool. Tell me more.’

Well,’ I said excitedly, ‘it’s got everything to do with a pig.’

‘Hmm.’

‘It’s a community thing. So, what happens is: neighborhood families and friends get together on someone’s property, out in their back yard, and butcher a pig – I’m talking an entire hog – then cook the hell out every last bit of it.’

‘Hence the name boucherie, I guess,’ Frank said. ‘So, I guess the reservation at Bella’s didn’t pan out then.’

‘What? Oh, that restaurant you mentioned?’ I laughed. ‘Nah. Not with a boucherie down the road!’

The moment I received his email a dozen possibilities had popped into my head for lunch, dinner, drinks and snacks. I could have taken him to Dooky Chase or la Petite Grocery or gone casual at Katie’s. I could have hit any number of food trucks, or crawfish boils, or hit my go-to po’ boy destination. But come on! La boucherie trumps all.

‘Man, you’re gonna love it,’ I carried on, glancing at my wristwatch. ‘I’m so excited – I mean, I live here and I’ve only ever been to one, and they had the pig killed and cleaned already. Today’s is proper old school. They’re going to bring it in squealing and shoot it on site, immediately slit its throat and collect the blood for boudin, then butcher it right away! That never happens anymore; in fact, I’d given up on experiencing the event in such a pure, complete form. This is a damn rare thing, a real privilege! That’s why we have to hurry. Killing’s at 10 sharp.’

‘Hmm.’

‘Hmm? Hmm! Is that all you have to say?’

‘Well – ’

‘So, after they expertly singe, scrape, gut, and cut it up using hacksaw, knife, cleaver and even ax, everyone sits at long wooden tables and goes to work on their portion, preparing ponce, andouille, ham, organ soup, hogshead cheese, backbone stew, cracklins, boudin and lots more. Every scrap of the animal is used: brains, blood, ears, hocks, feet, marrow, skin, snout, heart, and tail. We cook all day, eat and drink and get loud all day, and we feast at night. We do it all together, and you and I are going to be a part of it! We’re going to be right in the bloody middle of it all!’

‘Fascinating,’ Frank said.

‘You betcha!’

‘There’s only one small problem.’

‘What’s that?’

‘I’m vegan. Have been for years. I won’t touch swine with a ten foot pole.’

By E.M. Vireo

Drop 143: Pressure

‘What’s it going to be?’ the man in white asked again.

‘Just a second,’ she said, postponing once more.

‘Please.’ He took a menacing half step forward, metal implement at the ready in his hand. ‘People are waiting.’

‘Just a second!’ she barked, shaking her head. ‘I can’t think.’

The room had grown more crowded and louder, and she felt flushed and dizzy. What if she chose wrong? What if she messed it up? She looked across at all the citizens waiting for her to act. The pressure was immense.

‘Seriously,’ the man implored, ‘you’re almost done. Just make your final choice.’

His voice was distant through the thickening claustrophobia. She could feel them all watching her, whispering, commenting. She felt she might be sick.

‘Jesus, lady. I haven’t got all day!’

‘OK, OK,’ she said, fighting off the panic. ‘Just give me beets.’

‘Beets. You got it.’ The deli man expertly plucked some from one of the many colorful metal trays in front of him with his tongs, and added them to the romaine leaves, sprouts, feta, broccoli and cherry tomatoes in the mixing bowl. ‘That’s your six choices for the salad lunch special.’

Phew. She felt the weight soar from her shoulders, even managing an odd smile. The long line she’d been holding up at the counter seemed to sigh in relief too.

‘Now you just need to choose a dressing. We got balsamic, honey-Dijon, soy-ginger, French, Italian and ranch. What’s it going to be?’

By EM Vireo

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