“Sample” by Maria Romasco-Moore

22 Feb
Maria Romasco-Moore

Maria Romasco-Moore

I was getting a sample at the cheese counter when the pretty girl who worked there in a white smock and a hairnet said to me we have a special offer today buy any two Sunmaid dairy products and get three wishes granted free. I speared another cube of cave-aged gruyere on my toothpick and said no thank you, because I have read fairy tales and I know that those deals are never as good as they sound.

At the seafood counter I tried half a crab leg, a paper cup of lobster bisque, and some smoked salmon on a cracker with cream cheese. At the meat counter I tried a meatball on a toothpick, a bit of bacon, and a cube of ham.

At the bakery counter I tried a spoonful of cracked crème brulee, a sliver of chocolate torte, and three fragments of sugar cookie. In the display case there was a sheet cake with a border of lumpy purple roses and “Happy 5th B-Day Jack” written on the top in blue icing so I tried a little of that – the shouts of my little friends filling my ears, the elastic band of the party hat digging into the flesh beneath my chin, my face bent so close to the lit candles I could feel their heat.  I took a breath.

Can I help you with anything, sir, asked the bakery lady, who was not as pretty as the cheese counter girl.

Just browsing, I told her.

In the produce section I tried a handful of blueberries, a spoonful of avocado, and a leaf of romaine. In the canned food aisle I tried a slice of beet, a whole artichoke heart in vinegar, and three great northern beans.

In the paper goods aisle a woman was crying into tissues from every brand one by one. She grabbed my sleeve as I went past and tried crying into that. You should try Puffs Plus with lotion, I told her. In the beauty aisle a little girl was smearing green eye shadow on her cheeks while her mother tried out facial waxes.

In the wine and beer aisle two teenagers were passed out on the shiny tiles, crumpled Dixie cups clutched in their hands. I tried a cabernet sauvignon and then a Belgian wheat and then I tried being a teenager again but it hurt more than I’d remembered so I stopped and tried a Chenin blanc instead.

In the milk aisle I tried whole, two percent, reduced fat, skim, soy, coconut, and goat. In the sugar aisle I tried brown, white, turbinado, powdered, cubed, red, yellow, and pink. In the spice aisle I tried cumin, saffron, cinnamon, ginger, taragon, caraway, and clove.

In the freezer aisle I watched a man warm some frozen peas in his hands and it made me sad so I went back to the cheese counter. The pretty girl in the smock and hairnet was still there.

I think I could love you, I said.

I reached a hand to her across the wide cheese sea, hunks of cheddar and boats of brie floating iceberg-like on waves of decorative lettuce. Her fingers brushed against mine and I tried it out – the two of us embracing under an awning in the rain, her tracing the edges of my face with a short unpainted nail, me watching a raindrop slide down her shoulder and settle in the narrow bowl of her clavicle.

But even in the first bite we could both taste it, that hint of bitter under the sweet.

She pulled her hand back and smiled a customer service smile. She said to me: have I told you about our special offers yet today?

Maria Romasco Moore’s stories have appeared in Diagram, Hobart, Pindeldyboz, and Unstuck. She currently lives in Athens, OH.

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