April 8, 2010
The poor man stood in front of the olives—greens, blacks and purples, and lots of them––for several minutes, shuffling a step this way or that, bending down to peer through the sneeze glass at the olive anthology. Audrey rolled her cart up next to him.
“Where’s the vermouth?” she asked.
“I’ve got the vermouth,” he said. “Where’s the gin?”
Audrey laughed. She rarely saw people she knew at the grocery store, let alone her next-door neighbor.
“Felder, you look positively befuddled.”
“Olives used to come in cans.”
“I’m pretty sure they still do.”
“The kids’d put ’em on the ends of their fingers, and somebody would always zing one across the table when you weren’t looking. Those are olives.”
“So why are you bothering with all this?”
“It’s my daughter.”
“Yes… Melinda… she’s landing on my doorstep tomorrow for a couple of days.”
“So you’re stocking up on olives.”
“More like I’m stocking up on apologies,” he said. “Melinda sent me one of those big baskets for my birthday, you know, full of brandy sausages and cheeses and fussy little jars, and I suppose I wasn’t very gracious when I told her no thanks. What kind of gift is that, anyway, for an old guy like me?”
Audrey nodded. “I get it.”
“I wish you had. Anyway, I thought I’d try to make up for it, you know. Buy a few things.”
“Would you like some help?”
In another life, Felder’s smile would’ve set Audrey afloat.
They found toothpicks and little tasting plates on one end of the service island. Audrey convinced Felder that olives were good food, even for an old guy like him. Besides her favorite kalamatas, she liked the small purple gaetas. Felder decided the little green picholines would do just fine in his martinis.
©2010 Pam Wells