I wrote two pieces this weekend at my writers' retreat. I had the most fun writing this one, my first short story in a long time. I hope you like it xo
It was unusual to hear her alarm: the first time she’d set it since she moved to Bangor. But she was going to be there when the doors opened, so there would be no chance of missing out.
She chose a purple lightweight top that matched her fitted jeans. She wiggled into the sandals she had bought in Harwich the last day of the trip, just before Brady left for grad school. She decided upon the slightest mascara and a satin plum blush, not something she normally wore, but she wanted to look long and slim and shimmered today.
She arrived at the market at 10:03 am and was surprised that there was no line. She was not sure whether to go directly to customer service or to the cashier line, but instead she stopped the lanky teenager in the grocery section, stacking avocados just so.
“Excuse me,” she said. “Where do I find the passion special? I’d like three pounds.”
The boy nodded. “Oh the passion on sale for $ 4.99 a pound? It’s not us. It’s Bernasky’s Market down the street. Just a block from here.”
She was chagrined. So much for a reliable alarm clock when she had the address wrong. She walked through the swinging doors and on to the sidewalk where the sun was strong.
Most of the women were her age, except for the one who looked like a plus sized Joni Mitchell. Bigger Joni stood in line, holding her purse in front of her with both hands, her legs swaying softly to keep her nervousness in check.
The line moved quickly and before she knew it she was sitting across from a woman with grey wild hair and kind eyes and a clipboard.
“Are you here for the passion special?" the woman asked.
“Yes, I’d like three pounds.”
“Oh dear, I’m sorry. We have a limit of two pounds per customer.” The woman smiled at her. “But that’s okay. Two pounds won’t last you as long but it’s just as potent.” Then the woman looked at the clipboard. “I have to screen you before we can sell you the passion at the sale price. State law.”
“That’s okay,” she said. She knew this part already.
“There are five questions. Don’t worry about the perfect answer. It’s not really a test.”
“The first question: do you have experience with astonishment?”
How should I answer?, she thought. Should I just say ‘yes’ or does she want to know specifics? Keep it simple, Brady had told her so many times.
“Yes,” she said. “Quite a bit.”
“Good,” the woman said. That is a definite prerequisite. If you don’t know how to be astonished, the passion won’t work. We have people come back looking for refunds even though we told them upfront no refunds. We want to make sure about the astonishment.”
She nodded again.
“Next, do you have any physical limitations?”
Oh dear, she thought. What does she mean? Should I tell her that sometimes I am frozen in place or that when it’s the best I cry?
“Do you mean am I healthy?” she asked.
“Well, kind of. Passion is powerful and it moves quickly. We want to be sure you your body will hold up.”
“Oh yes,” she answered. “I’m more than fine.” She almost laughed out loud at that. My body is definitely more than fine, she thought. In fact, passion makes me stronger.
“Okay, good.” The woman leaned forward, just a little.
“Question 3: Do you understand that passion is a natural resource and must be handled with reverence”?
This question caught her off guard. She had spent what seemed like all of her life seeking answers to so many questions and never once had she trounced on reverence. She was upset with herself that her hunger too often governed her choices, true, but she knew reverence.
“Yes I understand,” she said. Her voice dropped and the woman noticed.
“This makes you sad?" the woman asked.
“Yes,” she answered. Oh what the hell, she thought. Why not say.
“I’m here because I’ve been unable to afford passion. When I saw it was on sale today I couldn’t pass it up. It’s awful to live without it. It’s one thing to never have it because then you probably don’t know. But to have passion, to feel how it overtakes you and then lose it, that is very difficult.”
The woman with the grey hair put her pen down and put her hand on the clipboard.
“Honey, I wish I could give you three pounds. But I can’t. I can only give you two. It should be enough. I have some concern that your sadness might dilute what you hope for. This is not a guaranteed product. It requires abandon, in a way. You know?”
“Yes, the woman said. “I’ve used it for many years. It’s never let me down. But when you’re not sure I’ve found it’s best to start with a small dose and let it build up.”
“How so?” she asked.
“Well,” the woman said, “Obviously, the recipe for physical passion is the best. Oh my god. Pity anyone who has not felt that.” She smiled. “At first I didn’t know about other passions. Marshes with ponds and cattails. Foxes at the horizon. The right kind of telephone ring. You’ll only need two tablespoons to get to that kind of passion. That’s what I mean. Two pounds will last you.”
"But I don’t recommend starting with fireworks, if you know what I mean. That can take up to a cup and if you choose the wrong person, that could even void the sale. And we can’t give refunds.”
She nodded. Thank you,” she said.
“Two more questions, honey.”
“Sure,” she said.
“What do you know about astral projection?”
It was her turn to smile. “I know where you’re going with that question. Out of body passion, definitely. I treasure that. I could be swept up and tossed into the middle of the universe and my last feeling would be total mindful peace. But I know how to come back too.”
“Oh that’s important. To come back. God is in the details.”
The woman leaned toward her again. “Last question. Do you know the policy on sharing?”
“Yes. No passion without sharing.”
“That’s right. And that seems to be tricky for a lot of people. Passion is such a private thing, after all. But a conscious attempt to keep it to yourself doesn’t work. There is some community required. Otherwise, it’s just a transaction. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Okay, take this receipt to register number four. Oh wait, do you want paper or plastic?”
Finally confident that two pounds on passion at the sale price of $ 4.99 pound was now hers, she spread her arms and grinned wider than she had since Brady went to grad school.
Ma'am,” she said. “Neither. I’ll tuck that passion under my breastbone and I’ll carry it with me right now, past the broken picket fence across the street, past the snow cap hydrangea in front of the fire station, past the little dog with one eye who wags when he sees me. I”ll carry my passion with me under my breast bone and I will use it freely. Even though I’ll save some for the earth to move right under me.”
“I know you will, honey. I can tell it’s working for you already.”
“Yes,” she said. “That could be the sixth question: Do you know it kicks in as soon as you are ready?”
“Have an astonishing day”, the woman with the wild grey hair told her.
Oh yes, she said. Oh yes oh yes oh yes