This short story is part of a collection of 15 parables I have written called, Hearing Eyes, Seeing Ears.
I am currently seeking a publisher.
How did the story go? Four people stand in line behind the large black woman in the flowered dress—or maybe she was white and tall, or maybe she was a man in a baggy business suit. I heard it once in college, from friends who had cracked up so hard, I couldn’t get the details straight. Had they read about it on the Internet?
Anyway, the cashier, a frowning high school student, of any gender you like, rung up the customer’s items without urgency, each slow beep following the others in succession. The customer in the front of the line seemed distracted, digging in his or her wallet for something unknown—it might have been lipstick, a pen, a piece of winter mint gum. Those waiting behind were in a hurry, off to pick up kids from school, while others held tabloids close to their faces to read about the latest Hollywood break-up.
The customer in the front of the line paid for his bags of groceries and opened his wallet again.
Suddenly, everyone heard a loud thunk. The line turned in unison to stare at the man in the large overcoat (or was she the woman in the flowered dress?). Everyone’s eyes moved down. A 10-pound frozen ham lay at the feet of the customer at the front of the line. For a moment, no one spoke. They just stood still, staring at the ham on the linoleum square.
The customer’s face flushed and wrinkles began to form on his forehead. His eyes narrowed and he stared pointedly at his audience. And this next part is fuzzy. She might have suddenly yelled, “Who t’rew that ham at me?” turning to stare down the other customers. Or he might have just bellowed and gestured toward the line.
In either case, everyone shook their heads quickly, and the customer in the front of the line, with the ham rolling beneath the opening in his coat, continued to point, emphasizing each angry spoken word. He was obviously innocent. The line unanimously muttered and looked away.
Then, quickly, the customer in the front of the line turned, pushing a full cart toward the exit. His heels clopped along the floor, his flowered overcoat swinging with his steps.
Meanwhile, the melting ham rolled around on the plastic tiles. The customers looked at each other and then at the dazed clerk. They were sure to tell the story again, with details both true and untrue, to anyone who would listen.
Finally, someone stepped up to the counter and swiped their credit card, slowly moving the ham aside with their foot. And the rush of beeps began again—or so I’m told.
© 2014 Elizabeth Charlotte Grant