It was ten minutes to closing time at the cell phone store and Gillespie struggled with what to do after work.  He had narrowed his options down to either hanging himself or going to the grocery.  Now he was stuck, since both seemed so appealing.  On one hand, the notion of vegging out in front of the television with a Hungry Man dinner made him breathe deep and flutter his eyelids.  On the other, death’s sweet release was permanent and contained no calories.  He now had eight minutes to decide.

Oh, hell.

An old woman shuffled through the door and it banged against the two-wheeled grocery basket she pulled behind her.  Her hair was platinum and held down with a polka-dotted kerchief.  Gillespie smiled wanly at her, knowing he wouldn’t be leaving on time.

“Need some minutes!” The biddy hollered at him good-naturedly.

“Minutes we have.”  He clicked his mouse.  “What’s your number?”

“How would I know?”  She thrust the phone at him.  “I never call me.”

Gillespie took the phone.  It was covered with something sticky.  He punched up her number.

“How many minutes?”

“Ten bucks worth.”  The bill came at him and he took it.  It was sticky as well.  He completed the transaction as quickly as he could, then turned back to the woman and froze.

The old lady held a banana, and it was pointed directly at his heart.

“Take it.  They were on sale at Kroger.  Strawberries and oranges, too.”

He took it and thanked her, and she and her cart banged out the door and down the sidewalk.

In his car fifteen minutes later, Gillespie peeled the banana and considered his options.

He hadn’t eaten a strawberry in twenty years, and today they were on sale.


by Robert L. Penick


Robert Penick’s work has appeared in over 100 different literary magazines, including The Hudson Review, North American Review, and China Grove. He lives in Louisville, KY, with his free-range box turtle, Sheldon.

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