Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mango Day

The following was written for the Spring 2011 24-hour writing contest.


The fruit vendor smiled at her through sightless eyes, enjoying the warm breeze and salty air. During casual banter with his customers, he seemed to remember the smallest details, even ones they couldn't remember sharing with him in the past. The girl had been coming to his stand daily for as long as she could remember. As she turned to leave, she patted his hand and said, "I'll see you tomorrow morning, friend."

Still smiling, he replied, "No, you won't..."


WORD COUNT: Stories for today's topic must not exceed 900 words.

Mango Day

It was finally mango day.  For Ramona, it had been too long since her last mango, months like years, years since getting a mouthful of that yellow flesh, having the sticky, sweet juice drip uncontrolled down the side of her mouth and face.  Today is the day, she thought.  Today the mangoes are back.  The last crop was a good one, that's what the old man had said. He said it mystically, like he said everything, like he just needed to smell the air that day to know that the mangoes were ripening right then in some far-off, tropical, sunny-skied paradise.

Thoughts from the day before touched her mind as she rode through the thin, snaking roads up to the main way through town, the thing he had said to her, the vendor, just before leaving him for the day.  It had been an off-hand comment from him, part of an everyday exchange, "I'll see you tomorrow," was the reflex string of words out of her mouth, but as Ramona rode away with her basket carrying the choice apples and pears, she faintly heard his strange response.

"No, you won't..."
She was in too much of a rush, off to class, swerving through and around the increasing traffic on the big road, too focused on forcing her legs to push the wheels of the bicycle to process what that blind old vendor said to her.  No you won't what, she thought, no I won't see you, the vendor?  Maybe he would be off in the country visiting relatives, he did that often enough, leaving his son, his grumpy son with the strange growth living on his thick neck, in charge of the fruit stand for the day.  For a moment this depressed her, thinking about dealing with the short tempered man, until she thought again of the mangoes, those beautiful rounded forms of delicious, and this pulled her forward over the last small incline in the road.  Ramona could see the water now.

Into the fast-moving stream of the seaside highway she plunged, making her way toward the small port near the center of town where the fruit vendor always set up his stand.  Her mother had always warned her about the danger of riding a bicycle into the road, sometimes yelling, shouting with tears, that she didn't want her daughter to be added to the number of roadside crosses marking, in memorial, the sites of those who had been killed by speeding cars on the two-lane road.  Ramona only laughed at her though, laughed as she coasted her way into between chugging tour buses and creaking pickup trucks.  That was until she thought again about the words of that strange little and blind fruit vendor, the one who always knew better than anyone else when the rains were coming or when the next screaming baby would be passing from out of his mother's belly, usually to the hour.

No, you won't, he had said, no you won't see me tomorrow, now today, or did he mean, no you won't see me ever again?  This came to Ramona as she balancing along the way between sea-guardrail, and barreling vehicles.  She now began to feel herself wobble. No, she told herself, don't be so morbid Ramona; you've been riding through this way for years, hundreds of times at least.  There were other paths, safer ways, less roundabout ways to make it to where she needed to be, but none of them went directly past the vendor. She was being silly, that she only had to go through her morning as if it were any other, go to the fruit stand and buy the best, biggest, ripest mango she could get hold of.

From where she was she could see the port, she could see the long pier cutting a line out into the blue, rolling water.  It wouldn't be long now, only a matter of minutes, she only needed to avoid being hit by the speeding and smoking hunks of metal passing inches from her frame.  Calm, she had to be calm.  She had to just move like it was any other day, to pump her legs in an easy rhythm.  In a few minutes, she would see the port, she would see the overflowing cart of the fruit vendor, the multicolor bounty toppling over down from the wooden crates.  Her muscles were so taut and so strained that she couldn't notice the deep vibrations moving the pavement and the earth beneath her, believing the strange force to be only a product of intense paranoia, a manifestation of her deep focus on the slowly enlarging the port.

Ramona's plan was simple.  She would see the vendor with her eyes, making sure that he saw her too. She would nullify his power.

The first planks of the port were beneath her tires when the tsunami was sighted over the far end of the waterline.  She stopped rough and stood defiantly before the fruit stand as the wall of water bore down on the small port.  The last thing she saw as she put her hands on the shoulders of the man running the stand was the ugly long growth of discolored flesh sprouting off a tree trunk-like like neck as the day grew dark and the salty spray began to drench them.