Recently at one of the farmers markets I sell at, a woman and a teenaged boy approached my stand, paused for a moment to whisper together, and then stepped forward. The boy was maybe seventeen, the woman in her mid-sixties. I couldn’t place their relationship. The boy spoke for them, and he was shy.
“We were just wondering,” he said, “about those peas. If they’re the edible pod kind.”
I said they were, and taking a pea from a bowl full, I held it up, called it a snap pea, and showed them how to remove the string. Then I ate it.
“Would you like to try one?” I asked.
They both shook their heads no. But then the boy immediately changed his mind and said yes. He selected a pea, removed its string, and popped the length of it into his mouth. The woman and I watched him.
“The funny thing is,” he said, “is how we were just talking about this. I said you can eat the pods, she said no you can’t.” We laughed, and I noticed the boy had a habit of rocking on his toes. Every time he said something, he would lift himself with his toes.
Another thing I noticed (I had picked up on this immediately upon seeing him) was the kid’s shirt. He was wearing an oversized, black tee shirt. And plastered in huge on the shirt from the collar down to the hem was a image (in yellow) of a menacing young man giving the world the middle finger. The finger was gigantic. It was the largest middle finger I’ve ever seen. When the boy had reached for his sample pea, that finger had been inches from me.
“Let’s buy some,” the boy said then to the woman. So I bagged a pound of peas, the woman paid, they left, and I thought no more about them.
But about twenty minutes later when I turned around after getting something from a cooler, there it was again, the middle finger, and filling all available space in front of me. The kid was back, but alone this time. He had a handful of bills showing and was almost smiling.
“Git any more?” he asked.
“Peas you mean?”
“Yeah. Peas.” He pointed at them.
So I sold him another pound, plus one bunch of baby carrots. And he left. But this time I paid attention to him. Eating a carrot as he went, he walked directly out of the market area, found his car, and got into the driver’s seat. I watched him for a moment, but as there were customers to tend to, I again forgot about him.
Until, and I’m not making any of this up, he returned for a third time. Same middle finger, same habit with the toes, but friendlier this time, confident almost.
“You’re back,” I said. “What took you so long?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Hey, could I get more of those carrots.”
“Yes,” I said. “You could get more of those carrots.”
He got his money out, counted it directly in front of that finger, and handed it to me. “I’m eating them in the car,” he said. “I eat them right down to the greens. But not the greens. I throw those out.”
And it was true. I watched. He went to his car, and I could see the carrot greens sailing out the window and landing on the parking lot.
Somehow his car was missing part of the left-front wheel cover. From where I stood with my peas and carrots, I could see most of the tire. I wanted to watch him drive off, to see which way he went, but I didn’t get the chance.
I’ve been thinking about the kid ever since. I like thinking he will remember me. Actually, what I really mean is I like thinking he’ll remember my carrots. I have the idea that if he remembers my carrots he’ll come to disregard that finger.