The Bench

By Rebecca Morean

Romance, Women's fiction


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2 mins


That evening, before dinner, she walked up to the General Store, a gray-shingled, two-story clapboard affair set right on shore with a fifty-foot pier and a gas station at the end for fishermen. Inside were fine wines, select cheeses, imported crackers, brightly wrapped Canadian candy bars, fresh crusty breads, and an entire endcap of gourmet stuffed olives, pates, and bruschetta spreads of artichoke, tomato, garlic and peppers. In the center stood a grill and deli counter where sandwiches and soups were made to order, a refrigerator section and freezer, where children begged for oversized ice pops on hot summer days and adults looked for cans of frozen lime juice for margaritas. At the far end, next to four long wooden picnic tables, were racks of gear from fine ten-pound line up to high-impact braided fishing line for deep-sea fishing. Netting repair kits, gloves, hats, slickers, propane cans, toilet seats that fit nicely on large empty white plastic tubs of pickles or grout, and small camping stoves finished out the inventory.

     The store always smelled of old wooden floors, dust, coffee, and salt. Gulls wheeled outside above the peer. Pulling a narrow shopping cart from the seven the store offered, Katie began moving down the tightly packed aisles, some of them askew to accommodate the intimate size of the building. She wasn’t really that hungry. All she needed was what she and Bill always called, “smacks,” as in, you want to smack your head after you eat them: wine, cheese, crackers....

    She was back to Bill.

     Not a good sign.

     Suddenly a man swung his cart around the corner at full speed and smashed right into hers. Her selected bottle of red wine toppled over onto grapes, a box of mushrooms, and a wedge of fresh Stilton cheese. Cushioned in cardboard, the whole-wheat crackers were, no doubt, beyond injury.

     “Oh my God. I am so sorry,” he said, trying to right the wine, fluff the grapes and looking mortified at where the neck of the bottle left a smooth, deep, indentation in the cheese.

     “Oh it’s fine, no worries,” she said, glad to be jarred out of whatever nasty, rabbit hole reverie she was about to go down. Then she noticed his blue T-shirt.

     “Boston Pops?”

     “Season tickets,” he said, and now she really looked at him.

     Taller than she was, curly black hair, olive complexion, clean shaved, with Levis and this season’s Pops concert schedule in white on blue cotton. Strong-looking forearms and nice hands, she noticed as he tried to reform the cheese into a presentable wedge. Really nice hands.
     “Are you entertaining with this or is this just for you? I can grab you another one. I mean,” he started speaking fast, “not that you aren’t worthy of a perfect triangle of cheese.”

     He looked so concerned she had to laugh. “I am entertaining, but this resculpted one will be just fine.”

     “Oh. No. Really? Okay, well here then.” He ducked back down the aisle along the wall and immediately returned with a fresh, undented wedge.

     “Have I ever seen you at Symphony Hall or the Hatch Shell?”

      He shrugged. “I don’t know.”

     “I think I have.”

     His eyes widened and then he smiled and waved to someone. Katie glanced over her shoulder and saw only the cashier, standing by the “specials” white board, staring at a tiny TV set up in the corner.

     “Well, I’ll see you around then,” he said, and whipped his cart past her. Later, much later she would comprehend how the abandoned cart by the little TV and his hasty propulsion out the door must have both been fueled by his failed intention not to run into her.



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