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The Apostrophe
Short Fiction

by Everett Wilson
February 9, 2003

The Apostrophe_Everett Wilson-Short Fiction It was an apostrophe that snapped the thin thread of patience previously connecting Arthur Metgard to the world of his work, his family, his church, and his hobbies.

Leroy was creating a display of fresh peaches when he felt a tug at his sleeve. “Excuse me,” a male voice said, “What does the banana have to sell for fifty-seven cents?”

Leroy turned to face the source of the crazy question, a small, middle—aged man, overdressed for the supermarket in a three-piece suit, with a tiny smile on his face that barely lifted the corners of his mouth. “Huh?” Leroy said.

“The sign reads “Banana’s, 57c,” the man said. I want to know what the banana has to sell for fifty-seven cents. I thought the bananas themselves were for sale, but apparently not. They are obviously offering something else for sale——something unspecified.”

Leroy struggled. The manager had warned that if he was caught being rude to a customer just one more time, he would be “out on his butt”——the manager not being especially concerned about modelling the courtesy she demanded from him. He hated the job, but he needed it until he began college in the fall.

“The bananas are fifty—seven cents a pound, sir.” He was proud that he got the “sir” out of his mouth.

“I see,” the man said. “Then one of the bananas owns something worth more than itself and two or so of its companions. I cat(t tell which banana is the owner. The sign doesn’t say.”

Leroy breathed deeply. “Can I help you in some way, sir?”

“I suspect you can, but you may not,” the man said. “I don’t believe I am interested in buying what the banana is selling. I was only curious as to what it is.”

•‘No banana is selling nothing,” Leroy almost shouted, then added, "sir.”

“Oh my,” the man said. “I can hardly figure that out. I thought just one banana had something to sell and now you say they all do.”

“I didn’t say that!”

“Dont get upset. I am sure no one told you what the banana was selling. The manager probably knows.” The man turned away.

“No, wait!” Leroy was almost babbling. “Listen, I just remembered, a special deal. That top banana there is selling peaches, see? Fifty—seven cents, just like the bananas.”

“Well, thank you very much,” the man said. “Please forgive me for being so curious.”

Arthur Metgard left the store, too exhilarated to purchase whatever it was his wife had sent him to buy. His pleasant smile flattened into a stern line; his eyes darkened to a steely blue. Usage Man had struck. He would strike again.

About the Author:
Everett Wilson has written fiction off and on since 1962. Usage Man is his less nice alter ego.

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