“Dear, could you help me?” squeaked a wavery voice. She was so short that I could hardly see her head above the basket which was piled high with Saltine crackers, canned vegetables, cleaning mops and charcoal briquettes. Finally, I saw her; a very, very, old, wrinkled lady with sparse, white, curly hair that looked as if it had been drawn on her head instead of actually growing there.
“I can’t find the Gain fabric softener,” she pleaded. She didn’t know what it looked like because she had never used it before. Actually, she said she didn’t use softener but, “had a coupon.” Suddenly, I understood the strange juxtaposition of things in her cart, which I now observed also included panty hose, a large bottle of hair conditioner, both dog AND cat food, and a squirt gun.
I looked. No sight of the Gain. Just then a young man drew near with his cart. “Could you help me, Dear?” she asked him, probably sensing that I was useless. He took one glance at the dozens of similar, colored bottles in view and said, “Just a minute.” Seconds later the grocery clerk arrived. With a big grin he pointed to the Gain. Problem was, there were four, different varieties. I suggested the lavender. She turned up her nose. The clerk said he thought the orange one was neat. “And have my clothes smell like oranges?” she scolded. This was gonna take awhile.
When I checked out, she was still patrolling the aisles in search of coupon items. There was now a large, plastic pitcher on the pile. I wondered what she would do with all of those things when she got home. I also wondered if she knew herself. As I left, I heard her ask a young woman at the next register, “Excuse me dear, could you help me?”
There is something beautiful about that question. Funny thing is, it seems to me that only the very young and the very old ever ask for help. The rest of us in between figure we can do it ourselves—even when we can’t.
On that note, here is a question for you, dear readers, now in 23 countries: Would you send me a topic of specific interest to you and challenge me to share it here? I will take your idea, like a coupon, search the aisles of my imagination and see what ‘we’ can find.
When you are choosing for yourself, how do you make your choices? What’s your criteria? What’s your process? Thanks for asking, Tasha Halpert, Poet and Columnist
Well, as a writer yourself, you know that at ‘heart’ we are observers–so it starts there. But for me to put pen to paper, I have to feel deeply about what I’ve observed. It is not enough to just notice the squirrel in the tree. Frankly, it has to drop its’ nuts on my head or be whisked off by an owl to stir up my emotions. Now, beyond that, I suppose the ‘process’ is that what I write must have meaning that others can relate to. Otherwise, I might as well drop the nuts on my own head. Good grief, girl, you’ve got me thinking!
First of all, I’m pretty sure dropping nuts on your own head is grounds for commitment in most states, so we’d all prefer that you discard that option. Then, consider that squirrels don’t know from pretty, so your head might not be that tempting a target, him being distracted by the specter of the stalking owl and all. I suggest you learn Cy Coleman’s “It Needs Work” from “City of Angels.” all good writers are their own best editors.
Ralph Novak, passerby