An old man with a crooked back hobbled toward the exit with thirteen keys clinking on his keychain. With a clunk the doors were shut and locked. Above the double glass doors was a glowing sign that read GROCER in bright blue. The last R was beginning to flicker out. Within the store the aisles were dark and the register was off. Splintering wooden shelves supported various kinds of fruits in a large area to the left. The top of the front bin held shining red apples. When they were certain that the grocer had left, the apples on top started to move like a heartbeat that grew more rapid with every second. Smaller apples rolled to the corners of the shelf and what emerged beneath them was a flawless, stemmed, deep red apple. This apple rolled along the bumping outlines of other apples to the leg of the shelf and swiftly rolled down. When this apple met the floor, surrounding shelves holding other fruits began to tumble and rise allowing one single piece to make its way to the floor. Two large thuds indicated that a pumpkin and a watermelon had hit the tile and were joining the other pieces of fruit in the back corner of the Produce section. A gentle scrape came from a Cracker Jack box being pushed across the floor by a half-peeled orange. The apple hopped upon the box as clementines slid matchboxes in front of the other fruits that had gathered. The apple seized slightly and with a wet pop two eyes and a mouth appeared upon its skin. He scanned the gathering as they too pushed out their eyes and mouths.
“Ladies and gentlefruit, the Grocerial Fruit Organicazation shall now commence.” The apple raised a peach pit fastened to a twig and knocked it down upon the cardboard Cracker Jack box. Murmuring conversation faded away as all eyes looked up at the apple. A pack of blackberries perched upon the wall shelf above the apple began to furiously shake a flashlight until the energy built up and the meeting below was illuminated. A banana rocked its way to the center of the meeting in front of the apple’s podium.
Clearing her throat the banana said, “Due to an incedant last week, we goin’ to ensure all de membas are hea tonight. Grapes?”
“Oui,” a vine of grapes responded in unison.
“‘m ‘ere,” bellowed a deep simple voice.
“Here! Here, here. Here!” A pile of raspberries clambered on top of one another to answer.
“Yea I’m here,” said a smooth throaty voice.
“Okee, and how ’bout da watamelon?”
“Yes, I’m present and I would like to say that I have put together a presentation that affirms my decision to—”
“We goin’ to get to dat in a moment. An’ finally, de proone?”
“Hea? What?! I can’t hear a darn thing with this wrinkle closing up my ear.” A shriveled prune shifted on his walnut-wheelchair while adjusting the glasses that popped out with his eyes.
The banana rocked back to the left of the Cracker Jack box to begin her dictation of the meeting with a splinter-quill and a bottle of berry juice.
“Now then, G.F.O.’s first order of business is to determine who shall be the next in line for Second Bin Space behind the apples seeing as the oranges have been demoted to Back Left Wall Shelf due to their opposition of last month’s bill of continuing to wear stickers,” the apple declared. A half-peeled orange and some bruised clementines glared from the outskirts of the meeting.
There was a heavy thud as the watermelon hopped closer to her matchbox. “On behalf of watermelons everywhere I believe that it is time to show that watermelons are as equal as any other fruit or berry and should be treated as such. With such an opportunity at hand I move to have all watermelons moved up to Second Bin Space to demonstrate the acceptance of equality amongst us all. Too long have us pink ladies—”
“Jezus, you can’t be serious!” The grapes all cried at once. “Weh as a proud vine would neva allow zeez jezebels to take position of Secound Been Space when zay believe en seed-control.”
An uproar spread throughout the meeting as each fruit shouted in support of the grapes’ interjection. They all jostled about boisterously, minus the watermelon whose pink innards were starting to glow through the green with frustration.
“Order! Order!” shouted the apple from the Cracker Jack podium.
“Of course not. How could we allow someone who believed in preventing their seed to grow to inhabit the Second Bin Space,” said the peach. “None of the rest of us have ever agreed to seed-control or fru-bortion for that matter.”
“I have every right to use seed-control, it’s my choice!” the watermelon screeched.
“We ackree wiz zee peach. No watermelon ‘oo ackrees to take seed-control should be allowed to ‘old such eh prestigious position!” Three of the grapes from the vine were thrown over their matchbox desk as a result of the overeager response. “Weh grapes should be zee ones zat take ova zee Secound Been Space. Weh are a community of strength and togezaness and zat is what zis position needs.”
“I’d spit my pit before any of you lushes occupied that space.” The peach’s fuzz was standing on end. “It’s ridiculous to think that any of you would be worthy of this position, being the drunks that you are!”
“Yea, ya socialists! You tried it in fifty-three and yer tryin’ it again,” croaked the prune, almost rolling out of his chair. “If anyone of us should take over Second Space it’s me! I been ’round before you young buds even bloomed. Hell, there wasn’t even grocerial seedcurity when I was a plum.”
“Seedcurity is over, old prune. How could you hold the Second Bin Space when you don’t even know what the Currant Protection of our produce is?” The peach threw one of the lone grapes at the prune, knocking a walnut wheel loose.
“It should be ours! Yeah, ya, yea ours!!” Each raspberry scrambled to get to the front of the matchbox. They bumped and squeezed and pushed each other from the front to the back with such blind force that before any of the other members could retort to their proposal, a single raspberry had been squished into juice beneath the pile.
“Good God, we’re not letting any of you lunatics take office. You’re overpopulated as it is, who knows what would happen if you were granted more room. You’d take over the entire Produce branch,” the apple barked down at the bustle of raspberries. The grapes were horrified as a clementine mopped up the unfortunate berry with a patch of kiwi skin.
“I, um…I duh, maybe I cud be da one,” the pumpkin stammered.
“You? Ha!” shouted the watermelon. “I don’t even know how you’re still on this board! This is the Grocerial Fruit Organicazation. I’m being judged for exercising my right to choose and no one’s even mentioned the steroids you’ve agreed to. Look, he can hardly form a sentence; so pumped up with all those enlarging growth hormones. You’d crush the whole shelf beneath you.”
The pumpkin’s glower was fierce and he rolled into her with a big shove. In turn the watermelon swung her oblong shape into the back of him, causing him to rock back and crush his matchbox desk.
The raspberries were tugging at the grapes, trying to pull them off and squish. The watermelon and pumpkin were pushing into each other with all their might, so hard in fact that the watermelon was beginning to crack. The prune had a clementine by the peel and was smacking him on the head with the broken-off walnut.
“All of you calm down!” hollered the apple, who was bringing down the pit gavel like he was banging a drum. “Look, if we can’t come to a decision then I will have no choice but to make the decision myself. In light of the situation, I think it would be best if—”
“Perhaps, members of the G.F.O., I could persuade you to admit me to Second Bin Space, considering I have been applying to be a member for the past year.” A waxy tomato had shuffled into the middle of the meeting amidst the chaos. A brief silence followed his interjection, which was then followed by bursts of laughter.
“Ha, ha, you?! You don’t even know what you are. Go back to the vegetable tray where you came from, you don’t belong here,” the peach cackled at the tomato.
“I assure you, I am eligible for this organicazation.” The confidence that fueled the tomato’s interruption was crushed by the second outburst of laughter, and he scooted away, defeated.
“Now then, back to my proposal. I suggest that because we can’t agree on any of the other members taking Second Position, I believe that the apples should occupy both the Front Top Bin and Second Bin Space.” The apple stood high upon his Cracker Jack box and gazed smugly down at the now speechless members.
“Wh—what?” The watermelon gaped.
“Why zee ‘ell do you sink you should ‘ead both pozitions?!” the grapes demanded together.
“There’s no question really. I’m the native to our homeland and obviously the most significant. Johnny Appleseed, New York Apple, nothing more American than apple pie…you get the picture. Anyway, we apples have been running Produce for quite some time now and I don’t see there being any better option than absolute control.” A wicked sneer spread across the apple’s face. He had wanted the other fruits to badger each other to death; to ruin each other’s credibility. It had been his plan from the beginning, and it would now come to fruition.
“That is preposterous,” shouted a voice from the shelf overhanging the meeting.
The apple squinted up at the voice behind the flashlight. “Who’s there? What’s preposterous?”
A narrow, bumpy yellow head jutted out from the edge of the shelf. “It’s me! The corn! And if anyone is native to this produce land it’s me!”
“Silence, you foolish vegetable, you’re an ear of corn, not a mouth!” the apple shook feverishly while shouting up at the cob.
“Don’t listen to him, ambassadors,” the corn struggled to shout while the blackberries began to hustle him back to the second shelf, “he’s manipulated the system! Don’t buy into his appletatorship!”
When the apple returned his gaze to the members of the G.F.O. he was met with irate eyes and furious expressions. The peach made the first move. He grabbed the grapes by the vine and with a spin and release, launched them into the Cracker Jack box. The apple fell to the floor and was smothered by pouncing raspberries who all chanted, “Raspberries! Raspberries! Raspberries!”
All the fruits were trying to get their chance to bruise and peel the apple. The grapes were hopping on top of the raspberries, the watermelon was struggling to get around the pumpkin, and in all the confusion, the peach was overtaken by greed and made his way towards the Top Front Bin of the Produce section.
“Hea, what’s that fuzzball tryin’ to do over there?” After the prune’s cry, all the G.F.O. members looked to the front of the store. With a crazed look on his face, the peach was making his way up the wooden leg of the bin.
“Neva! Zee Front Space iz ours!” The grapes leapt off the raspberries and were bounding together toward the peach. A frothing bundle of raspberries hopped after them and were followed by a rapidly rolling watermelon. All were clambering over one another to get to the top of the bin. The apples above had sharpened their stems and were shooting them down at the invaders.
A fierce battle began between the G.F.O. ambassadors and the apples. A sharp stem had sliced the peach down to the pit, but he still tried to crawl to the top, even with juice dripping out of him. There were few remaining grapes on the vine, but those who survived clung to the wood and attempted to ambush the apples from behind. The raspberries had closed in on the apples and were wrapping their vines around ones they could catch and were hurling them into the ground. The combat had begun so quickly that the pumpkin was still sitting in the meeting area, with the apple crushed beneath him, confused as to what to do. Finally catching on to the objective, he built up tremendous speed as his enormous body rolled toward the battlefield. A loud and remarkable squish indicated he had rolled directly into the watermelon and smashed her to bits. The pumpkin then took one jump onto the leg and sent them all to their doom. The bin could not support his massive weight and slowly began to tilt. The ferocity of the battle began to die down when all the fruits felt their battlefield giving way. The wooden bin crashed to the ground with a thundering blow. Shattered legs and splinters littered the ground, almost indistinguishable from the remains of the fallen fruit. A peach pit lay exposed, still partially encompassed by crushed flesh. A single grape struggled to pull the weight of the vine on his own. Split apples and apple cores were in abundance, surely they had had the most losses in battle, and the sweet, simple pumpkin, half of his side busted off by the fallen leg, had his guts sprayed out on the floor.
The key rattled as the old man pushed it into the lock. The rising sun was warm against the back of his neck. Upon seeing the old man’s struggle to pull the doors open, a young man in an assistant’s uniform jogged over and opened the doors. His name tag read ‘Jim’.
“This darn country is going to hell, Jim,” the old man grumbled. He hobbled in slowly with Jim following behind.
“How’s that, sir?” Jim grinned, obliging the old man.
“All these hotdogs in charge are just griping at each other about whose is whose and what is what. They just want all the power in the world, I tell ya, they’ve lost sight of everything. Buncha no good, greedy bears is what they are,” the old man trailed off when he came upon the toppled over apple bin. “Darn it, I swear.”
“Don’t worry, sir, I’ll clean this all up.” Jim quickly stepped over to the utilities closet.
“Now don’t go throwin’ it all away there, Jim. Pick out the good bitsa fruit and toss ‘em in the blender, no use wastin’ all this.” The old man waddled to the register and flicked it on.
Jim returned with a mop and a dustpan. “Sure, whatever you say Mr. Odawalla.”
Katheryn Svaldi has an extensive collection of wine corks, real not synthetic. Most from bottles that she has drunk while writing short stories for various fiction workshops. She hates dogs, but has two snakes named Frank and Bob. Sometimes she wraps them around her wrist when she’s typing. She thinks she wants to be a playwright, but if that doesn’t work out she’ll fall back on something more dependable like professional juggling.