John is a poet and short fiction writer who enjoys collaborating on stories with other writers, and partaking in challenges.
Introduction and Inspiration For This Story
Recently, a friend and fellow writer, Rosina S Khan wrote a delightful short story called "The Empathetic Cashier at the Market."
Rosina's story was written in response to a writing prompt she found and she wrote as follows:
This article was written as a response to prompt#3 of the article titled, “10 Creative Writing Prompts to Feed Your Imagination” authored by fellow HP writer, K. S. Lane.
"Write a story where a character you have written about previously walks through a market. Describe the market from their point of view and include an interaction between them and one of the stallholders. Then, do the same thing with another character you've written, having them interact with the same person.
Put the two stories side by side and try to isolate the differences between the two characters. For example, do they notice different features of the market as they pass through? How do their conversations with the seller differ?"
Well, I loved Rosina's story, and she met the directions of the above prompt very well. However, although I am using Rosina's story set in a Market as my inspiration, I have not followed the directions of the original prompt by K .S. Lane.
I have not used previous characters I created previously, as directed, and my story features the stallholder as the main character, and it is told from his point of view rather than that of two separate customers. I hope you enjoy 'The Stallholder,' as I think it has an important message.
The sun was slowly raising its golden head over the horizon - but it was market day so for the stallholders, it was a case of necessity to wake with Old Mr Sol. We all know the saying “the early bird catches the worm” and this was particularly the case regarding sellers at the markets. Most customers liked to attend early and purchase the things they needed before getting on with the rest of their day. In fact, the majority of business was done by midday and that was when most vendors began to pack up their wares.
Gerard parked his trailer in front of his allotted area, and set up his tables and awning, before unloading the crates of fruit and vegetables. He set them out with care. Years of experience told him that having an attractive display really did improve sales. His produce was aesthetically arranged according to variety, colours, and sizes. He polished the apples, and plums, and checked all the fruit and vegetables for soft spots, blemishes etc.
Times were tough, not just for Gerard, but for people in general, and he kept his prices as low as possible for that reason. Oh, he had his own hardships but he wasn’t one to dwell on those. Patience and hard work usually prevailed in the end, and he was confident things would turn around.
He proceeded to put out his signs, and ensure all crates were labelled with the prices of their contents before the first customers appeared. Easy chat flowed between the vendors as they were setting up their displays. The conversation was usually just general chit-chat such as the weather and changing growing seasons, “How is your family?” or how COVID was affecting patronage of the markets and ultimately sales. Once he was satisfied with his display, Gerard moved his trailer to a parking area allocated to the stallholders, before returning to take his place behind his impressive display.
The first people began to dribble in and Gerard greeted each visitor to his fruit and vegetable stall in a friendly and welcoming manner. It didn’t matter whether they brought anything or not, or even just strolled on by. His father always said, “It don’t cost nothin’ to smile.” For this reason, along with the quality of his produce, Gerard was one of The Markets’ most popular vendors.
He had made a few welcome sales when a particularly well-dressed gentleman approached. Gerard watched as the man perused the array of fruit and vegetables with a stony expression. He picked up a few pieces of fruit, a plum, avocado, tomato, inspecting and squeezing.
“And how are you this fine morning, My Dear Sir?” Gerard ventured.
The man only acknowledged the greeting with a slight nod, then said, “How much for that bunch of bananas?” Gerard pointed to the price per kilo label on the crate, placed the bunch on the scales, and informed the customer of the exact price.
“Come on! Surely you can do better than that,” the man said sarcastically, “What’s your best price?”
Every dollar was important to Gerard and these economic times were a real struggle, but he still had his pride. He knew his prices were competitive. “I am sorry Sir, these displayed prices are as low as I can sell and still cover my costs. If you compare my prices to others I am sure you will find them more than fair.”
The man just gave a disgruntled, “Hmmpphh!” and said, “I’ll look around,” before moving on.
“Good riddance!” Gerard thought, but instead said, “Enjoy the rest of your day.”
Soon, a small girl, wearing a clean but shabby dress approached Gerard’s stall. Her big brown doe-like eyes flickered back and forth over the fruit, but when Gerard tried to catch her eye she looked down.
He knew she was one of the homeless street urchins, and that if his stall had been unattended or he was busy serving others, she would likely try to steal a piece of fruit. But, we do what we need to in order to survive, and he knew she wouldn’t take more than she needed. That is why he always turned a blind eye.
However, today, because she was standing there, openly looking forlorn, Gerard greeted her. “Good morning Little Miss. Is there a particular piece of fruit that catches your eye?”
With the faint hint of a smile the little girl pointed … “A-a-apple!” is all she managed to stammer.
“Excellent choice!” Gerard replied with a beaming smile, “We have the finest selection of apples anywhere in the city…country…even maybe the world.” He held one shiny red apple up to the girl and she reached for it eagerly.
“Ah, but not so fast!” he continued and her hand paused momentarily. “Before you go you must also sample one of these juiciest of pears.” He removed one from its crate and placed it in her other hand.
“I have n-no money,” the waif replied half expecting the vendor to take the fruit back.
“Well, today only, for special customers like you, there is no charge,” said Gerard. “You just tell your friends and family that ‘Gerard’s produce is the freshest and tastiest in the universe!’ That will be payment enough.”
The young girl nodded and smiled, then took a bite of the juicy pear as she went on her way.
Gerard just grinned to himself. Sometimes life just felt so good.
© 2022 John Hansen