Down East 2013 ©
So get this: I’m standing at my register at the A&P last Friday afternoon, staring into space, when a nice-looking fella from away comes up and asks me where the canned beans are.
“Aisle 3,” I tell him. “Right-hand side, quarter of the way down.”
“Thank you, Miss,” he says, smiling. Then, I swear, he winks at me. Winks! It took me by surprise, so I giggled. Couldn’t believe it! It just came out.
I was just catching my breath when the front door opened. It was my boss, pushing grocery carts.
“Hey, Ida, how you doing?”
“Oh fine, Chip. Just another quiet day in scenic Mahoosuc Mills.”
Chip is really William Davenport III, but he aksed us to call him by his nickname. See, a couple of winter’s ago, good old Fred Nichols, who had owned the store since I can remember, passed away in the produce section. Poor fella! The place was inherited by his kids. They both live away, and had no interest whatsoever in coming back to Mahoosuc Mills and running the store. So, what do they do? They sell it to that big chain, Super Food World (though everyone in town still calls it the A&P).
When he first arrived, Chip didn’t even look like he was old enough to vote. He'd never run a grocery store, but apparently learned all about it in college. First thing he does, he puts all these new rules and regulations in place, like what we’re supposed to say to customers. I says to him, “Listen, I’ve known most of these folks my whole life. I know what to say to them!” Us employees started calling it “Stupid Food World.”
Poor Chip! I don’t know how he made it through that first year. I asked him about it later, and he said if he could survive the hazing he took to get into his fraternity (he told me the name of it, but I can’t remember; it’s all Greek to me), he could take what we had to dish out. Probably helped that his girlfriend Tiffany came to Mahoosuc Mills with him.
Tiffany was this skinny little thing, blonde, dressed all trendy but alas, none too lively in the brains department. So, we call her "Dip". (Get it? Chip and ____?)
Tiffany didn’t last too long in Mahoosuc Mills. One winter here just did her in, and she hightailed it back to Portland. Now Chip is dating Tom and Brenda Bragdon’s girl, Cindy. They make a cute couple, and she’s rubbed off on him. He’s more flexible now, and isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves if something needs to be done.
Anyways, the fella who winked at me finds his beans and a few other essentials, a couple packages of macaroni and cheese and a six pack of Bud, and comes over to me to cash out. Says he’s from down around Augusta, here to do a little hunting.
I’m trying to be helpful, you know, an ambassador for Mahoosuc Mills. So I says, “If you’re hankering for some home cooking, there’s a baked bean supper down to the Congo Church tomorrow night at five o’clock.”
“I might be up for that,” he says. “Are you going to be there?”
“Oh, yes,” I tell him. “The Congo Church has one of the best baked bean suppers around. I wouldn’t miss it.”
He flashes that smile again. “Maybe I’ll see you there.”
“Maybe you will.”
He winks again and strolls out the door. I can’t remember the last time some fella flirted with me. Darned if it didn’t put a bit of a spring in my step.
That night, I cooked two of Charlie’s favorites; meatloaf and an apple pie. And we had ourselves a romantic evening together, once I got him to shut off the tube and come to bed.
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!
(Listen to the podcast of Ida's column here. )