A Conspiracy of Vegetables
by Teri J. Babcock
The vegetable woman at the Saturday farmer's market is completely mad.
She laughs for no reason at all, and her dirty fingernails and Brillo hair make her look like a street person; but her romaine, her leeks and peas, are the largest and sweetest in the entire market. So we buy from her, my girlfriends and I, nodding politely at her bizarre mutterings, scurrying away with our change and our bags of goodies.
You have marital problems," she says with a knowing, wall-eyed squint, one watery-blue morning in early spring. The pavement beneath our feet is dark with rain; the air smells of wet earth and sweet young winter carrots, stacked in the crate between us.
"I'm not married," I say, but she's not listening.
"He doesn't like chard," she says, tsking. "Here. Give him these." She pulls a bulging paper package from somewhere and drops it in my bag. The paper is wrinkled and dirty with fingerprints.
"Excuse me?" I say.
"You'll see." She grins cannily, like a gypsy fortuneteller who has just revealed the secret of life. I stand frozen, fighting the urge to fling back at her, until a man in a polo shirt pushes past me with an irritated look and a flat of greens.