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art by Melissa Mead

Everlasting

Fran Wilde lives and writes in the Northeastern US, and recently spent a year designing educational MMORPGs. Her poetry and critical work has appeared in literary and academic magazines, and her digital projects are strewn across the Internet like excess glitter. She writes about writing, geekery, and data's bad-hair days at franwilde.wordpress.com.
Morning finds the farmers' market burst into flower and fruit below the expressway. Carts and tables elbow for space, showcasing chard, sunflowers, and bushels of crabs. The bridge above thumps its irregular heartbeat as cars rush forward over concrete slabs.
By afternoon, the market will revert to its weekday form, a stained sandwich bag blowing across the shaded commuter parking lot.
If they made a camera that wouldn't disappoint memory, I'd snap this morning up as perfection, so we could walk through it whenever we wish.
You squeeze my hand, smiling because you feel it too.
We gather our vegetables and bread, then wander the outlying stands. The market's edges are where the newness is: one day a woman sells handmade buttons and soap. On a cooler morning, there's a man with iris bulbs and peonies in jars.
A quick glance around the outer ring of stalls finds jars filled with sparkling liquids, paper bags resting heavy on a stand. They beckon with chance, with textures and smells. They let us walk away, reassured that we still need nothing new in our lives.
"Let's go there," I pull at your hand.
The new stall this week is just a table. There's no banner in back, there's not even a brochure. Just a row of jars and antique, mismatched spray bottles, each bearing a label: Everlast.
I run my finger over the filigreed neck of a bottle, finger the air bulb attached with a small mesh hose. Light pricks the bottle's glass ridges, illuminates the liquid inside.
"What is this?"
The vendor looks up from his paper and pulls his feet off the table. He grins. "Not 'what is it,' darlin'. Ask, 'What does it do?'"
Tired of him already, I prepare to turn away. He sees it in my eyes and rushes to the punchline. "It makes things last forever."
"Right," you say. You like to test claims. "Prove it."
The man nods, and asks for one of your shoes. You shake your head. But I'm game. These Keds are old, anyway. I hand one over, and stand flamingo, bare right heel touching left calf.
He pulls a metal bucket from beneath the table, takes things out of it. Then he sprays my grey Ked, drops it in the bucket, picks up a propylene torch, and lights it.
"Wait a minute--" I say. But it's too late. Flames lick at my shoe. I'll be hopping back to the car.
He swaps the torch for a glass of water, and douses the flames. My shoe sits in the box, pristine. It's neither hot, nor wet.
I buy three bottles.
Away from the table, the first thing I do is spray the other shoe. The market crowd pushes around us.
"Should you read the label?" You ask.
I glance through it. "Non toxic. Not for internal use. Satisfaction not guaranteed."
You shrug, figuring we're out thirty bucks. But I'm counting all the ways we could save, when our stuff lasts forever.
Once home, after you put the vegetables in the crisper and I pet the madly wagging dog, I spray our bikes top to bottom.
I spray my jeans. They fit, for once. Now, maybe they'll never wear out.
A couple days later, on a good hair day, I spray my hair. Either it will just get wet, or it's a Problem solved. A week later, when humidity hits the ceiling, and everything else is dripping and flat, I'm thrilled.
After that, I try to be cautious. Logical. But as weeks go on, and things we've sprayed with Everlast survive all sorts of incidents and run-ins with paint and car doors and--once--a kitchen knife, I start to get a little hyper.
You smile, tag a few things with the spray, but keep your favorite pair of shoes well away.
"I like feeling them wear down," you say.
One day, I put a little in the fish bowl. We keep killing our fish, so it's worth a try. The fish doesn't die, for once.
So, then I put some on the dog's food. It's bad of me, I know. But we love Moxie. She's sweet and soft and loves to cuddle. The thought of losing her the way I lost Growl in high school, all butt-dragging, peeing everywhere and suddenly convulsing in the living room, just--well, I'd rather not.
It's good I did. Two days later at the park, a doberman mix takes offense at her running past, turns, and wraps its teeth around her soft neck. By the time we, yelling our heads off, get her away from him, she's shaking her head and barking. We put her down and she pants happily, completely unharmed.
"I'll be damned," you say, surprised.
The next evening, fresh tulips from the market droop perfectly over the edge of my grandmother's crystal vase and candlelight casts our anniversary dinner in wine sparkle and food-rich warmth. The table, your freshly pressed shirt and pants, those wearing-down shoes, each detail makes me smile. You're grinning too. We lift our forks, taste. I take a sip of wine, and admit, gently, how Moxie survived the doberman.
You stop chewing. A breeze stirs the wind chimes in the window beside us. "What do you mean? How could you?" You swallow as you begin to rise from the table, your eyes hard with disapproval. I imagine our apartment without your piles of books or your sweater draped over the sofa, when those are swept away by your dissent. I think about which furniture is yours, and which is mine.
Then you smile. You lean in and kiss me as your knees bend and you retake your seat. You look at me like you always have.
Everlast is brilliant.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, September 5th, 2011


The market in “Everlasting” is based on a favorite urban summer market. I can’t visit it much anymore, so I set out to write about the place. Instead, the story became about wanting to keep things from changing, and the danger of that. Granted, I'd "everlast" my hair in a heartbeat, then regret it later.

- Fran Wilde

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