Wednesday Write-in #23: Thief Named Bronson

Wednesday Write-in #23 @ CAKE.shortandsweet

Prompts: kiwi  ::  master at work  ::  caught cheating

The shopkeeper is known as a fair man. When it comes to fruit and vegetables, he always kicks in an extra citrus or two for those regular customers that buy in bulk.

“And here’s a few extra for your juicer,” he said to Jane the Yoga instructor last Wednesday.

When it comes to deli meats and dairy, he always makes room for the strange requests that sometimes come from across the counter. On Thursday, after ordering a pound of Salsalito turkey, the widow Mrs. Marsh requested that it be sliced “one-third thick, one-third thin and one-third standard,” which the shopkeeper obliged without hesitating.

Friday he tossed a few extra shrimp onto the white paper after having already measured out two pounds for Pastor Charlie, who was hosting a group study for the parishioners that evening.

So it should come as little surprise, then, that today the shopkeeper dealt quite squarely with the thief named Bronson who, at the encouragement of his so-called friends, came in off the street to make a play.

“Go on man,” Vlad had pushed. “It’s an easy mark. Never seen a cow so fat.”

When the thief named Bronson entered the store, the shopkeeper was behind the deli counter near the back of the store, patiently fulfilling the request of a local bachelor. “Here’s a half-pound emmentaler, Willie,” said the shopkeeper. “Anything else?” he asked distractedly, having spied the boy.

He never missed a person stepping virgin foot into his establishment.

The thief named Bronson moved with practiced demeanor to the magazine stand where, after making quick work of two Kinder Surprises on the way, he lined his coat with the August issue of Rolling Stone. While the shopkeeper was bidding Willie farewell, the boy meandered to the refrigerated drinks in the back corner. “See you next week,” said the shopkeeper evenly, whereupon the boy sleeved a can of whipped cream and started for the door.

“Wait a minute, son,” said the shopkeeper sternly. The thief named Bronson paused.

“Me?”

“Yes, you son. Do you like cheese?” he asked whilst running a slab of cheddar through the slicer. Thick, one-quarter-inch slices were beginning to accumulate in the return when the boy said, “cheese? Well . . . yeah. I guess.” So the shopkeeper stopped, grabbed a slice of the cheese and put it on a thin, square leaf of paper. He motioned the boy over and offered him the pale yellow dairy.

“Thank you sir,” said the thief named Bronson, accepting with his free hand. He took a bite and paused the way people do when trying to savor a moment of culinary bliss. The shopkeeper took a slice for himself and said, “this here is the finest cheddar from the only state that knows how to make it right. Wisconsin. You know about it?”

The boy shook his head.

“Grew up out there. Capital’s Madison. Chicago’s close. Lake Michigan, too. Cold as hell in the winter but damn fun in the summer, man. Trips to the lake and all that,” said the shopkeeper, then paused at a sound from the entrance.

Sergeant Carl had just walked in.

“Howdy,” he said to the shopkeeper as he walked past the boy toward the deli counter. The thief named Bronson, with a can of whipped cream up one sleeve and a half-eaten piece of cheddar cheese in his hand, froze up inside.

“How can I help you today, sergeant?”

“Well now, let’s see,” said Sergeant Carl as he leaned in toward the glass display. Behind him, the boy quickly downed the remainder of his sample and started for the exit. “Two of those good Hungarian salamis to start. Sliced thick, please.”

The shopkeeper put the first salami onto the machine and began slicing while the sergeant took a closer look at the collection of cheeses. “So how you been,” he asked, then paused to look up at the door.

There stood the thief named Bronson in the exit, face forward toward the deli counter, a meek look on his face.

“Nothing doing, really,” answered the sergeant. “A couple petty thefts as of late. Nothing too serious.”

“The boys at the station are hungry as ever,” chuckled the shopkeeper. The boy’s uneasy eyes shifted to Sergeant Carl then back to the shopkeeper. When he was sure that policeman was thoroughly occupied he dropped his head, reached into his coat and began removing items, setting them onto the counter one by one.

A magazine. Two chocolates. A kiwi. The whipped cream.

When he was finished he looked up and met the shopkeeper’s eyes.

“I haven’t had any trouble here,” said the shopkeeper, nodding imperceptibly to the boy.

“Yeah, well don’t hesitate to let me know if you do,” said the sergeant.

“Oh sure,” replied the shopkeeper, turning back to the slicer. “I certainly will.” He finished slicing the Hungarian salami and wrapped it skillfully using his signature three-fold, three-roll technique. He sealed it with a lick of tape and handed it to Sergeant Carl.

And the boy named Bronson walked out of the store.

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15 Comments

Filed under Featured Content, Flash Fiction, Wednesday Write-In, Writing

15 responses to “Wednesday Write-in #23: Thief Named Bronson

  1. Where is this place!? The Kinder Surprise candies have banned in the US so those of us who grew up with the Kinder Überraschungseier won’t be able to enjoy them anymore…

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  2. I particularly like the implied darkness behind this story, I think there’s a lot more going on than you maybe pick up on a first reading. The shopkeeper is fascinating, I’d definitely read more about him if he wanders back into your head!

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  3. Patrick

    Really liked the tension that built up. What a nice story.

    Like

  4. toni zeisel

    Thank You, Martin. And You know why.

    Like

  5. All of the above. We have a greengrocer who is a little like this, there are Bronsons all over the world! I too like the pictures that you use to break up the story.

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  6. Elaine McKay

    A heart warming tale without too much sentimentality. Well written. I like that it is understated.

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  7. I don’t know why, maybe the offhand mention of Chicago – but I get the feeling our fair handed shop keep here used to be in the mob. Witness protection maybe? trying to even out his karma? I’m most likely far off the mark – but it was a very well written piece.

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    • I support the notion that experience is the best teacher and that you can’t preach to someone else unless you’ve been through it yourself. Presupposing that this informs my writing, then perhaps that notion found its way (subconsciously) into the writing of the shopkeeper, much in the way that you described it.

      Great observation.

      Like

  8. Good old-fashioned morality story. Love the photos you’ve been posting. They really go well with your stories.

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