This is Part 1 of a writing exercise that Miss A challenged herself to do…combining prompts on adjoining pages to create a short story.
“Special strawberries for sale!” the man called from his kiosk at the local farmers’ market, where I frequented every Sunday to purchase my week’s worth of vegetables.
“Miss, miss, you like to buy some strawberries?” the man asked me in his broken English. “I give you a good deal – today only.”
I wasn’t particularly interested in buying strawberries this week. By the middle of autumn, the season had come and gone. In fact, it was downright strange this man had strawberries for sale when the other vendors no longer did.
“You try one?” the man asked, plucking a ripe, scarlet berry from a basket and holding it in the air. “Very good, you’ll see. Special.”
The man smiled, the skin around his eyes crinkling as he held the strawberry toward me and dropped it in my open palm. I blinked to make sure I was seeing properly, but my contacts hadn’t slipped. I could swear this strawberry glittered like a fresh ruby pulled from the deep mines below miles of strawberry fields.
“You try,” the man urged. “You see how good and special it is.”
Warily eyeing him, I brought the plump berry to my mouth and bit into the soft, tangy center, infused with the perfect amount of sweetness and flavor. Was this strawberry better than the ones that I’d bought at the height of summer? Ten times more so. I was savoring the perfect strawberry, its delicious flavor creeping across my tongue and waking all my taste buds with joyful glee.
“Very good, right?” the man asked, his shiny eyes begging my approval.
I nodded and reached for my wallet. Pulling out a messy wad of ones, I dumped them on his table and motioned for two baskets of berries to take home and enjoy that afternoon. As if I might change my mind, the man quickly scooped up the cash and dropped two baskets into a paper bag, which he shoved into my hands.
“Have a nice day,” he smiled, and maybe it was my imagination, but I could swear there was a mischievous look in his grin.
“I hint of strawberry flavor lingered in my mouth, making me crave the burst of sweet tangy juiciness that had filled my senses only moments before. I had a short walk home, but surely the walk would be nicer if I popped another berry on my tongue. I pulled a glistening red berry from the paper bag and examined the glittering shine which reflected in the morning sun.
“How does it do that?” I wondered aloud.
Without giving it a second thought, I brought the fruit to my lips and bit off all but the very top, from which sprang a leafy center.
The second berry was just as delicious as the first, the flavors melding on my tongue and re-awakening my dormant buds…
I stood on the street corner and waited for the orange hand to transform into a white walking man so I could cross the intersection and finish my walk home. The tingly feeling on my tongue felt stronger this time, sending tiny shocks through the rest of my body. The corner began to tilt right, and I felt myself sway with the movement, suddenly noticing an apartment across the street topple on its side before the world went black.
“Is she all right?” I heard a concerned voice ask.
“Looks like she’s waking up now,” another voice responded.
A blurry fog greeted my eyes when I opened them. I blinked a couple of times, each one gradually clearing the translucent haze which blocked me from seeing – a cartoon in a strawberry hat and dress?
“What the he–?” I began, as I turned my head to see another cartoon with bright blue hair and a basket of blueberries!
“Hello!” the strawberry cartoon girl chirped. “You took a nasty fall, but I think you’ll be okay. I’ve seen worse falls than yours when I took a trip to Looney Tunes!”
“We should help her home,” the blueberry girl offered.
“What a great idea!” the strawberry girl glowed, taking my arm to help me stand. “I’m Strawberry Shortcake, and this is my friend Blueberry Muffin!”
I must have been dreaming. Surely I would wake any second from this crazy dream and find myself wrapped in the comforts of my own bed. I glanced around the street corner where I’d supposedly fallen and noticed the strange combination of brick and stucco buildings coupled with animated fruit trees and berry bushes. On the bustling street, other berry characters cheerfully walked past us, pushing strollers with tiny fruit babies and carrying leashes pulled by assorted fruit dogs and cartoon insects?
“Where am I?” I asked the Shortcake girl.
“Why, you’re in Los Angeles, silly!” she giggled. “Come on, let’s get you home where you can rest for a while.”
Staggering down the sidewalk, accompanied by cartoons, I remembered the special berries I’d bought from the smiling man at the farmers’ market. Had his berries done this to me? Had they caused me to black out and faint? I rubbed the side of my head to feel the bump that should indicate where I fell, but no knots or bumps were on any part of my noggin. This was weird. Nothing hurt. Had I really fallen? Could I simply be imagining things?’
“You live down this street, right?” asked the girl who called herself Blueberry Muffin.
What hippie parents called their children by the names of fruit? Only in California…
Nodding wearily, I followed the cartoons toward my apartment building, which still stood in the exact place where I’d left it earlier that morning.
“Are you going to invite us in?” Shortcake asked cheerily.
TO BE CONTINUED…
– Written by Miss A on November 13th & 14th, 2011