just causes

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Mary put her shopping basket on the floor and began inspecting the apples. She turned one over in her hand and frowned. A female employee was working on the opposite side of the produce display. 

“Excuse me, are these Canadian apples?”

The younger woman put down the oranges she was holding and walked over.

“Are these Canadian?” Mary asked again. 

The woman (whose name tag identified her as Katelyn) looked around, then bent down to check the signs on the bins. She looked at the stickers on the apples.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Doesn’t say.”

“Because I read that the ones they bring in from the states have pesticides on them that the government doesn’t let our farmers use, but they can’t stop the US shipping them here ‘cuz of NAFTA.”

“Yeah, I don’t know.”

“It’s too bad you don’t have organic.” Mary said.

Katelyn paused for a moment before returning to stacking oranges with her head down.

“But if I’m going to make pies for my grandson,” Mary continued, “I’ll have get some.”

Katelyn did not respond. Mary sighed and put twelve apples into a mesh drawstring bag she brought from home. As she bent down to put them in her basket, her armful of reusable grocery bags swept across the pile of apples which broke loose and tumbled onto the the floor. Katelyn turned to Mary, who grimaced and averted her eyes.

Katelyn brushed past. “I’ve got it,” she said.

Mary began backing away. “I think maybe they just weren’t stacked very well…” she said.

Katelyn was momentarily still, and one of the overhead lights flickered in terror.

Mary pursed her lips at people who watched as she retreated, saying to one woman under her breath, “They really weren’t stacked very well.”

On her way to get flour, Mary stopped at the personal care section to apply ‘this product was tested on animals’ stickers to some shampoo and conditioner bottles. 

She found the brown sugar and cinnamon she needed for her pies in aisle six. An elderly man was bent over in front of the flour. He was trying to lift a heavy bag into his cart.

“Excuse me, sorry,” Mary said, and moved his cart slightly to reach the unbleached all-purpose.

At the cash, Mary unloaded her basket onto the belt.

“Do you need bags?” asked the cashier.

“No, thanks, I’ve got mine here,” said Mary. “Do a lot of people bring their own bags these days?”

“Hm? Uh, I’d say about half probably do.”

“Oh really, that many? That’s good to hear… ” she said, and scratched her nose. “It’s so important to reduce our use of plastics! I’ve made do with fabric bags for years. If I worked here I’d tell people all the time, what with all the turtles dying because of those bags!”

Mary waited, then cleared her throat. 

“Baking some pies?” the cashier asked.

“My grandson is visiting, so I thought it would be nice to bake together. I love it when he visits, but he does get bored.” 

“Definitely tell him about the turtles,” said the cashier.

This story is my response to the January 14th prompt, “Write 500 words which describe a character by having them perform a mundane action.”

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