This is the sixth in a series of ten microstories. These stories — vignettes, to be accurate — are set from dawn to midnight in an Indian metro. They follow different people in different settings over the course of a single ordinary day. Two of these stories have been published / accepted for publication in literary magazines. I’ll be publishing one piece per day over the next ten days.
By late afternoon the delicates have begun to wilt. The bundles of mint are wrinkling and browning at leaf’s-edge. The spinach is shrivelling, developing dark soft spots where he’s been sprinkling them with water, to keep them fresh. The spring-onions are yellowing: just the tips of their shoots, sticking out over the cart’s edge from under the protection of the well-moistened gunny-sacks.
He shifts the gunny sacks. Within each neat pile, he moves his produce around. The bottom items, which have got squished half the day, come on top for a breather. The tomatoes have developed soft spots. White fungus had begun to infect the green beans. Painstakingly he adjusts each tomato, each bundle of beans. Best side upwards.
Soon the students and the housewives will come to buy vegetables for dinner. They’ll blame him for sneaking rotten tomatoes into the scales. With a dexterous flourish, he’ll flick off the accused tomato, and flick on another only slightly sounder. And empty the whole into a bag before another round of inspection can commence. Slowly grows the pile of iffy tomatoes that he’ll try to palm off on every successive customer.
He does much business in the late afternoon. It’s time to see to dinner: his customers haven’t time to haggle. They complain. But they accept the produce that has weathered the day.