-1000 Below: Flash Prose and Poetry Contest
Judged by Michael Martone
Mike and I slept over at Grandma’s house for the weekend while Dad wrote papers for college and Mom typed them. We lay under the covers listening to the racket in the kitchen as Grandma baked racks of tall bread and long pans of thick, cheesey focaccia. At 8:00 a.m. she rolled us out of bed and fed us toast made from those warm crusty loaves and slices of cold leftover pizza. After getting dressed we pulled on our jackets. Grandma waited at the back door with her folding shopping cart, coat and purse.
We said quick goodbyes to Grandpa as he sat smoking his pipe, and walked to D’Ambrosio’s, the Italian grocery store on Princeton, two blocks from Chinatown. We shuffled through the sawdust-covered, scarred wooden floor, put zucchini, eggplants, and tomatoes in her shopping cart, and tried to keep up as she raced down the aisles. When we stopped with Grandma in front of the meat case a stout woman pinched our cheeks and pressed hard almond biscotti into our sweating hands.
“Eat, eat,” she said.
“What do you say to Mrs. Basilone?” Grandma said.
We mumbled thanks through a spume of crusty cookie crumbs.
While Grandma chatted with her friends we ducked under strong garlicky sausages and hard white cheeses that hung from the ceiling on waxy strings. The butcher offered us small chunks of dense, peppery salami; we choked on the spices. From an open door in the back of the store we heard squawking in the yard. Bewildered, we covered our ears trying to shut out the frantic chickens, talking women, and the insistent whine of old machines slicing lunch meat.
As grandma put the last groceries in the cart she promised us stuffed artichokes for lunch, but Mike and I hungered for greasy sliders, Hydrox cookies and milk.