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Reading Aloud 2

The Greengrocer’s wife

She is much attached to her husband and makes no secret of it. This morning she put a proud owner’s hand on his shoulder and informed her two lady-customers that he had been ‘after her’ all morning, adding: You know what he’s like, girls! The person thus commented upon pulled a face that I can best describe as pained. However, she didn’t see that as he was turning away slightly and she busy impressing her customers whom she was facing. I didn’t see why I for one – I couldn’t speak for the other lady present whom I have heard call him ‘darling’ many times – should know what he was like, but didn’t press my point.

The Greengrocer is quite a stately person, I suppose, with long legs, a bit chubby, well-mannered, very presentable on the whole. She settled on him as soon as she saw him, she told me years ago. He was the one she had to have and she did.

When the other lady had left the shop, she turned to me and said with a serious face: I hope you didn’t take offence the other day … I didn’t know what she was hinting at. She waited a bit, giving me time to think and it occurred to me that she was referring to herself snarling at me a few weeks ago. Too late, I thought, it’s all been written down. How amazing, though, that she should mention this in her husband’s presence …
Before I could say anything, she went on: This lady who’s just left … I understood immediately, I had been on the wrong track. Of course, not she, but this lady who last time I was at the shop had ticked me off for leaving our dog out in the rain. I had replied jokingly, I hoped she wouldn’t report me anywhere, to which she had made no answer. Personally I couldn’t care less. I never thought about the little incident on seeing her again and certainly had managed a friendly ‘good morning’. The Greengrocer’s wife remembered it, though. She hoped I hadn’t taken offence at this rude remark, she repeated. We disapprove of any comment made on our customers, she said, including her husband in this statement. Against their policy, so to speak. It would be silly to lose one customer through the fault of another one. She added: This woman loves animals more than humans! It is true, the lady in question looks a bit hard. But then, so does the Greengrocer’s wife. On another occasion she had asked her lady-customers: Which would you prefer, a man or a dog? and had smiled approvingly when someone said: a dog any time.

I reassured her there was nothing to worry about. The Greengrocer didn’t look very worried, he knows me better and selected some lovely stamps from his new sheets for me.