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Reading Aloud 2

The Greengrocer’s wife

She really let her hair down when I went to their shop in the afternoon. Yan had been to see me in the morning. I had to meet my daughter at lunch-time. Therefore my weekly visit to the post office had to be postponed until the afternoon. I remembered too late that it was half-day closing for the post office part of their shop. However, had not the Greengrocer himself told me that I would always be served, closed or not ? Of course, his wife didn’t know that! She was on her own when I arrived.

I cautiously put forward my request. She knew anyway what I wanted. She was standing on top of some steps arranging tins of pet-food. I ended with the words ‘do you think you could make an exception for me?’. She looked down at me. Suddenly her face became considerably distorted, beyond recognition almost, and she snarled at me : why should I ? It made me completely speechless, it was so unexpected. I had no idea what to say and just looked back at her, thinking what a handsome woman she would be, considering her age, had it not been for her distorted features. She looked away and went on: at least you’re putting it nicely, others just come in and demand to be served, let me finish this job and I’ll get you your money, let’s hope my husband hasn’t locked it up. Has he gone out? I asked. Why? she asked back, did you want him for any reason? Certainly not, I hastened to reassure her, but he may have the key for the money-box. He’s at home alright, she said, having a well-deserved rest. I’d have to get the key from him.

We were lucky, for the key was in the lock and the whole transaction didn’t take longer than a minute or two. She had become very friendly, now, and told me about a visit she had paid to Mrs Rivers a few days ago, having bread to deliver. She had seen the no-turning plate on Mrs Rivers’ gate-post and in spite of that had been forced to turn precisely there in order to avoid another car. Mrs Rivers had been standing in her drive all the time and the Greengrocer’s wife had expected her to pounce on her and accuse her of the offence any second. However, Mrs Rivers hadn’t done that. She got out of her car and Mrs Rivers didn’t recognize her, she had to give name, address and everything to identify herself. I said Mrs Rivers would no doubt tell me how embarrassed she was about that, but she was nearly blind. No need to be embarrassed, the Greengrocer’s wife said generously. I thanked her with a smile for having served me and left the shop.