Last month I posted master writer John Steinbeck’s Breakfast. It inspired me to write the following:
Oranges by Sue Hollister Barr
$6 a run. That was all I made as the lowest of the low: a foot messenger in NYC. Some days I only got one run, not enough to cover a meal as I waited all day in the messenger service’s waiting room. Especially if I had to take the subway to make the run’s deadline. Some days I waited all day and got no runs.
The walls of the company’s windowless waiting room were streaked with filth, intermittently lit by equally filthy fluorescent lights that rattled on and off as the subway rumbled below. Arriving before the mandatory 8 a.m. was essential for any hope of locating a less-broken chair. Our clothing was as drab as our surroundings. Our eyes were dead.
Money. If only I had more money I would be in heaven. But then the day came when I first smelled it.
Every day…at exactly 11 a.m. when, for whatever reasons, there were never any runs…an ancient man would slowly pull an orange from his pocket. He would turn it over in his worn hands, reverent as if it were a religious relic. Then he would slowly, ceremoniously, peel it, and that sweet scent of orange would fill the room. Every section he placed in his mouth was savored to the fullest.
25 cents an orange. That was all the grubby fruit stand out front charged me when I started buying oranges. And I was in heaven.