Where There’s Smoke…

When you think of people throughout history who were known for their patience, various people inevitably come to mind. The biblical character of Job, for instance, is probably the most recognizable character among all the patient people of the world. Mavis, however, would never make that list. When she wanted something, she wanted it then and there, not accepting any excuse as to why it couldn’t happen. Most everyone knew this, especially her family. When Mavis wanted something, it was usually best to stop whatever you were doing and take care of her requests then and there rather than face the storm of Mavis not getting her way.

On one particular Saturday morning, Mavis decided she wanted to go to the grocery store to pick up some things she needed to make Sunday dinner. Not being one that liked to drive if she didn’t have to, she called her daughter who lived next door to have someone take her to the Piggly Wiggly to shop for the things she needed. “I need to go to the grocery store to get a few things,” Mavis told Sylvia, her daughter, just as soon as Sylvia picked up the phone.

“Okay mama, when do you want to go?” Sylvia asked.

Frustrated that she would even ask such a question, Mavis retorted, “Well, I want to go ahead and go and get back,” meaning she wanted to go that very minute.

While on the phone with Sylvia, Mavis became distracted with a story she was telling as she was asking her to take her to the supermarket. Normally when Mavis starts a story, there’s no point in trying to interrupt her because she’s been known to either talk right over you or not listen to what you’re saying and pick back up where she left off just as soon as you’ve finished with what you wanted to say. Sylvia, of all people, was well aware of this.

Since Sylvia was getting ready to go outside to turn on the heat in her workshop to get started on a woodworking project when Mavis called, she wasn’t in the frame of mind to carry on a phone conversation, much less go on a supermarket excursion. As Mavis began reciting a story to Sylvia she had already told her at least twice (which Mavis had been known to do on more than one occasion), a thought popped into Sylvia’s mind. Sylvia thought she could lay the phone down, go the workshop and turn on the heat and come back to the phone, all in enough time for the end of Mavis’ story if she played her cards right. Since both Sylvia’s and Mavis’ back doors faced each other, Sylvia wondered how she would do this without her mother seeing her. Mavis was notorious for standing at the door looking across the yard towards Sylvia’s house while on the phone, so she was sure to be noticed if she tried to carry out her plan. Regardless of the ramifications, she decided she would come up with a plausible excuse if she were caught in the act.

After building up her courage and determination, Sylvia placed the phone down on the countertop in the kitchen and casually walked out the back door. She glanced over at Mavis’ house and, sure enough, there she stood in the doorway watching her walk to the workshop all the while standing there holding the phone to her ear. Sylvia entered the workshop, turned on the heat, and walked back to the house. While she was going inside, she looked over at Mavis’ and saw her still standing there holding the phone to her ear. Sylvia, knowing all too well Mavis’ temperament, imagined she would be waiting on the other end to scold her for walking off while on the phone. To Sylvia’s surprise, however, she picked up the phone and heard Mavis still in the process of retelling her story as if she never missed a beat. Watching Sylvia walk out the door to the workshop and back in again never stopped Mavis from talking. Could it be she forgot who she was even talking to? Sylvia never asked, but let her keep talking.

After she finished, Mavis asked if she could speak to Glenn, her grandson, to see if he would take her to the supermarket. Even though Mavis said she only wanted to get groceries, Glenn knew there would be more than one store visit involved in the trip. “When do you want to go, Grandma?” he asked, although he already knew the answer.

“Well,” she said, “I want to hurry up and go and get back!” Seeing that it would obviously be best to take her now, Glenn readied himself and, before you could turn around, both Mavis and Glenn were in the car and on their way.

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When they arrived at the supermarket, Mavis told her grandson to push the shopping cart while she focused on looking for things she needed. Regardless of the fact that she supposedly only needed one or two items, Mavis always had the habit of going up and down each aisle just in case she saw something she needed that she had forgotten about, or more importantly, ran into someone she knew so she could socialize. While they were going through the produce department for Mavis to decide if there was anything she needed there, they both heard a female voice loudly yelling behind them.

Thinking it was someone trying to get another persons attention, both Mavis and Glenn turned around out of curiosity to see who it was. They never expected to become witnesses to the fiasco that played out before them. There, in the middle of the produce department, were two women who were obviously screaming at each other over what Mavis and Glenn deduced was a man who was seeing both of them, but keeping both women in the dark about his cheating ways. The secret was now out, and anyone within earshot could now put the sordid pieces together as to what exactly was going on.

As the screaming escalated, the produce manager came out of his secret hideaway in the back to see what was going on. As he started to approach the screamers, things got physical and deteriorated quickly.

The two women in question began throwing punches, biting ferociously and not holding back their animosity for one another in the slightest. Those around who were watching the altercation scattered as if someone just announced the Black Death had just been found in aisle three.

In those few minutes of watching the fight in the produce department, time felt as if it was standing still. As fists, hair, jewelry and purses were flying through the air, it looked as if everything was taking place in slow motion. Just as the produce manager and a few of his underlings approached the two women to attempt breaking up the fight, both women fell into the banana bin that was beside them. Squashed bananas, however, did little to drown the firery hatred these two women felt for each other. They kept fighting as hard as they could. As the produce staff did their best to separate the two women and get them out of the bananas, they didn’t exactly come out of the altercation unscathed themselves.

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After they finally separated them, you could plainly see one employee suffered a bloody nose while another had multiple scratches on his face and arms. Banana peels and banana guts were everywhere; on the floor, on their clothes, in their hair, even in their ears and up their noses. It looked as if the Chiquita banana company had been bombed. The managers promptly took the women to the back of the store to await their fate.

Glenn was shocked all this was happening, but Mavis took it in stride and went about her business. No sooner than all the commotion was over, Mavis was back to shopping with a vengeance. As she perused the aisles of the supermarket, Mavis would complain about the prices loud enough for anyone in earshot to hear her. “My God, how do they expect anybody to afford to eat with groceries as high as this!” she would say, which seemed to be one of her favorite things to say in the middle of the supermarket. Normally Glenn would try to dissuade her from such outburts, but having witnessed the “Banana Rumble,” he wasn’t paying her much attention.

Turning onto the next aisle, Mavis saw Lula-Belle, a friend of hers from the neighborhood who just so happened to be shopping that day as well. Mavis walked over to her, making small talk in the middle of the aisle. People would try to work their way by without hitting them, but having situated themselves in the middle of aisle, that was almost impossible. Eventually they relented, and moved closer to the potato chips so they could still talk without getting run over by the random cart. Lula-Belle had entered the store shortly after the “Banana Rumble,” and was telling Mavis she heard there was “a commotion by the fruit” before she came in. Mavis relished being able to recount the story to Lula-Belle, and gave her a blow-by-blow account of the incident.

“Great day in the morning!” Lula-Belle said, “I hope they at least have the sense to leave that man alone now,” referring to the man the two women were fighting over.

Mavis huffed, saying, “I don’t know. You know some people never learn. I hope they ain’t gotta pay for all those bananas they messed up, ‘cause the prices in this store are shameful…” and launced into her tirade once again on the prices of everything in the supermarket.

As Mavis and Lula-Belle parted ways to finish their grocery shopping, Mavis began going through the list of things she needed in her mind. One thing she remembered she needed that she had forgotten about earlier was a box of matches. “Remind me to get matches when we get to that aisle, I completely forgot that I’m out.” she said to Glenn.

“Oh really?” Glenn asked, kidding with his Grandmother as they so often did, “and just whose house are you going to burn down this time?” he asked.

Mavis huffed. “Yours,” she said, “if you’re gonna stand there and be smart-alecky.”

“Well, you can burn it down when I actually get one, how about that?” Glenn said, all the while laughing at the thought of Mavis setting fire to someone’s house.

Mavis snickered all the while grinning at him and said, “Alright, I will.” With that, they were off to the next aisle in their grocery shopping adventure.

After picking up a few items in the next aisle, Mavis and Glenn turned the corner where the paper products, charcoal and other sundry items were displayed. After picking up some toilet paper as well as paper towels, Glenn and Mavis pushed their cart towards the spot where the charcoal and grilling items were shelved. There, on the top shelf above the charcoal and lighter fluid displays, sat the matches. They were too high for Mavis to comfortably reach herself, so Glenn would have to get them for her. As they looked at the offerings of different types of matches, Glenn had to ask Mavis, “Okay, Grandma, which kind do you want?”

As Mavis looked over their choices, it was surprising to her how many different types they had available: there were short matches, long matches, book matches, blue matches, red matches… any kind of match you could imagine was there. Seeing the regular box of matches she was familiar with, she pointed to them for Glenn to reach up and get them. “I want those there,” she said as she pointed.

Glenn looked in the direction of where she was pointing, but wasn’t exactly sure which type she wanted. Glenn took a guess as to which ones Mavis wanted and grabbed the book matches. He looked at her as he was pulling them off the shelf and said, “Are these the ones you’re wanting?”

Mavis looked at him as if he was the stupidest person she’d ever met. “No, they’re not!” she said, having very little patience in her voice, “I want the ones beside ‘em.”

Glenn reached up to put the book matches back on the shelf and retrieve the right ones, but Mavis went to reach for the boxed matches at the same time.

That’s when it happened.

As both Glenn and Mavis reached up to the matches, they knocked a pack of the box matches off the shelf. Once again, time seemed to move in slow motion as the box of matches traveled from the top shelf to the floor. It felt as though they both were reaching for the matches to catch them, but neither of them was successful in catching them before they hit the ground. As the matches hit the floor, time finally caught up with itself and returned to its normal pace to catch them both off guard.

Just as soon as the box of matches hit the floor, a loud “Swooosshhhh!” sound emanated from the matches as though they were getting ready to take off into outer space. Before Mavis and Glenn realized what was happening, the box of matches spontaneously combusted into flames right in the middle of aisle nine. The flames shot out of the box as though they were trying to consume whoever woke them up in such a violent manner. The flames from the matches all of sudden lashed out at the bags of charcoal briquettes on the bottom shelf, catching them on fire as well.

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“Heck!” Mavis exclaimed as both her and Glenn ran for cover just as soon as all this was starting to happen. Both of them took refuge hiding in the dairy aisle out of sight from what was fast becoming another major incident in the supermarket that day. Since the dairy aisle lead to the back of the store, they saw employees coming running out of the back wielding fire extinguishers in an effort to put out the blaze. They sprayed the fire like their lives depended on it, asking anyone in earshot if they had seen what happened and who was responsible. Of course, no one saw anything since Mavis and Glenn just happened to be the only people in that aisle at the time.

After the employees had put out the fire, you could plainly see everyone stopping to gawk at the damage and all the smoke in the area. Cashiers at the front were craning their necks to watch the smoke as it drifted towards the meat counter like fog coming off the river during the early morning. The meat manager was trying to set up fans as fast as he could to keep the smoke away from his counter. “By God, I don’t want my meat tasting like smoke!” he would say to anyone asking what he was doing. The fire trucks arrived, although it was much too late for them to do anything.

Glenn looked at Mavis and whispered to her, “I think we need to get out of here before they find out it was us!”

Mavis grimaced and snapped back, “They ain’t gonna know it was us if you keep your mouth shut! Now just act like everybody else and nobody will be the wiser!”

Glenn rolled his eyes, knowing that Mavis was determined to finish her shopping and get what she needed. She had never been deterred from trying to finish what she started, and she wasn’t going to start now. “Well,” he said, trying to convince her to leave as fast as possible, “lets get what we need and get out of here while we still can!”

“You just push the buggy and come on!” Mavis retorted, huffing at the mere suggestion that anyone could find her at fault for doing something wrong. She walked by the store manager, the cashiers and other shoppers as if nothing at all was wrong.

As they finished piling the items in the cart, Mavis and Glenn headed to the checkout lanes. As they were paying for the groceries and bagging them up, the cashier tried to engage Mavis in conversation by talking about the fire. “Did you see the fire that was burning back there? I heard somebody got mad ‘cause they couldn’t find the right charcoal and decided they’d try to burn the place to the ground! I don’t know why somebody would want to do something like that just over some charcoal!” Then the cashier decided to try to joke with Mavis, who was just standing there looking at her. “Either way, I suppose whatever meat they bought is smoked meat now,” she said as she started laughing uncontrolably at her own joke.

Mavis didn’t find it at all funny, and said, “Well I don’t know how it started. But you can’t believe everything you hear. Besides, it just happened about ten minutes ago, so I doubt they really know what all happened yet. It’s best not to believe everything somebody tells you!”

With that, the cashier nodded her head and said, “True, true. Guess it is too early to tell what exactly caused it.” Feeling the dissapproving stare coming from Mavis, the cashier quickly finished ringing up her groceries. Mavis paid for them, and off she and Glenn went to the car to leave as fast as they could.

When they arrived at their car, they saw a police car sitting in front of the store. Glenn’s heart sank. He just knew the police were there to arrest someone for setting the fire, and in all probability, he knew it would be him and his Grandmother. Mavis, however, was unphased. “They ain’t here for us,” Mavis said after Glenn mentioned his worry to her, “they’re most likely here for them two women who were fighting in the bananas.”

In all the excitement of the fire, Glenn had forgotten all about the two women who were fighting in the produce department. He breathed a sigh of relief. “Well, let’s not take any chances, and get our butts outta here!” he exclaimed to Mavis. Sure enough, just as they got in the car and were backing out of the parking space, Glenn saw the police with the two women in custody heading to the police car.

“See, I told you so,” Mavis said. “Now let’s get home. I gotta start getting the chicken ready for tomorrow.”

“You ain’t gonna cook it over an open flame, are you?” Glenn asked. Mavis looked at him over her glasses as if she was going to reprimand him, but smiled her michevious grin and didn’t say anymore about the topic.

After getting Mavis back home, groceries unpacked and put away, Glenn went back home. He told his mother all about what had happened, although it seemed a little too much to take in. Knowing her mother, however, Sylvia could very well imagine the scenario playing out in her mind. “Well,” she said, “I guess the old adage of ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’ is definitely true here.”

“Yep,” Glenn said. “But maybe they should update that to say ‘where there’s smoke, there’s Mavis’.”

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2 thoughts on “Where There’s Smoke…

  1. Glenn, you should write a book! I love reading your “Observations”! And I love the picture of you and your Grandma! She sounds like she was a pistol, and now I know where you got your humor and love…keep ’em coming!! Love you!

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