Commentary Magazine


The Little Candy Store

Someone had made an error in the books.
One of the boxes, where a child had
    scooped,
tilted and fell, and there it was—
a space among chocolates, spread with dust!

They tried to believe they had ordered too
    much.
What good was that? There had been days—
why, just think back!—when there hadn’t
    been enough.
You knew how quickly choices changed!

They tried to forget. They laughed, thinking
it a lesson; even the crusty, old brown dog
hobbled to the front of the shop; wagging
his tail, stretched out, avoiding the box.

It lay in the rear, where the child had left it—
not that she refused to pick it up—
but the wife restrained her with gum and
    credit,
while the kids looked in from spinning their
    tops.

The mothers called from the courts for sup-
    per.
The next two hours were slow, were the
    hardest.

Change was usually counted; then the
    duster;
but they sat stiffly, like children punished.

When the phone rang, they looked at each
    other—
“I have nothing to say.” “You run this shop!”
And so it went until eight o’clock,
when the young couples came for take-out
    orders.

He chatted, as he packed the cups, and gave
that extra scoop to newly-weds. She? She
stuffed each bag with matches: “Don’t
    smoke? well then, for luck!”
She smiled, and hid the shelf with her
    back . . . .

They watched the television late that night.
At last they rose; left the dishes unscrubbed;
and, climbing slowly to their small room
    above,
turned and saw the ledger in the moonlight.

Monstrous book! thought the old man.
The wife wept softly, pulling on her night-
    cap.
For a long while, they lay in the darkness;
then he dropped his arm around her, and
    they slept.

_____________

 

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