Grow a Pear


When I was in high school, I worked at the local grocery store. It was on the border of a part of town we called the demilitarized zone. Across the bridge, there were poor white folks. On my street, on the opposite of the bridge, was the DMZ. Poor black families were living just on the opposite side of us. My street was nicknamed the DMZ because it was the gradient zone between the colors.

The supermarket was just on the DMZ's white side, straight past the bridge for about a minute. I worked there after school. I started as a bag boy but was eventually promoted to the produce section. Every day, the people in the neighborhood from the black side and the white side got together to shop. I had southern black grannies and hillbilly grandpas hovering around my scale, waiting for their produce to be weighed while they told me about their grandchildren or someone in the neighborhood we knew. I remember having a conversation with one customer about pears. We had gotten a new shipment in. She noticed and became excited. She told me how she liked to let them sit on the window sill until they slowed melted into sweetness. We wondered how people could tell the difference between a Bartlett and an Anjous. They were both green and misshapen. I can't remember if we ever came to any agreement. It was a long time ago. Although...I am pretty sure the one in the photo is an Anjous.

Soon after I wrote that last sentence, I could hear the voice of the woman from the supermarket shouting, "No! It's a Bartlett."

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