Fiction · Short Story

A Plate for Pickles

There are many things Nancy does regularly. She looks out the window in her flat for hours on end. She sees people leave for their jobs in the morning. She sees them return to their homes in the evening. She cleans her flat every morning. She picks up the phone and has lengthy conversations. She eats a lot of pickles.

There are many things Nancy does not do regularly. She does not wave to the people she sees walking to work in the morning. She does not wave to them when they return in the evening. She does not track dirt inside of her flat because she does not step foot beyond the threshold of her door. When she picks up the phone to have lengthy conversations, she does not press any buttons before she begins to speak. She does not like when she runs out of pickles, so she makes sure the neighbor boy who delivers her groceries brings a lot of pickles.

One year, it was decreed that the annual city parade would take a route different from the one it had travelled for nearly a century. A sinkhole had crippled half a block on the traditional route. A new path was needed. The mayor decided Nancy’s street would serve as the least awkward detour in alleviating the situation.

The neighbor boy told Nancy all about the parade when he delivered her weekly supply of four cans of tomato soup, a loaf of bread, and seven jars of pickles. She nodded at him while handing him the personal check she had written out three days prior. “This Saturday? Hmm. I hope they won’t make too much noise. I have a very important phone call to make that afternoon,” she said to the boy.

“Maybe you can call after it passes,” the boy suggested. “My brother and I are going to set up chairs right in front of our stoop across the street. We’ll have the most perfect view of the floats. We can set a chair up for you if you want. My mom says it’s the most excitement this street will ever see.”

“I don’t think I’ll come down,” Nancy said. “I will watch from my widow.”

“Oh,” he said. “I just thought, out of everyone I know, that you’d like it the most,” he said, not ready to admit defeat.

After he left and the door was bolted, Nancy opened her jar of pickles and stuck the end of one with a fork. She cut it into medallions on a white plate with yellow bunny rabbits patterned round the diameter. Nancy only ate pickles on this plate. Each time she forked a pickle to her mouth, she thought more about the boy’s invitation to see the parade from the street. She had lived in the city for her entire life, but besides the story delivered her by the boy, she knew nothing whatsoever about the annual celebration.

There are things Nancy does regularly and there are things Nancy does more regularly than most. Nancy gets nervous. When Nancy gets nervous, Nancy eats pickles. When Nancy gets more nervous than usual, Nancy eats many more pickles than she usually eats.

Anticipating the parade made Nancy nervous. On Friday, the day before the parade, Nancy finished the seventh jar of pickles. The boy would not be back until Monday. She had not gone a day without pickles since she was a little girl.

Nancy did not sleep the night before the parade. She did not know how she would get her pickles without leaving the flat. Then she remembered that the boy would be across the street for the parade. She never waved from the window, but if it meant pickles, she would make an exception.

The sun came up on Nancy frantically cleaning her apartment. When she was through, she picked up the phone and talked for two hours about her plan to flag the boy down before the parade started so he could get her the emergency pickles. She paced the length of her flat, rabidly preaching to the mouthpiece. People were forming on the street below, so Nancy planted herself at the window. “There he is!” she shouted when the boy and his brother walked down their stoop with two folding chairs. She dropped the phone and flailed her arms at the boy. He saw her and waved for her to come down. She flailed back that she needed him to come up, but it was too late. The parade was approaching. The boy turned to see what that first float would be. She panicked. She’d missed her shot at securing her pickles. She waved and wailed at the closed window, but the boy’s attention was glued to the end of the street.

When she looked up the street, her heart jumped. The banner on the first float, a flatbed painted the most brilliant green Nancy’s eyes had ever seen, announced “THE 85th ANNUAL PICKLE PARADE!” People dressed in warty pickle costumes were walking up to the spectators with giant pickles pierced by skewers. Little kids and adults alike were screaming in delight as they munched, wiping the juice away from their chins with little green napkins. A group of dachshunds with their fur dyed green were walking on their hind legs.

Nancy blinked at the sight. She thought she was dreaming. She slowly backed away from the window and turned to find the plate with yellow bunny rabbits. That day, Nancy ate pickles down on the street of the city she lived in all her life, which just so happened to be the pickle capital of the world.

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