He would call in regularly after that but kept missing her or she might have been on a break in the back. One Saturday, February probably, he asked after her. ‘I’ve not seen Debbie here for a while. Is she ok? I know she had a cold at Christmas.’ ‘Oh, she left. She got a job on Coast Community TV. Are you pomegranate man?’ He felt his head jerk forward. ‘I think there’s a note for you or something, somewhere here. Yeah, here it is.’ And she passed him an envelope, ‘To the Pomegranate Man’.
He took it home and left it on the table for a bit. He decided he’d make cocoa with two pieces of dark chocolate dropped in for good measure. He sat down on the sofa and opened the note.
Dear Mr Pomegranate Man, sorry, I don’t know your name. Mine’s Debbie. I’m not sure if you know that. I just wanted to say thank you to you. I enjoyed our banter and I think because of it spotted an advert in the Green Growers’ Weekly. They were asking for people with experience to come for an audition for a fruit preparing series on tele. Like Bake-Off, only with tangerines. Well, with all the practising taking the seeds out of the pomegranates (you never saw me do that, did you? I used to practise at home), I’d got really good at it and my topslicing abilities shone through. Good enough, anyway, to get me through the audition and onto the show
One of the filming staff is very nice and he asked me out to lunch at a top brasserie! I did a search for Corsairea – did you mean ‘Coursera’? – found it and have completed the module on Pomegranate and related fruits. It’s really interesting. Did you know there was a woman called Persephone who ate either 3 or 6 pomegranate seeds, depending who’s talking, and ended up in Hell? Makes you think twice, doesn’t it?!
I’ve progressed onto the Pre-Advanced Pomegranate module on Seed Extraction Methods (with/without Toothclaw). I just love it!
Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you and hope to see you again. I feel like I’m dreaming. It’s really hard work on the show but a bit of a change. I’m looking forward in the spring to our talks back at the shop. ‘That’ll be cabbage, then’ no doubt.
‘And all that happened nearly forty years ago?’ He was holding a playing card with a picture of a pomegranate on it, playing Reminiscences with Juliet, the young carer sitting beside him in the care home. ‘She had a piercing in her nose, just like the one you’ve got. And she went on to make a career in fruit on TV. She used to pop up in all sorts of places, even had her own mini-series on the BBC for a while. She never did come back to the greengrocer’s.’
‘You must have missed her?’ said the young woman. ‘Why didn’t you ask her out?’ ‘Well, I was building up to it, I suppose, and then she left. She got married and had kids and did well for herself, so that was that. Funny how things happen, you know. You’ll find that out for yourself, I expect, one day…if you haven’t already!’ his eyes twinkling.
‘That’d be telling, wouldn’t it! Well, lovely talking to you but here’s the food trolley. Time for lunch. Let’s see what’s on the menu today. Butternut Squash and Pomegranate soup…chef trying out a new recipe.’ ‘Or an old one? Could be one of hers? She did used to write.’
John moved to a table in the dining room. It looked a cold, frosty day outside but he sat quietly breathing in the warm aroma of the soup, taking him to another place, another time. His two daughters had treated him to half a sourdough loaf from the local baker’s. He loved sourdough but couldn’t eat a full one now. He broke a piece off and dunked it in the bowl, biting into the crust. ‘Heaven, delicious! Thank goodness I’ve still got me teeth.’