“Take this ham,” the woman said, lifting a hunk of meat from her cart and holding it out.
“Thank you but I can’t.”
“Take it. That pineapple looks lonely by itself. I’m just remembering that Elvis liked pineapple. How could I forget? With marshmallows and maraschino cherries. You can give your father that, but for now, give him ham.” The woman put the ham on top of Michiko’s father’s belly. She gave it a pat, then straightened up. “There’s Larry!” she exclaimed. She tugged at Michiko’s arm, and Michiko looked to where the woman was pointing, down the aisle, but all she saw was a sharp-elbowed teenager scratching his nose and a tattooed woman lifting a box of something from a shelf.
“There’s my Larry canary!” The woman began pushing her cart down the aisle. Michiko pushed her father in his cart, leaning into it with all her weight. She followed the woman; she didn’t know why. At the end of the aisle they turned the corner and there was a giant clad in shorts, standing in front of a pyramid of fruit, with hair all over his face and legs and arms. He tossed an orange in his hand up and down, as if it were a baseball.
“Isn’t he a hunk?” the woman exclaimed. “Isn’t he a dreamboat? Larry!” There was such joy in the giant’s face that Michiko had to look away, and when she did she saw her father lift the package of meat and hold it between his slim hands. “Ham! Now I can find Margaret. I’ll surely find Margaret now that I have pineapple and ham. Watanabe is waiting for you. Go back to Japan.”
“He’s not waiting.”
“Believe me, he is. The dead know things like that.”
“Larry, she’s from Japan!” the woman was saying. “How about that?” Michiko looked at the two of them, with their arms entwined, and for a moment she thought it might be possible to go on without her father, to go forward, to put things in her cart, and later cook them, and, much later, write to Watanabe in Japan. She remembered how he had waved at her when they parted, how, before walking away, she saw a spot of banana cream pie on his shirt that made her smile. “Goodbye, dear child,” her father said, but so faintly that Michiko wasn’t sure he had spoken. When she looked, he had vanished from the cart.
Marian Pierce’s short stories have appeared in GQ, Creative Writers’ Handbook, Scribner’s Best of the Fiction Workshops 1997, and The Japan Times. She won the Frederick Exley fiction competition and has received fellowships from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Literary Arts, the MacDowell Colony, and KHN Center for the Arts. Pierce works as a freelance editor and teaches creative writing at Marylhurst University and online for UCLA Extension.