First prize for Flash Fiction – 500 words or less – at the Aber Valley Arts Festival.
“Hello, good morning!” says the shop assistant. “Welcome to our little emporium! Anything in particular you’re looking for?”
“I’m not exactly sure,” I reply. “I’m hoping to stock up in general, for whatever life brings along.”
The assistant nods, sagely.
“Don’t think I’m trying to curry favour,” he says, “but we do sell seasonings for every season.”
“What about something to bring out the flavour in life?” I ask. “To help me savour the moment?”
“A true salt of the earth request!” he beams. “We have all sorts of salts, from a pinch to a pillar. Would you care for a closer look?”
He hands me several bags to inspect.
“But why stop there?” he continues. “All manner of herbs can add interest. Let me see . . . Ah – parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Are you going to Scarborough Fair?”
I shake my head.
“No harm in taking these along all the same,” he says, giving me a handful of sachets.
“And for the bitter times in life?” I ask, tentatively.
“Sugar the pill, you mean?”
“I suppose help the medicine go down, at least.”
“I won’t try to sweet talk you,” he says. “But we’ve got masses of molasses, hives of honey. No need to get in a jam.”
He pulls out a basket, and puts in a selection of jars and pots.
“Of course, it’s not just about sweetening the taste,” he declares. “We’ve got lots to aid the digestion of life’s trickier bits.”
I’m surprised. “You do?”
He nods. “We’re absolutely minted. There’s peppermint and spearmint, not forgetting Royal Mint. All in mint condition. Care for a sniff?”
He opens a packet and waves it under my nose.
“Pungent,” I say, blinking my eyes as he tips more packets into the basket.
“But if none of that cuts the mustard, we have a box set that should see you through the major phases of life.” He takes a large container off the shelf. “Peppa Pig, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Ready to check out?”
I struggle to lift the basket.
“I just need a moment, to take stock,” I say, leaning against the counter.
“Chicken or vegetable?” he asks.
“I mean, whether I really need all this.”
The assistant looks at me blankly.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of great flavours here,” I say, “and I’d love to experience them all at some point, but I just wonder if I’m better off not weighing myself down with trying to make sure I’m absolutely ready for whatever comes along.”
“That approach to life is not my cup of tea,” huffs the assistant.
“I’m sorry to rub salt in the wound, but I’m waking up and smelling the coffee,” I reply, turning towards the door. “Maybe I’ll try trusting that I’ll find the seasoning I need, when I actually need it.”
As I walk away from the shop, I notice an unseasonal spring in my step.