Annie added several lemons to the basket on the scale. “You have a little over two pounds.”
“As gut.” The gray-haired Amish woman smiled. “Ya, as gut.” Annie wasn’t as skilled with Pennsylvania Dutch as she’d like to be, but she definitely understood the phrase “yes, that’s good.” Her family had once known the Pennsylvania Dutch language well, but it had faded in the Martin home like a patch of sun-bleached wallpaper.
She’d been raised in a Plain home. Her clothing, with the flowery prints on her dress and apron and the circular prayer Kapp, was different from that of the woman standing in front of her, but Plain nonetheless. Annie’s cape dress and white head covering indicated she was one of the horse-and-buggy Mennonites. They were also called Old Order Mennonites, and unlike their Old Order Amish neighbors, Annie’s group had electricity and phones inside their homes.
An overhead fluorescent light flickered and buzzed. Annie pulled a paper bag from under the counter, wrote the price on it with a permanent marker, and slid the lemons into the sack. Her brother’s voice echoed through the almost-empty market, and she tried not to show her embarrassment. Working at the same market as her two loudmouthed
brothers wasn’t always easy.
For any of them, she was sure.
The woman picked up a Gala apple and smelled it.
“Meh Ebbel?” Annie asked. The customer already had a sack of Red Delicious in her cart, but maybe she wanted some Galas too. She shook her head, set the apple in its bin on top of the dwindling mound, and took the sack from Annie. “Gross Dank.”
Annie started to respond in Pennsylvania Dutch, but when an Englischer woman came to the counter, she decided to speak in a language all of them knew. “You’re welcome.”
She turned to the Englischer woman. “May I help you?”
“Oh, absolutely.” Annie grabbed her stepladder from its hiding spot. She’d been unable to keep up with the demand this afternoon, and her brother, who was supposed to restock her supply from the back room, hadn’t been in sight for hours. She knew where he was, but she wasn’t supposed to leave her stand. Besides, if she complained to him, he’d bring her less fresh produce next time and disappear for even longer periods. “I tried to get a fresh box down to fill the bin earlier today, but I was interrupted. Give me just a minute.” She went up two rungs. “They are delicious, aren’t they?”
The woman sniffed a kiwi. “I bought several pounds last week, and my family gobbled them up.”
Foul language, followed by her brother’s sarcastic laugh, rang out. Reminding herself that customers didn’t know she was related to the loudmouth, Annie climbed to the top rung of the stepladder and reached for the box of navel oranges. Why did Glen always put the heaviest boxes in the hardest places to reach? She pulled it toward her, straining to get it down fromits perch without spilling anything. With the box almost in her arms, she saw an avalanche of oranges tumbling toward her face. One pelted her on the cheek. She flinched, turning her head, and was hit on the other cheek by two more oranges, but she didn’t lose her grip on the box itself. The few other loose oranges fell
to the floor.
Glad the Englischer woman wasn’t close enough to get hit and relieved she was buying oranges instead of pineapples, Annie held on tight to the crate as she made her way down the ladder. “Here we are.” After setting the box on the floor, she touched her stinging cheeks, wondering how red they were. The phrase painted woman came to mind, and she suppressed a chuckle. How about a fruit-smacked woman? Did the Plain church frown at that?
An announcement that the market was closing came over the loudspeaker. She bagged the oranges, marked the price, and said goodbye to the woman and then began cleaning up the stand and surrounding area.
It was Saturday evening, and themarket wouldn’t be open to customers again until next Thursday. Annie’s next day to work would be Wednesday, when all the deliveries arrived and the main prep work was accomplished. She needed to repack whatever was left in the bins and put them in the refrigerator before scrubbing down the units.
The store grew quiet except for a few employees talking to each other from their booths. A piece of loose tin on the roof rattled as the March winds howled. Winter remained shackled to the land, and Annie had long grown weary of waiting for the earth to once again tilt toward the sun.
Katie, an Amish woman at the bakery stand, asked Leah at the vegetable stand if she had any slightly aging zucchini they could use next week for making bread. Leah said she had a few.
Annie had a box of healthy but bruised fruits to take over to them in a few minutes, including the oranges that had fallen from the box to the floor. They looked fine today, but internally they had to be bruised. “Katie, I have some naval oranges to give you. They smacked me in the face before landing on the floor with a thud.”
Katie continued sweeping out her stall. “Gut. They’ll be good flavoring in my orange-spice pound cakes.”
Whatever Annie didn’t get scrubbed today could wait until she returned on Wednesday. She loved coming to work, but Wednesdays were her favorite days. Not having customers gave her uninterrupted time to prepare for the other three busy days.
After cleaning up, she carried her box of apples, oranges, and kiwis to Katie. “Here you go.”
“Denki. Not good for eating outright, but perfect for baking.”
Katie put the box in a commercial-sized refrigerator. Sometimes it was hard to believe that an Old Order Amish man owned this huge, nice market and that ten years ago, before Annie lived in New York, this market was a lone stand carrying only fruits, vegetables, and a few baked goods. Now it housed four large sections—fruits, vegetables, baked goods, and meats. There were also two eateries, a florist, and a gift shop under the same roof. In the last three years, she’d worked in each one, but running the fruit stand was her favorite. By the time she went home at night, her hair, skin, and clothing smelled like a cornucopia of delicious fruits.
“I bet our driver is here.” Katie removed her white baker’s apron and put on her Amish black one.
Annie and four other women headed for the back room to grab their coats and bonnets from their lockers before going out the door of the loading dock. One Englischer driver brought and picked up all the horse-and-buggy Plain workers, which amounted to nine people most days. Since the morning trip started before daylight, the riders tended to be quiet and to doze during the hour drive, but on the way home, the women usually chatted and laughed about the
day’s events. Annie looked forward to the jokes about those oranges smacking her in the face that would make the rounds in the van this evening.
Excerpted from The Scent of Cherry Blossoms by Cindy Woodsmall. Copyright © 2012 by Cindy Woodsmall. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.