for every action
My little sister had that look I'll never forget. Mouthing the letter O in complete terror. We had a penny to spend each, she gripped my hand tight like she always did as we departed the last step of the stone stoop out back of the house, and we were off to Mr. Conway's store four blocks away. Taffy was her favorite, jawbreaker mine, and she was only out of my sight for mere moments as I made a beeline for the magazines. They had a nice collection of Little Orphan Annie, but it was a whole sixty cents. I was thumbing through when the tragedy struck.
My little sister had her one-cent taffy, you'd think it was enough of a worldly thrill for a five year-old, but she weaved her way to a display of oranges like little kids are pulled against there will to neat piles of stuff I guess. She passed up the pyramid of canned beets, losing all power and instead yanking one orange from the window display causing a landslide. I grabbed her by the coat and we ran past the canned beets and out the door. Later that night I was in my room when the phone rang and I heard mom downstairs say she was very very sorry. I closed my door but it opened a few moments later. She didn't make eye contact with me, there was no yelling, and I was not allowed to go to that store ever again. Around 2AM I heard my little sister in her room crying and I crept as silent as I could, the floor creaking under my mismatched socks, my official detective flashlight dim.
She was asleep, breathing through her mouth in spurts, blanket twisted on the floor. Perhaps she was at the tail-end of a nightmare involving stacked oranges the size of watermelons with oozing bruises. That's how mine went. I tucked her in and then she was silent, magpie black eyes blinking into the light.
Grand Grocery Company
Lincoln, Nebraska 1942
by John Vachon