over the produce at Zupan’s (part II, cont’d.)

Their Combination is Spectacular by Tom Waterhouse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Creative Commons License
Their Combination is Spectacular by Tom Waterhouse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Dedicated to Anne J. (“I think, I say, I do” blog) and Meenakshi (“Wings of Poetry” blog): thanks for requesting “Part II”!

“The noise the body makes/when the body meets/the soul over the soul’s ocean and penumbra/
is the old sound of up-and-down, in-and-out,/a lump of muscle chug-chugging blood/into the ear; a lover’s/heart-shaped tongue” – Li-Young Lee, “The Cleaving”

Maggie should have just deleted Zinna’s text and pulled out of the parking lot, down Burnside to her new apartment – the whole second floor of a Victorian house, thank you very much – where she would go in and work on the Holbrook account.  She had a ton of copyediting to do on their catalog of recreational clothing.  Not to mention her own fiction and poetry blog.

“I owe you an apology,” Zinnia had texted.  Then, “Meet me inside the Starbucks?”

Maggie had spent many hours studying at this Starbucks back in the day.  Back before she had her master’s in technical writing – “human-centered communication and design” – when she was still waiting tables on that BA in English she’d gotten from Portland State.  The natural light flooded into the Starbucks space nicely from the north, winter and summer, and it was an good walk to the Food Front co-op grocery along 23rd before going home to the place she’d shared with Zinnia on 21st.  Not to mention the miles of trails in Washington Park behind Zupan’s, if she felt like taking a wooded walk after cramming her head full of schoolwork.

So, fine.  It was worth finding out what Zinnia had to say, even if Maggie still didn’t feel quite up to forgiving her.  There had been a lot of other things – but Maggie wasn’t the kind of person to just turn her back on a peace offering.  She came into the store and spotted Zinnia at the front of the line near the barista.

“Got your favorite – lemon loaf, right? And a cake pop.  These things are ridiculously habit-forming,” Zinnia blurbed, as Maggie approached her.

It hurt to be reminded of how well they had known each other, back in the day.  What had happened after Kyle was not pretty.  Maggie said, begrudgingly, “Thanks.”

Zinnia looked relieved.  And perhaps a little smug?  “Half-caf latte with nutmeg, right?”

“I’ve already got my coffee,” Maggie said bluntly.  She held up the travel mug she’d been carrying in Zupan’s when she first saw Zinnia in the produce aisle.

This was rewarding, as Zinnia looked slightly defeated at the turn-down.  But when she offered the small brown bag with lemon loaf and cake pop in it, Maggie took it.  Why not.

How did they meet?  It had been so long ago, Maggie wasn’t sure for a moment.  Then she remembered; Zinnia was the daughter of one of Maggie’s mom’s friends from art school back East.  She had happened to move to Portland from Dallas at the time Maggie was looking for a roommate.  They hadn’t been friends before moving in together.  Maybe that was the mistake.

The big table up front was unoccupied, the table with the warm wood wall behind it and lots of space to spread out.  The table in the way of the people walking in the door.  Maggie strode to it and took a seat, Zinnia trailing.  Zinnia talking.

“I’ve got this new job working at the Pittock Mansion,” Zinnia bubbled.  The Pittock Mansion was just up the hill behind them.  “It’s amazing.  All sandstone exteriors, marble staircases, authentic furnishings.  Tiled roofs.  A few years back they did a major refurbishing after water damage was discovered.”

“Oh.  So you’re working in a museum, then,” Maggie said.  A long-held dream of Zinnia’s, working in a museum.  Zinnia had done her share of temp jobs back when they were rooming together, when she hadn’t been able to find any museum work with her history degree.

“Yeah.”  Pause.


“Well, actually, I’m a tour guide.  Technically it’s volunteer.  But it’s a first step, right?”  Her smile was not exactly sunny.

Maggie split off a section of the lemon loaf slice from the tan Starbuck’s bag and ate it.  The shimmery white icing was as sweet as she remembered it.

“You?” Zinnia asked.  “What have you been up to?”

“Look,” Maggie said, “your text said something about an apology.”

“Oh, that.  Yes.  I’m sorry it’s been so long since we’ve talked.  I mean, what’s it been, like a couple of years?”  Zinnia ticked her painted nails on the dark-wood table as though clicking off the weeks and months that had passed.

“And?” Maggie waited for the part about stealing Kyle.

“Now that I’ve seen you, I’d love to start meeting again.  I’m just around the corner at the mansion.  Tuesdays and Fridays. – You could come up there, I could show you around!”

Maggie shook her head.  “I don’t think so.”

Zinnia looked disappointed.  “You’ve already seen it.”


“Come on then!  It’ll be fun!  Like old times.”

Maybe old times weren’t so fun, Maggie thought.  “Like the times going out with Kyle?”

“Who?” Zinnia looked puzzled.

“Kyle.  That guy I was dating.”

Zinnia seemed to consider this.  Was she faking not remembering?  Or was Kyle so forgettable that she truly didn’t remember him?

“I’m sorry -”

I’ll bet, Maggie thought.  You’re not sorry, not really.

She remembered all those other times.  The “borrowing” of shampoo when Zinnia “forgot” to go to the grocery store.  The disappearance of savory leftovers Maggie sometimes brought home from the restaurant where she worked in the Pearl District.  Leftover dishes in the sink.  Pubic hairs on the floor in the bathroom.

But – she still had a lemon loaf to finish.  “How’s your family?” Maggie asked.  Zinnia’s father was a successful attorney in Dallas, her mother a society Someone there.  “They must be happy you’re working in a museum, finally.”

“Oh.  That.”  Zinnia looked down.  “My parents are splitting up.  My dad’s got a new girlfriend, and my mom’s not happy about it.”  She spread her fingers across the table in front of her.  “But what can you do?”

This was getting better, Maggie thought.  Here she was, having earned a master’s degree and freelancing – successfully – living in a cozy Victorian place with quiet downstairs neighbors.  And Zinnia – model-beautiful, from a family with Money – was facing divorced parents and doing part-time unpaid work, even if it was in her chosen field, museology.

“You really don’t remember Kyle?” Maggie asked.

Zinnia looked puzzled.

“Dark hair.  Rode a motorcycle,” Maggie prompted.

Zinnia shook her head slowly, still looking mystified.

“I introduced you,” Maggie said, exasperated.  “Then he broke up with me, and you two started going out.  Apparently.”

“When was this?”  Zinnia’s expression was still confused.  Could it be possible she really did not remember?

“Right before I moved out.  Two – no – three years ago.”

“Kyle.”  Zinnia paused.  Then, suddenly – “Oh.  He left me.”

Yes!  This was even better.  “Oh?”

Zinnia nodded. “Uh huh.  Kinda funny how that turned out.”

“Funny?”  Maggie took a last bite of the lemon loaf, getting ready to leave.  She’d take home the cake pop.  Not that she’d ever tried one, but it was a treat, and she’d have it later with a cup of Earl Grey tea she bought at Smith Teamaker over on Thurman.

“Yeah.”  Zinnia frowned.  Then she looked up suddenly, leaned over and said, “Turns out he was more interested in guys than in me.”

“Wait – what?”

Zinnia nodded.  “Yeah.  I’m not sure what happened to him.  Lost track.”  She sighed.  “Better not to remember those things.  You know?”

It was hard to know what to say.  “I suppose,” Maggie managed.

“Listen,” Zinnia said, suddenly animated again, “let’s go down to the Pearl and grab a bite.  There’s Altitude on Northrup – or 10 Barrel Brewing?”

Maggie shook her head. “I’ve got to work this afternoon.”

“Oh.  Well.”

Maggie stood up.  “Thanks for the – you know.”  She waved the brown bag that still had the cake pop in it.

“Yeah, sure.”

“And . . . sorry about your parents.”  Maggie’s folks were still together, living in a new view condo down on the southwest waterfront, close to her dad’s work at OHSU; he took the gondola to work every day at the hospital.  Her mom was an artist – metal sculpture.  They were doing all right.

“Well, you know how it is -”  Zinnia smiled, again not as sunny a smile as it could have been.

Outside in the car Maggie started the engine and turned up the heater.  The weather forecast said something about snow in the next couple of days, and though it was relatively rare for Portland, the air outside had been crispy, biting, like it knew something about the coming storm that Maggie did not.  Unusually, Maggie sat in the car for a few minutes, letting the heater start so it would be warmer inside.  She only lived a short distance away by car, but something made her pause for a few minutes until the heat came on.

It was colder when the air was humid like now.  The indicator on the dashboard said thirty-nine degrees.  But then you couldn’t always feel how cold it really was just by looking at a number.

It wasn’t exactly that Maggie felt sorry for Zinnia.  But the whole Kyle thing didn’t mean that much any more.  Not to mention those other annoying things, all those things that happen when you room with someone you don’t really know.  And they did have those good times of going out, eating at the pizza place Zinnia had mentioned, or down at Besaw’s.  Besaw’s had a great brunch menu.

It was a good thing, maybe, that Zinnia still had Maggie’s text number . . . and vice versa.  As the heat started to come up in her Honda Civic, Maggie pulled out her phone and typed in a response to Zinnia’s text.

At the least, she might make an interesting character.  After all.

Part I, click here

Part II, click here

32 thoughts on “over the produce at Zupan’s (part II, cont’d.)

  1. Love it, love it!!!! 🙂 Thank you. And thank you for the dedication. With that, who cares if I’m at work, with a load of stress on behalf of the boss. I needed to breathe and this was a good way. You know, a great short story has a potential to be a novel. wink
    I love the characters. There’s so much still we can find out about them. Zinnia and Maggie make good characters… readers can easily relate. And the turn of events… a flashback can spice up a bit…
    I ‘lost’ a friend who was very close to me – we even used to share a bed (as sisters, haha!) and she didn’t buy groceries / toiletries, I bought everything, and she didn’t pay rent (I owned the house) but she paid for dinner out at times and she did buy a couple pieces of furniture I still have and helped me when I had financial problems… misunderstandings… lack of apology… lost love really. And we live in the same complex. We can see each other if we look out f=of our windows.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m starting to accept that this could be a process.. he seems to be “growing”. My boss is younger than me so I have to let him learn and grow. Haha. I’m hoping my patience and cheery disposition would suffice. He gets to me on my down days…


  2. Reblogged this on I think, I say, I do and commented:

    Theresa inspires me to get back to short story writing…

    This is a terrific part 2, which can stand alone as a short story without the part 1, I think… unless it’s because I still have part 1 in my mind. My head is still trying to get back to short story writing mode while I enjoy being a reader for now.

    And when the author dedicates a story to you, it can’t be beat!

    I love the characters – they touch my heart.. I can relate.

    Ah, lost friendships… lost loves…

    Oops, Theresa, I didn’t ask for permission so I hope you’re okay with me re-blogging this. I don’t think I should wait. Haha! Much love and hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m thrilled that you both liked this part II. I’m thinking, I need to go on with the stories of Zinnia and Maggie! 🙂 Never would have considered it on my own. Thank you! 🙂

    • and Anne, totally fine to reblog this- I’m honored. You were one of my dedicatees, after all!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You are really inspiring me to start thinking about writing short stories again. I kinda forgot how good it is to read them. The last time I wrote them were in the early 90s. Haha! I’m really loving it, thanks to you. 💖🤗😘

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, that would be wonderful. I have struggled on and off with writers block over many years, and when you get away from writing stories it can feel daunting. If you’re thinking of short stories you’d like to write, can I pass on a recommendation for a book that I’ve found super-helpful? Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction. Even though it’s got “Flash Fiction” in the title, each of these little essays just jump-starts my own story ideas and writing. Not sure if you can get it where you’re at, but I’ll cross my fingers! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes, every bit helps. I will look for it.
        I actually am in awe to read most flash fictions. I tend to write a lot of words so I envy those who write them. I’ll give them a try soon. And you’re right, even flash fiction can push us to expand ideas into short stories, maybe even books. We can dream and aim. 😊


      2. You’re right about the challenge of flash fiction – and I hesitated to recommend this book, but truly the chapters go beyond flash. I just opened the pages to a chapter on “Re-creation with Myths,” where you take a well-known myth or fable and either transplant it to the present time, or re-tell it from another perspective. For some reason, I thought of you when I saw this – though I’m not sure if it’s something you’d like to try!

        (for example – I have been inspired by this chapter to work on a re-telling of Medusa and Perseus, from Medusa’s point of view, in which Perseus has made up all these lies about his exploints, and he’s just trying to grab fame by murdering Medusa, who is really a very nice, but powerful, female. Um, come to think of it, this reminds me of some people I’ve worked for! he he)

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Sounds like you’ve already got it figured 😊 Is love to read your take on it… especially having similarities in real life. I must try, too.
        I think I’ve just re-worked Cinderella and also made it modern 😜 I might have it for my Friday post already. I couldn’t quite find the story for last week. Exciting weeks to come for our creativity… although my son didn’t want to buy my story. Haha.


      4. Very interesting! I didn’t know. I’m so into Hollywood and classic children’s fairy tale story books. My one is someone who lives in the city and loves her Jimmy Choo shoes 👠

        Liked by 1 person

      1. YES! The thriller and the horror aspect is really interesting. How would you suggest we get out the word, maybe do a dual-post? 🙂 one on each of our blogs, referring to the other blog? – let me know your thoughts!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m not quite sure about the logistics. It will also be nice to see them in one place. But I’d really love to see this happen. But yes, maybe we can start with a post on both our blogs..

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Here’s a suggestion, what if the invitation was to post their story on one of our blogs (yours is fine, since you had the wonderful idea!), and each of us posts the invitation on our own blogs … but the actual stories should be hosted (in comments?) on just one of the blogs. Would that work better, do you think? HUGS

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I think we can do that. If we worry too much about the logistics, we might not get to it. Haha. Me and my life. Lol!
        I’m going to create a separate category called, “Cinderella”. Apart from the actual stories being hosted in the comments, I will reblog under the Cinderella category. That way, we can also promote the writers’ blogs. It might go a bit slow but I’ll keep re-posting, I think.
        I was even thinking that we can do a compilation, we can be the main creators and we have all those we choose to publish as contributory authors. 🙂
        Here’s my email: anne@consultATsource.co.za. Let’s get the guidelines drafted and finalized. I’ve mentioned to another talented young writer/blogger. I’m excited. Are you excited?
        We can start off with our own Cinderella stories. Maybe I can post my “semi-“Cinderella (she didn’t lose a shoe and there’s no back story why she’s like Cinderella).
        Much love and lotsa hugs xxx


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