The young hippie paused at the doorway of the old barn, biting her lip. She had an interview with the rancher who lived here, and if the alternative paper in Portland published it, her couch surfing days might be over. But suddenly her Birkenstocks seemed out of place (she had already stepped in cow poo once). She tossed her long, wavy, brown-sugar-colored hair in determination. She couldn’t let a little bumpersticker like “Canadian Wolves–Government Sponsored Terrorists” stop her, could she?
Suddenly she stumbled over an old rake. So clumsy! And there he was, the rancher. He loomed over her, raking a hand through his wind-blown locks. “I didn’t expect…patchouli..” he said. “Real women smell like transmission fluid around these parts. But let’s get this over with.”
She asked a few halting questions and tapped on her Ipad. “You know, you really need to wear chapstick out here,” the rancher said. “That biting your lip habit has got to stop.” He raked a hand through his hair. She wanted to tell him that touching your hair a lot made it oily, but she refrained. That was when he looked at her speculatively. “You know, I have a proposition for you,” he said.
“What is it?” she asked, but he didn’t answer. Instead, he led her through the mouse-filled barn to a door. “Are you sure you can handle this?” he asked. “Most women can’t.”
Of course she could! She felt like biting her lip, but squared her shoulders instead. The rancher explained as he unlocked the door, “If you sign a contract saying you’ll participate in this room, it could be an eye-opening experience for you.”
He swung the door wide. She caught her breath. Thousands of containers, full of color. “Are those…”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said.
“But…this isn’t paleo!”
“Nope. Not even vegan.”
She almost laughed with the audacity of it. Could she really….would she?
The rancher looked sad. “Grass fed beef….cage free eggs….organic this, organic that. I just…I just can’t take it sometimes. If anyone knew, they would run me out of the county. But sometimes I don’t want to bring my cloth bags into Safeway. Sometimes I just can’t face driving to the recycle center. I mean, who knows if something is corrugated cardboard! And number one plastic, number two, I just don’t get it! All this eating right, no carbs, high fat, or is it high carbs, low fat? I mean, is bacon good for you or not! Why can’t someone say!” He looked close to tears.
“So at times like that, I go into this room,” he said. “I open a container and I start eating M&Ms, and all my pain goes away. Of course, it isn’t easy. I have to spread out my shopping. The Dollar Stretcher one day, Family Foods the next. I say that I’m stocking up for Halloween. Or I hide the M&Ms beneath the summer squash and the kale. You have no idea how hard it is.”
She stepped closer. “I’ve heard about people like you,” she whispered. “People into M&Ms. But it’s a shameful secret. Nobody wants to admit it. We’re not supposed to be eating them anymore.”
“That’s right. I can’t find anyone who wants to eat them, either. The women I’ve asked all look horrified. It’s just an alternative lifestyle is all. I just want to feel accepted!”
She thought for a minute. It had been decades since chocolate had passed her lips. The people she hung out with spoke of being intentional about their food. But what did intentional mean anyway? Maybe it was time to stop going to Whole Foods and really live!
This story brought to you by writer’s procrastination….or writer’s block… or something.