The Boy Who Gave Me the Middle Finger

Recently at one of the farmers markets I sell at, a woman and a teenage boy approached my stand, paused for a moment to whisper together, and then stepped forward. The boy was maybe seventeen, the woman in her mid-sixties.  I couldn’t place their relationship. The boy spoke for them, and he was shy.

“We were just wondering,” he said, “about those peas. If they’re the edible pod kind.”

I said they were, and taking a pea from a bowl full of them, I held it up, called it a snap pea, and showed them how to remove the string. Then I ate it.

“Would you like to try one?” I asked.

They both shook their heads no. But then the boy immediately changed his mind and said yes. And he followed through. He selected a pea, and, removing its string, popped it into his mouth. The woman and I watched him.

“The funny thing is,” he said, “is how we were just talking about this. I said you can eat the pods, she said no you can’t.“ We laughed, and I noticed the boy had a habit of rocking on his toes.  Every time he said something, he would lift himself with his toes.

Another thing I noticed (I had picked up on this immediately) was the kid’s shirt. He was wearing an oversized, black tee shirt. And plastered in huge on the shirt from the collar down to the hem was a yellow image of a menacing young man giving the world the middle finger. The finger was gigantic. It was the largest middle finger I’d ever seen. When the boy had reached for his sample pea, that finger was inches from my face.

“Let’s buy some,” the boy said to the woman. So I bagged a pound of peas, the woman paid, they left, and I thought no more about them.

But about twenty minutes later when I turned around after getting something from a cooler, there it was again, that middle finger, and filling all available space directly in front of me. The kid was back, but alone this time. He had a handful of bills showing and was almost smiling.

“Can I get more?” he asked.

“Peas you mean?”

“Yeah. Peas.” He pointed at them.

So I sold him another pound, plus one bunch of baby carrots. And he left.  But this time I paid attention to him. Eating a carrot as he went, he walked directly out of the market area, found his car, and got into the driver’s seat. I watched him for a moment, but as there were customers to tend to. I again forgot about him.

Until, and I’m not making any of this up, he returned for a third time. Same middle finger, some habit with the toes, but friendlier this time, confident almost.

“You’re back,” I said. “What took you so long?”

“Yeah,“ he said. “Hey, could I get more of those carrots.”

“Sure” I said. “You could get more if those carrots.”

He got his money out, counted it directly in front of that yellow finger, and handed it to me.

“I’m eating them in the car,” he said. “I eat them right down to the greens. But not the greens.  I throw those out.” And it was true. I watched. He went to his car, and I could see the carrot greens sailing out the window to land on the parking lot.

Somehow his car was missing part of the left-front wheel cover.  From where I stood with my peas and carrots, I could see most of the tire. I had wanted to watch him drive off, to see which way he went, but I didn’t get the chance.

I’ve been thinking about the boy ever since. I like thinking he will remember me. Actually, what I really mean is I like thinking he’ll remember my carrots.  I have the idea that if he remembers my carrots he’ll somehow come to forget that finger.

I wrote this one in July 2012.

4 responses to “The Boy Who Gave Me the Middle Finger

  1. Susan Curtis

    I think this was the first post of yours that I read. I think about it often — almost every time I am at a market. Funny

  2. Thought provoking.

    The boy goes to his shirt pile in the morning and selects a shirt to wear that day. The shirts are on the floor or draped over furniture. They are not neatly folded and stored in a drawer. He picks one that has a giant F-You middle finger plastered all over it. He thinks it’s cool. He puts in on and then he forgets about it. He forgets that everywhere he goes people see this F-You middle finger. He has forgotten about it now. He goes about his business in his true personality which is not F-You.

    Thanks Will. Nice little story. I’m 100% sure he will remember you and the carrots.

  3. I loved this. Reminds me so much of former students.

  4. Real carrots can be magic like that.

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