On my way home from a day trying to teach grammar to squabbling Year Nine boys, I stopped at the market. My wife had told me to buy apples which were ready to eat, not the kind that sat around for days waiting to soften. That's what happened last time. So I picked up each apple and looked it over carefully and pressed it between my thumb and forefinger to see that it was ripe. They were Golden Delicious, my wife’s favourite. Last month I bought Granny Smiths by mistake. She hates them because of the name rather than the taste. “I'm not a granny yet,” she yelled. She hasn't been the same since I took her dog for a walk without a leash and it got run over by an ambulance.
I took my bag of apples to the cash register and waited in line. The cashier was talking to a customer about the Olympic games and how badly Australia was doing. I looked at my mobile to see how much time I had before my train was due. Nine minutes. A man and woman were shouting at each other outside the stall. They were lean and both wore track suits, but they were not athletes. His hair was long and tangled and hers was dyed white. They stood face to face bouncing about on their feet. She kept telling him she wanted a big hit this time. He told her he'll give her a big hit alright, a big punch in the face. They swore a lot, repeating the same swear word over and over. He swore after every third word and she swore at the start and end of every sentence. They kept fighting as they crossed the road.
“Next please,” the cashier said again.
“Sorry,” I replied, shifting my gaze away from the two junkies. She weighed the apples.
“These are ripe enough to eat now?”
”We only sell good apples. You want them in a bag?”
I looked at the bag of apples in her hand. I wanted to say they were already in a bag but instead I said, “No thanks.”
“You want me to take them out of the bag?”
“No, they're fine,” I said, feeling heat in my cheeks. I gave her a five dollar note and rushed off without my change.
“Hey,” she yelled but I kept on running.
At the station I saw the couple leaning against a wall smoking. They were staring off into nothing as if they'd just had a hit, and this was a relief because I didn’t want to hear them yelling again. The train rattled in and I joined the crowd getting on.
The woman stumbled as she was stepping onto the train. I was behind her and saw her knees buckle suddenly for no apparent reason. She fell against me and knocked my bag of apples out of my hand. They fell into the gap between the train and the platform. “Shit!" I said as I peered at the apples lying around the train wheels. The man grabbed his woman and dragged her onto the train. I sat a few seats away from them. The woman was lying on the man in her seat, face up with her mouth open, her eyes closed and her face draining of all colour. He shook her a few times and I saw tears rushing down his cheeks. He looked all about him in a crazy kind of way, not focusing on anything. He patted her head and kissed her hair. “Heroin overdose” I thought. I tried to see if her chest was moving, but I couldn't tell. She looked dead and I knew I'd be dead too when I arrived home without my wife's apples.