I could see she was going to pass by my demo table in a hurry, until she caught sight of the muffins baking in my convection oven. She stopped her shopping cart and grinned, teeth missing on the upper left of her mouth.
"Blueberries, is it, dear?"
I smiled, eager to make my sales pitch. "Blueberry muffins. I'll have samples ready in ten minutes -they're more than half done...I'm promoting our non-stick bakeware. It's silicone coated and you don't have to grease or spray." I turned to show her the wide selection of bakeware displayed on the long table behind me.
"We have 25 percent off everything here."
"Twenty-five percent, eh?"
"Yes," I nodded, putting an oven mitt on to turn the muffin tin around. I was having trouble with the little oven not baking evenly.
"My! They look good. I used to make them muffins for my son all the time...Gary, that's his name. He's twenty-six now. Went to university four years — he did. Used to come home so hungry all the time. But he's working now.
"He's with Lambert's. They're a franchise — all over Ontario. Gary is in Windsor, that's where he is. Of course, there's not as much money in sales as there is in business. That's where he wants to be in the future — business. But this'll give him experience. They made him manager right away — assistant. They're training him.
"He comes home every Saturday night. He used to eat so much before, but now all he wants is soup and a sub. Mom, he says, that's all I want and I'll be fine.
"My husband, he's in drafting. Of course, he hasn't been able to get much work lately. Hardly worked at all last year. Then he had six weeks. Six good weeks, mind you. We caught up on all our payments, we did. He makes very good money when he works. He does! And we paid back everything. Oh, we did. Went and left ourselves with only one pay cheque. Of course, that wasn't too smart. It didn't go very far. We should have kept more...He's been promised a job in Toronto. This engineer he knows, he's already picked him to do the drawings. They just have to wait for the go ahead on the job. It could be a while yet. Not too long, though...How are they coming? Starting to look golden, them blueberry muffins..."
"Yes, getting there. I have to make sure they're done in the middle," I said, smoothing the front of my white smock.
"We used to live good once. Oh, we sure did enjoy ourselves. Travel all over, we did. Went everywhere...to Las Vegas, Jamaica. Of course, when my husband worked out of town, I always went along with him. Them days were great. We went to night clubs all the time, and saw a lot of big stars. We saw Frank Sinatra and Elvis, too. We did everything in them days...Don't burn them now. You wouldn't want to do that."
"Just two more minutes. That's all," I smiled. "The timer will go off."
"Did you know you can buy liver for 59 cents a pound? Yes, we buy it all the time. It's good, too! And chicken, now that's not too expensive it you pick it up on special. You just have to know where to shop. I buy apples all the time, though. You need fruit. Can't go without it...There was a time when I used to buy so much extra, but now we make menus. Monday and Saturday, we have liver — oh we do like liver. Chicken twice a week...potatoes with it. Fish one night. If you know what kind to buy, fish's not dear at all. Then we have a treat once in a while. A person needs a treat. Just some little thing to leave one a bit satisfied."
I took the muffins out of the oven. Placing a few of them on the cutting board, I began making small portions to set out on the serving plate.
"Help yourself, ma'am. Go ahead."
Before picking up her sample, she leaned over to look into a small bowl I had on the side. "Is that butter in there, dear? I'd like butter on it. Muffins aren't the same without butter. Lots of it, please."
"So many people have to watch their weight," I explained, "that's why I don't put butter on all of them. Well, here you go," I smiled.
"Thank you, dear. I'll let it cool just a bit."
She pushed her cart forward, slowly. "Blueberries are always just right — not too sweet. I like blueberries." Then glancing at her watch, she backed up a few steps. "My husband will have supper ready when I get back. Just in time. Chicken. He cooks it just right. Could I have another piece? My husband would love a piece, dear..."
I cut open a whole muffin and filled it with the soft butter. I handed it to her on a napkin.
Her eyes gleamed. "That's nice. Bless your heart...yes..."
Still holding the samples, the woman turned into the next aisle and I didn't see her anymore.
DELIA DE SANTIS, a Canadian who writes us from Brights Grove, Ontario, has actually been a part-time grocery and department store demonstrator; hence her piece in this issue is drawn from experience.
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