Story: A Matter of Taste

The guy had to be the most embarrassed person I’d ever seen in my life. “Excuse me,” he mumbled, looking everywhere but my actual face.

I set down the basket of lettuces I was carrying and smiled at him. Always put the customer at his or her ease; that’s the GrubMart way, or so my training manual said. “Yes sir? How can I help you?”

“Which… um… which fruit is the sweetest?” he stammered.

“Sweetest? Well, that depends on the season and how you’re planning on using it.”

“Using it?” He turned bright red and glanced around at the other shoppers. “What do you mean?”

I leaned back against the lettuce bin. “Were you just going to bite into it, or use it in a recipe, or blend it into a drink, or what? How were you going to use it?”

“Oh, of course. Ha ha! Yes, I see,” he said, visibly relieved. “No, no, I just, um. I need the sweetest fruit I can find, it’s a… er, it’s a dietary requirement. Look, could you just answer the question? I’m gonna eat it right out of the bag, which one is the sweetest?”

“Looking to make your semen taste better, am I right, sir?”

If you watched carefully, you could have plainly seen the last drop of blood drain from his face. For a second, everything around us went perfectly still. “Wha… wha… what did you say?”

“There are plenty of diets that recommend fruit, but none I know of that demand sweetness. The taste doesn’t necessarily determine the fructose level so if you’re trying to balance out an overdose of insulin that won’t help. No, sir, the only reason I know of for a nervous person to be demanding sweet fruit is to make his come taste better.”

“I… I…”

“I’d recommend pineapple juice. Tastes good and the acidic juice will give your semen a sugary tang. Might not be the best though, hang on.” His eyes bugged out when I called past his shoulder to my boss, three rows over. “Hey Murray? What do you use for better tasting come?”

Murray, middle-aged and balding, rubbed his hand over his face a few times while he thought about it. “I gotta go with your figs,” he called back. “Cleans that gunk right out, turns your goo into meringue.”

The customer just stood there, getting redder and redder. Then he jumped when the shopper behind him nudged him with a cart.

“You a smoker? Smoking tars up your spunk something awful. My Louise never would get down there before I quit the cancer sticks. Dunno why that they don’t mention that in those anti-smoking commercials,” he said, and laughed. “Ha! I meant about the taste, not about Louise. You know.”

A soccer-mom-looking lady digging through the tomatoes looked up. “Avoid asparagus. I still get queasy thinking about it.”

Next to her, a young man agreed. “And curry. God, I swear I tasted curry powder for a week after my boyfriend had some.”

“Avoid dairy products, and alkaline-based foods like fish,” yelled Murray.

“Anybody here tried Semenex?” I called out. “Supposed to really help.” No one had, but more people started moving over to the produce department to offer suggestions. That’s why I love working in a local grocery store. People are always willing to help out.

“Don’t drink hard liquor.”

“Yeah, stick with your naturally fermented beers like Rolling Rock or Kirin.”

“Peppermint schnapps can help,” said an elderly woman, patting the now-mortified customer on the shoulder.

“Papaya is good.”

“Stay away from red meat!”

A young woman carrying a loaf of bread stopped to suggest some herbal products he might try because they worked wonders for her youth director.

“Drink lots of water!”

“Hell, just wash the damn thing and I’d be happy,” one lady called out, to general laughter and applause.

When I looked back the customer was gone but I quickly spied him over at the checkout, piling cases of pineapple juice onto the belt. That’s a job well done, I thought, and went back to work.

In the distance, I could hear Sally, the cashier, look over his selections with a practiced eye. “Making your semen taste better, eh?”

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