“Perhaps you’d like to try a pork pie?” asked the plastic woman in a green gingham pinafore, pushing the brown dried-up object toward me. She looked desperate and rather sad in her box in the middle of the supermarket aisle.
“No thanks,” I replied politely. “I’m a vegetarian.”
She was taken aback. Obviously this contingency hadn’t been covered in the five-minute training session.
“There’s hardly any meat in it,” she ventured, surprised by her own ingenuity.
“That’s not what you said before,” grumbled a large balding man, wielding a trolley full of six-packs and pork pies. “Packed full of succulent meat,” he mimicked.
The plastic smile threatened to dissolve in the heat of the situation.
“Well, the pork is succulent,” she stammered. “But too much meat is bad for the cholesterol, you know.”
I was impressed. I was also feeling guilty. I could easily have taken the offending object and dropped it in a litter bin.
“I’m sure they’re very nice pies,” I began, but a woman in a pink fleece pushed past me.
“Is pork bad for your heart, then?” she asked crossly. “Cos you told me before they were full of protein–good for the kids, you said. You never mentioned anything about them giving my lads a heart attack!”
This was dreadful. The poor demonstrator was obviously close to tears and flushing dramatically. It could have been her age but then again who knows how many pies she’d consumed during the two day promotion?
“No, no, you’re wrong,” she snuffled. “Millers only use lean meat. No fat in their pies.”
“If that’s true, then I’m going to report you to the Trading Standards Agency,” said a sharp voice from a stern grey suit. Another irate customer–although he looked more like CIA to me.
“Because the wrapper distinctly says 9% fat and that’s false representation.”
The green pinafore sat down on the cardboard pig at the side of the stand. I think she may have been having an anxiety attack but she took a deep breath.
“But there’s only 2% saturated fat in each pie. So you see they do contain fat–but then again they don’t, if you see what I mean.”
She gave up the battle and put her head in her hands.
“Come with me,” I said, and led her away to the caf for coffee and beta blockers.
“They’ll all have gone in a few minutes and you can start afresh. And I promise to take a pie in front of everyone to start you off.”
The woman smiled gratefully. “I think I’ll be all right now, thank you.”
But as we made our way back to the pink pig, she gave a gasp of horror and disbelief. A young boy was staring at the cardboard piglet and pointing an accusing finger. More small but malevolent faces behind him were turned on us.
The stand was situated next to the aisle selling new large screen televisions. They were all switched on and all showing the same programme.
But why did they have to choose that very afternoon to show “Babe”?
Until recently Heather Parker worked for the University of Cumbria but now writes semiprofessionally. She has won prizes in several major UK competitions and many of her stories have been published in popular British magazines. One has appeared in a new book of mystery stories in the USA and her new novel will be published in October by Drollerie Press.