SHELF LIFE • by David Desiderio

Pickle Spear waited anxiously for the next burst of light to fall upon Cream Cheese resting quietly on the top shelf. Situated on the door between Sweet Relish and Mayonnaise he had little room to maneuver for a better view. It mattered not, for Cream Cheese sat at the lip of the shelf. He merely had to cast his gaze heavenwards to catch the glow of her silver box and iridescent blue lettering. And it was this last time he’d finally caught her eye! It was his golden lid and snappy green label with bold black lettering made her take notice of the dill marvels it held. Yes, he was full of himself especially as he stood alone, the other Spears having moved on. Cream Cheese was sure to notice his staunch resilience certain she too could shelter in his abilities to extend her life even beyond the expiration date. These things he would make known to her when the opportunity next presented itself.

It was night now and the household rested quietly. This allowed for ample reflection before the new sun chased away the sleepy darkness. He would waste no time making his feelings known. All the condiments knew of his passion and wished him well. Not so the others in the population. The vegetables were a jealous lot sniping at each other as their beauty slowly withered away. The meats, bloody and uncivilized, were too snooty to care about anyone else. What puzzled Pickle Spear was the animosity harbored by the cartoned and bottled. His greatest nemesis was Whole Milk suspended above him in a bloated gallon container along with Orange Juice and Lemonade. Besides the verbal mockery they sloshed their contents, terrifying Pickle Spear with the collapse of their overburdened shelf. Regardless of their torments the shelf held firm. This was a well-made refrigerator approaching thirty cubic feet with ample room for all its contents. Such space should lend itself to harmony and good will. That was not the case. The bickering between groups as well as between certain members of those groups was constant and grating. Pickle Spear saw in Cream Cheese a peace and serenity to be championed and cherished. This desire made him the subject of ridicule in this chilled world. Even Horseradish whom he considered a brother in vinegar sharing the same fermentation heritage thought his fantasy misplaced. But that only served to make his criticisms all the sharper. “Your days are numbered,” he liked to remind Pickle Spear. “You are the last of your jar. Spend this time making peace with the oblivion awaiting you. Your infatuation with Cream Cheese will serve only to make your final moments bitter and painful.” No matter the bite of Horseradish’s barbs, Pickle Spear would not let go his love for Cream Cheese and his hope to become a part of her life no matter how fleeting. It was Bottled Italian Dressing who counseled him to keep alive this hope. Lost and forgotten in a sticky corner, he was the oldest member of the population many months beyond his expiration date and had seen many come and go. He believed happiness when presented must be risked no matter how unfavorable the odds. He’d heard too many tales of regret uttered by the last squeeze of Ketchup or final drops of Hot Sauce lamenting missed opportunities for bliss no matter how improbable. He didn’t want Pickle Spear to end his days on such a sour note. Pickle Spear’s resolve was strong.

So the morning arrived and his world grew hectic. With each flash of light Cream Cheese looked upon him with greater longing, even loosening the glue on her flap to form a little smile. Such was Pickle Spear’s joy his brine came alive, sending flakes of dill and garlic and coriander in a dizzying whirl. It was all he dreamed of and more.

And then it happened. The light flicked on and Cream Cheese, so young, so vibrant was whisked away. Pickle Spear was beside himself with despair. The condiments rushed to his side to ease his sorrow. The vegetables and meats snickered in derision. However, Whole Milk relished his misery relentlessly mocking Pickle Spear for thinking something so foreign and repulsive as he could ever attract the affections of a starlet like Cream Cheese. Not even Bottled Italian Dressing could ease his pain.

Pickle Spear now longed for a quick end to his cold, solitary life. His wish soon came to pass. Several hours after Cream Cheese’s abduction he was taken from the shelf and placed on the dinner table. Resigned to his fate he stood crisp and tall determined to go out with a crunch. Two plump fingers fished him from his brine and set him on a plate next to Roast Beef who haughtily turned away with the warning to keep his teary, sour self away from his velvety gravy. Suddenly some commotion interrupted the feasting. Platters were shoved aside. Moans of pleasure filled the air. A dazzling cheesecake took center stage for all to admire. Caught in the hubbub Pickle Spear heard his name called and looked about. There was his precious Cream Cheese nestled between a mattress of Graham Cracker crumbs and a blanket of Sour Cream. “I knew we would see each other again,” Cream Cheese cried. “I want you to know how happy you’ve made me. I wouldn’t trade our time together for anything.”

“Your love has made my life worth living,” Pickle Spear answered, his voice choked with emotion. “I will cherish you for eternity.”

Before Pickle Spear could say another word he was lifted from the plate for the final journey to his end. Just as his head was bitten off he saw a knife pass through the heart of his beloved. All was silence.

David Desiderio is retired and a life-long resident of Western New York where he keeps busy editing and submitting his many short stories and three novels.

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Every Day Fiction