Rosella’s, the neighborhood grocery in the space on the northwest corner of the ground floor of Hotel Julien, was open, more or less, 24 hours a day, year round. Occasionally, Rosella’s might close, without notice or explanation, for an hour or two or more, or for an entire day, and would reopen unceremoniously as if it had never been closed. Rosella’s specialty was not-quite-fresh fruits, vegetables, and breads she sold past their sell-by or best-by dates: day old breads and pastries, bruised fruits, withering vegetables. Her suppliers included the large supermarkets located not too far away but throughout the Southland, and local bakeries, and truck farmers in from the valleys. Her buyers (or collectors, for they usually hauled off the food without cost) included a family of 12, including 6 boys and 4 girls, and her husband, Ramon, though he and his oldest sons spent most of their time busy with the family bricklaying business – Ramon’s specialty was brick patios, walkways, outdoor fireplaces, walls. I found it hard to go into Rosella’s, even if just to buy an apple for an afternoon snack, without wandering around considering the diverse displays of other things for sale: hats, tshirts, and flip-flops; guitar strings (but only one kind – Augustine Red Label Classical); magazines and newspapers (English and Spanish), and used paperback and comic books; kites and windsocks; plastic bats and balls, kazoos, hula hoops. Also beer and wine; candy; canned goods (most past their sell-by date); beef jerky; bubblegum (the kind with the cartoon prizes); pizza by the slice cooked in a microwave and hot dogs from a table top machine with bun warmer (several tables with chairs and umbrellas provided sidewalk sit out space for eating); cereals and nuts; cat and dog food; flowers, dried and almost fresh; peanut butter and oatmeal. Rosella also sold postage stamps. You could purchase a money order. You could pay your utility bills. Milk, pop, juice. Single, double, triple A batteries. Cookies, spices, pastas. And the bins of fruits and vegetables: lemons and limes, apples, oranges, bananas, garlic, mushrooms, potatoes, peaches, onions, tomatoes, avocados. And the breads: como, sourdough, brioche, baguette, rye, pita, bagels, tortillas, biscuits. Surfmats and swim fins. From the shelves, walls, floor, and ceiling of Rosella’s, was stacked, hung, crated, or boxed, something for anyone.
“Rosella’s Market” is episode 35 of Inventories
a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)
Note: With episode 30, the title of the novel was changed
from the original working title of “Ball Lightning” to Inventories.