She turned her attention to the mouthwatering produce. Prepare it, first; paint it, second; eat it, third. Or, maybe, eat it as I go. She smiled and licked her lips. She hefted a firm, shiny cucumber, curving her fingers around it. I like the way this feels. It’s just the right size and shape. Her artist’s eye caressed the leafy greens tinged with burgundy, sitting next to the long, stiff, pale leaves of the romaine. Beautiful! She fingered a large, papery, delicate leaf of light green butter lettuce, noting its healthy appearance. The leaves were big, full, and fresh. The roots burst from the head, the tendrils still seeking life from the moist dirt clinging to each fiber. She squinted and held out her hand as if she were painting, stroking the air with delicacy.

A carton of bright red strawberries lay nestled in the corner of the box. She took one of the strawberries, flipped up the faucet handle and let the water dribble on the berry. She slowly inched up the solid, stainless steel handle until the liquid gushed. Holding the plump, ripened fruit under the cool water, she let her fingertips move gently over the stippled surface. Her hand coaxed the water faucet off and she bit the sweet, succulent berry, savoring the juices that filled her mouth. Mmm. I think I need more.

When she’d finished her feast of berries, she removed the lettuce, the smooth, waxy, yellow bananas, the glistening apples and the pale, greenish-yellow mottled pears. She arranged them along the countertop, eyeing each appreciatively. She regarded them through one eye, then the other. The apple, she decided. She ran a fingertip along the lustrous red-streaked surface before picking it up. With deliberate care, she lovingly buffed the skin to a gloss with a clean, soft, cotton cloth, turning it over and over in her hands, taking delight in the firm girth of the Honeycrisp. Seizing a knife from the drawer, she buffed the blade smooth with the same cloth, until her smiling face gleamed in the polished steel. She gripped the knife handle and slowly, deliberately pierced the flesh of the apple. The tip of the steel blade parted the skin and the tiniest bead of moisture seeped from the slit. She licked the sweet droplet, savoring the sugary nectar. She pushed the blade deeper into the flesh. As it gave way, it sprayed her face with tiny beads of juice.

Grabbing a silky piece of satin from the shelf, she arranged the apple slice, the berries and the lettuce leaves between the pink folds and prepared to apply paint to canvas.

From the Beckoning of Beautiful Things, scheduled for release mid-April

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