love and cashews at the five and dime

“In the dime stores and bus stations, people talk of situations, read books, repeat quotations, draw conclusions on the wall.” ~ Bob Dylan (Love Minus Zero/No Limit, 1965)

Back in the fifties, you could score an ice cream soda for a quarter at the main street five and dime. A king-size Coke would set you back 10 cents, a slice of apple pie, 15, and a ham sandwich, a whopping 30 cents.

This marvelous place carried just about everything you’d ever want or need — lipstick and lollipops, buttons and bar soap, diapers and daydreams. And the single best thing it offered was absolutely free: cherished stories to tell ever after about who you once were, what the world was like once upon a time.

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SMALL TOWN CASHEWS
by Alberto Ríos

Not Newberry’s. I loved Kress’s five and dime,
And the best thing in that store was the first counter on the left,

The popcorn machine, followed by glassed cabinets of nuts,
Mixed, separate, almonds, peanuts, candied, pistachios —

But the cashews were the ones. Warm, served in paper cones
Sodas used to come in, paper cones that fitted into holders

In the pharmacy soda fountain where I’d get a Coke
After school, waiting for my mother to get off work as a nurse,

Sitting there with my cornet in its blue case and glad
Not to be carrying it, a Coke, into which — what was her name?

Angie. The woman at the counter with the curly hair — she’d smile,
She’d get my Coke, and then she’d spill in some of the bright juice

From the maraschino cherry jar she normally used to make sundaes.
Cherry coke, she’d say, all those years ago, happy with herself

And for me: who wouldn’t love that? seemed plain enough
On her Angie face, and an invention good enough for me.

But the cashews in Kress’s: I once saw an older high school boy
Buy some for his high school girlfriend — she held them

And she smiled, looking at him, but I looked at the cashews
And never forgot, so that every time I went into Kress’s

I looked at the wooden cabinet that held the cashews
And wished the big pane of glass were not there,

That all those cashews were waiting just for me.
Go ahead, they said, every time I walked by:

What are you waiting for? Put your mouth right in.
Dive through. We’re all yours, every single one.

~ from A Small Story About the Sky (Copper Canyon Press), copyright © 2015 Alberto Ríos.

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