Edith scanned her shopping list and pushed her buggy down aisle five, under the sign that said “Canned Fruit/Dried Fruit/Jelly/Peanut Butter.” She was going to treat herself and mix up a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies tonight. She couldn’t manage to eat a whole batch by herself, but the grandkids would like them when they came over tomorrow. Now. Raisins. Where were the raisins?
There were jars of cherries, dried apricots, dried bananas (awful things, Edith thought, like fruit-flavored Styrofoam) dried cranberries, dried cranberries flavored to taste like cherries, dried cranberries flavored to taste like blueberries, and dried cranberries flavored to taste even more like cranberries. But no raisins.
“Please,” Edith said to the grocery stocking boy, “Could you tell me where the raisins are? I’m sure I’m looking straight at them.”
His Adams’ apple bobbed as he swallowed and she thought he looked unduly confused for such a simple question. “Er…I don’t remember seeing anything called that.”
She blinked at him. (Really, what kind of rock do you have to live under to not know what a raisin is?)
There was a pause and the stock boy said, “Uh, let me ask my manager. She’s probably in the back.”
Edith agreed to talk to the manager and went to pick up her other items. But when the manager found her and Edith repeated her request for raisins, the manager just smiled and shook her head, “I’m afraid we don’t carry that, ma’am. You say it’s a dried fruit? Would it be in the international section?”
For a moment Edith just gaped at her, this intelligent looking, well-dressed woman, the head of a store for goodness’ sake, who had not even heard of a raisin, much less thought to stock it.
“A dried grape!” Edith said, waving towards produce. “A little wrinkled, purple-browny thing—like a prune, but smaller. Really, it’s very common. People use it in oatmeal cookies, sometimes in carrot salad, in those granola mixes…it comes in little red boxes with a pretty lady on the front?”
The manager suggested a health food store down the street and Edith was ushered out, feeling somehow that they thought she was the crazy one.
At the health food store she was pounced upon by a pink and green haired clerk who immediately beckoned her over to the computer with a wave of a well-bangled arm. “We have so much stuff, and some of it has strange names, so this is just the easiest way,” the clerk told her.
Edith’s eyes bugged at “strange names,” but she held onto her purse and waited politely.
“Can you spell it?”
The clerk sighed. “Well that stinks. I’m sorry. Not a thing. Sure you weren’t meaning Rise-En, our natural male supplement?”
Edith blushed from her toes to the crown of her head, apologized for troubling the cashier, and hurried out. She intended to give it up as a strange coincidence, but she couldn’t leave it alone. She stopped in two different grocery stores on the way home with the same results in both. Nobody had even heard of raisins.
She let herself into her house, put away the milk and eggs, and sank down into her armchair, suddenly tired. After all, she was getting old, maybe—but no! She sat up and thumped the arm of her chair with a fist. “I am not imagining raisins, for heaven’s sake! My oatmeal raisin cookies are the best cookies this side of the Mason-Dixon line!” She picked up the telephone and dialed a number.
“Oh, Edie, is that you? You sound all tensed up. Is everything okay?”
“You are my oldest friend, Selma.”
“Since we were six!”
“Yes, and I trust you’ll be honest with me if I ask you a question?”
“Well of course—”
“Do you know what a raisin is?”
There was a pause on the other end of the line. “A what? Like, raising? Barn raising? Roof raising?”
Edith sighed. “I’m sorry, Selma, I’ve got to go.”
She sat on her couch and frowned at the ground for several minutes. Then she got up and went to her back closet to rummage around. That evening Edith made several trips to and from the grocery store. Her house started to emit the most unusual sweet aroma, warm and comforting, but her neighbor couldn’t identify the smell when it drifted over into his yard.
The next afternoon, a little girl with banged up knees and her hair in pigtails sat on Edith’s couch. Beside her was a boy whose eyes drifted lovingly over to the closed 3DS that had been taken from him and temporarily stored on the highest bookshelf.
“What’dya think Grandma’s got? She said it was a special surprise.” The girl said, swinging her legs.
“I dunno. Probably cookies. It’s usually cookies.”
She sat up, her eyes twinkling. “Oh you sound like you don’t want them! I’ll be happy to eat them for you!”
“I did not!” He was affronted. “I was just saying that’s probably what they were. I’m gonna eat my own cookies and don’t you try to cheat me out of them Sara-Beth!”
Edith emerged from the kitchen. The door shut behind her, so her grandkids did not see the sticky food dehydrator sitting on the counter or the empty grape bags scattered around her usually pristine kitchen. She presented them with a plate of cookies that smelled of butter, cinnamon, and a darker, fruity scent.
Sara Beth snagged a cookie and munched it, pointing to the purplish wrinkled lumps scattered through it. “What’re those, Grandma?”
“Don’t talk with your mouth full!” Edith said even as she panicked inwardly. She remembered all too well the moments she’d eaten a cookie she thought was chocolate chip only to find it was a raisin. Oh dear, thought Edith, I’ll turn them against raisins before I’ve even re-invented them!
“It’s not a chocolate chip—” she hurried to say, “it’s a raisin, a kind of dried fruit I…made up.”
“It’s good!” Sara Beth announced.
Her brother frowned and reached for another one. “What’s a chocolate chip?”