Do you know that for every $1.00 spent at Hole Foods, twenty two-cents goes into R&D—that is something called research and development for the layperson (not that you are one, but just in case). This generous contribution by virtue of merely purchasing this $12.50 six ounce jar of kimchi allows us to be as precise as a gustatory laser beam to a colon polyp re: our buyers and, more to the point, re: what they buy and their overall health.
Take you, for instance.
We know this from your previous purchases: you are happily married, female, college educated, with a master’s degree in philosophy with a specialization in feminist hermeneutics. We know you have two cats (one older, one barely older than a kitten). We know that you are happily (relatively) married, and have a (moderately) active sex life, as well as a (moderately) active workout regimen. We know you make $101,923.23 a year, approximately, which in some parts of the country would make you rich as a queen and would allow you to live in a sizeable estate with gates and guards for the gates and tasteful old-seeming stone walls (actually built in July, 2014). However, where you live 100K is just a tic below the average salary and you live in a single family house with an eighth of an acre and two bedrooms. If you don’t close the blinds your neighbors can watch you undress and whatnot. Not that you undress in the bedroom—you use the bathroom because you are deathly shy, even in front of your husband—it’s almost quaint. We know all of this from your regular purchase of sprouted quinoa trio and organic cantaloupe. We know a lot. You have been shopping at Hole foods for decades, since our inception, actually, when you drove an hour each way from college through rush hour traffic just to purchase our organic bell peppers, carrots and heirloom tomatoes. Nobody had even heard of heirloom tomatoes then. They thought it was a brand or some remnant of the aristocracy. As we know, it is neither.
We’ve grown up together, haven’t we? In those days “organic” was enough. Now, of course, we need to provide artisanal beat jam, the freshest foraged mushrooms in town, ginger cauliflower teak and watermelon jerky—all of which you buy and love (presumably, since you buy them frequently). In the early days you could only afford a small hand-woven bag of regular staples. Now, dropping $500 at our Fairlington location is a regular occurrence. We are your provider, your farmer, your shrink, your pharmacist, your friend, your mother. We live with you. We gauge your intimacies.
Do you remember that time you were upset because your childhood friend, Kimmy, died in a motorcycle accident and you drowned your sorrows in Kambucha, kale beer and vegan lobster? Those items saved your night, didn’t they? Cheaper than a prescription for Xanax, and tastier. Your husband listened but how could he understand the deep repository of memories you held close to your heart—you and Kimmy at the beach, you and Kimmy playing cards and drinking cherry wine, you and Kimmy dishing about boys in the back seat of her station wagon. We understood all of that though, didn’t we? The minerals and vitamins we provided gave you a moral lift, a sense that here is the good stuff in front of you. What is good is good.
Do you remember the night your husband was out at a work conference and you were worried something might be going on between him and Samantha Oh, his hottie Japanese life coach? You came to our Hole Foods location and bought some mimolette from our cheesery and some flax seed crackers and a bottle of escargot-infused pinot? We felt such upwellings of sympathy for you, since we had no idea what was really going on between the padre and Ms. Oh. But it all ended happily as your multiple phone calls to your husband’s friend, Gale Soyers, revealed that Oh was not present for more than a couple of hours—and all in public sight. Don’t worry, hon, she assured you. Later our orange peel and pistachio ice cream also helped assist your eventual uptick in mood.
More recently, of course, the drama has leveled-off and you have found a kind of Kumbaya place in your marriage. The Friday night movies. The sunset walks. The swapping of favorite t-shirts. It’s like a gauzy film montage, but the music is better and no need for all that cross-cutting. All of this is aided and fueled, of course, by mood-boosting acacia berry smoothies and gluten free boysenberry muffins. We know these items may not have patched your relationship, but do you think it would be the same without our hibiscus tea (also gluten free)? We doubt it. Cure through food. That is our stamp.
You two love birds now have Kali and Forest, of course, you know this. We also know wholesale foods, sometimes from our competitors, have come in handy—all those hungry mouths to feed. We get it. Amaranth, spelt, semolina, teff, whole durum—all purchased by you in bulk on a regular basis. Jugs of kimchi, Brussel sprout chips, jackfruit pies, gluten free gluten. Bulk dirt—we presume Forest is the pica. Pica is the new caveman diet, as you may know! Low carbs, high energy. We enrich your family in countless ways—they grow, think and prosper because of us. And we know our hard and semi hard and semi soft and really very soft and quasi hard and pseudo soft cheeses from Swaziland, Guatemala and Pittsburg help growing muscles grow. Tallegio, limburger, toe cheese—booyah!
We are even there when you celebrate! Hole Foods is not simply for the daily doldrums. We are a party made to happen. But you already know this. You know how soul-enriching our certified flowers are. Not produced in a warehouse by machinery, which also handled peanuts, our certified flowers were watered and picked by women with—our promise—happy, soulful lives who receive dental and health insurance and who listen to Schubert during their working days from implanted microchips we installed in their brain stem on orientation day (they did not feel anything). These were the flowers you gave Kali when she graduated from middle school and the bouquet arranged and overseen remotely by Gwynie’s daughter What’s-Her-Name, we know, was a testament to Kali’s emerging femininity after the toast you celebrated with gluten free shmoo cake, gluten free rose petal stew, salads in a jar, more vegan lobster and orangutan fingernail cookies (great source of keratin!) and no orangutan infants are hurt physically or emotionally in the slightest in the process. Congrats to Kali and your family!
We are delighted as well to learn that you and Kali celebrated with rose masks, honey face masks and hair masks—all great ways. Sure Kali developed a few unsightly blotches, but as you have most likely discovered, Hole foods is likewise fulfilling as a beauty and health shoppe. We are not your great aunt’s grocery store! In fact, along with improving your facial complexion, hair and overall disposition, we have a masseuse on call in back. Upon your request the session can be moved to the bakery section. Something about the aroma of (non-gluten) ginger scones is so restorative.
Here you are in the apex of your life eating gluten free gummy worms and roving down the newly arranged produce section. Let me point out to you some recent additions in the “lawn salad” section: (1) fresh dandelion greens we picked from your backyard and are happy to sell right back to you at $15.78 a pound, (2) fiddlehead ferns, (3) clover and (4) bluegrass—all digestible if you are lucky enough, as I am, to have a second or third stomach and enjoy aid (easy-peasy). Once you make your selection there, may we recommend a salmon fillet gently fashioned by Joe “the fish whisperer” White, who hand selects each animal, befriends them, shiatzus their scaly heads one by one each evening and cries each night as he decides which fish to gently put to sleep whilst murmuring the solemn prayers of the Apache peoples. Or perhaps you are in the mood for red meat. May I suggest our humane retirement fund whereby you pick a steak and an amount of money is donated to the mass bovine departure? Each bovine survivor of the digested individual receives a 2K a month stipend. How our bovine friends manage their money is an issue still being worked on by our crack team of financial bovine experts.
We at Hole Foods know that life isn’t always easy. Sometimes your favorite jade plant catches a rare fungus. Sometimes your two cats use your head for a spring board at three in the morning. Maybe your husband really is sleeping with Samantha Oh (look into it—not out of the question) and has impregnated her with triplets and will soon admit all in a weepy, drunken confessional on your cruise to Curacao. We are there for you. We have gluten free plant food, cat scones, rope, Duct Tape and gluten free butcher knives for the eventual reprisal, if needed. We can arrange a locksmith to pay a visit to your residence within an hour’s notice. We even have a new partnership with both a psychiatric facility and a prostitution ring, should either come in handy. Make sure to swipe your Hole Card for a ten percent discount!
We wish you a happy and wealthy life. We know your family will survive any crisis, with our assistance. And if the worst were to happen, we have a funeral department just past the deli section and the proper arrangements (including, possibly, lunch) can easily be made. Make sure to download our 50% off coupon for cold brew coffee. Lastly, if you make the “okay” sign with your left hand to the woman with the transparent glasses she will know she should call Sal, who will call a guy, who will call a guy, and everything will be taken care of. Everything in the world!
Nathan Leslie won the 2019 Washington Writers’ Publishing House prize for fiction for his book Hurry Up and Relax (published October, 2019). Leslie’s nine previous books of fiction include Three Men, Root and Shoot, Sibs, and The Tall Tale of Tommy Twice. He is also the author of a collection of poems, Night Sweat. Nathan is currently the series editor for Best Small Fictions, the founder and organizer of the Reston Reading Series in Reston, Virginia, and the publisher and editor of the new online journal Maryland Literary Review. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, Julie.