Why Some Things In Life Come with a Guarantee


“Harvest on the Corner” vegetable stand in Atlanta. The watermelons are the enticement that get you to pull over.

I’ve been eating watermelon for weeks now. I get them from a vegetable stand around the corner from my house. It sits on a scrap of land that looks like leftover dough in the armpit of an interstate on-ramp.

A tiered display of watermelons shaded by a large red umbrella is the hook that gets you to pull over. The melons come in all sizes and varieties, with seeds and without.

The name, “Harvest on the Corner,” is hand-painted on a wooden sign that hangs over a burglar bar door that secures a small metal building. Jars of chow chow, muscadine jelly and other local preserves are for sale as are vine ripe red tomatoes, not-quite-ripe peaches, Vidalia onions, purple onions, baking potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Electric coolers display cold cucumbers, ripe peaches, and shucked yellow corn, among other delicacies. A fat seashell on the counter releases a steady stream of smoke that keeps the bugs away.

The first time I shopped at “Harvest on the Corner,” the proprietor informed me that my watermelon came with a guarantee. If it wasn’t sweet and to my liking, he told me I could return it no questions asked.

The first few weeks I shopped there, every time I bought a watermelon, they were all pink and sweet and delicious.

But the guarantee–repeated with each watermelon purchase–made me philosophical. There are no guarantees in life other than the fact that there are no guarantees. Nature happens. Life happens. Shit happens. Who always knows when or why?

My next visit, I introduced myself and I asked for the secret behind the guarantee. I learned the vegetable dealers name was Raymond, that he was from Jamaica and had been selling vegetables in Atlanta for nearly 30 years.

He laughed a little at my question. It was no mystery to him. He bought his watermelons at the Georgia farmers market from the same dealers, whose seed stock he knew to be good. Some farmers, he explained, had bad seed stock that did not produce sweet melons but it was too expensive for them to replace it.

“It’s like pretty people,” Raymond illustrated. “They like to marry other pretty people so that their children will be pretty.” It’s one of those statements that has truth and bite at the same time.

“Like you are a pretty lady, your sister must also be pretty,” he continued, trying to flatter me and succeeding.

Since then, we have discussed many topics, from how to write an award-winning screenplay (this was just theory because neither of us have done this) to the ebbs and flows of operating a vegetable stand.

The other day, Raymond told me he had a new crop of small watermelons with yellow meat and seeds. I was tepid on the idea at first. But then again it didn’t take much to sell me because up until that point, my Jamaican friend had never steered me wrong. I ended up buying $24 worth of produce. Raymond’s credit card swiper was on the fritz so he told me I could owe him and pay next time.

I admit to feeling a bit smug that a roadside grocer would trust me to owe $24. What made Raymond so certain I would make good on the debt?

The very next day, I returned with cash. It was nasty hot out, made worse by the traffic fumes and noise at the busy intersection. I found Raymond asleep in a chair inside behind one of the coolers. He was fast asleep.

Not to startle, I backed up and pondered the okra cooler a moment and thumbed around on a grouping of baby watermelons tucked around the corners on the floor with suspicion. Then I cleared my throat and raised my voice a bit louder than normal, “Raymond!?”

He smiled as he awoke, rising and hugging me in recognition. “How are you, my friend?” he asked.

“I’m good,” I said, wondering if I should mention the fact that the yellow watermelon tasted like tap water. Instead, I reached out a bag of pink-eyed peas that I am told are very special.

“I don’t like the yellow watermelons,” I say finally because for some reason I have a need to get this off my chest. “What I got last time? They’re not sweet at all.”

“Oh, you don’t?” Raymond asks with little interest. He doesn’t offer to replace it and I don’t press about the guarantee.

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