Today, I saw a man carrying an onion. I was heading north on Highway 17 and he was walking along Houston Northcutt boulevard in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. I was first at the red light (yes!) and he crossed in front of me, walking his red bicycle. His onion was yellow. He was carrying it like carrying an onion was a normal act. The onion was in his right hand; throwable, if he wanted.
He was a scruffy, homeless looking man. He carried the typical look of a man lacking residence: thin build, peppered scraggly beard, dark hoodie and old loose jeans. I never saw his shoes. He had a bike and an onion, so he wasn’t completely without property. I’m not interested in his social status, credit score or net worth; he could be an eccentric billionaire. I want to know why he was carrying that onion.
On Houston Northcutt boulevard there are two grocery stores, Whole Foods and Harris Teeter. I’m praying that onion was organic. If he stole it, he’s a terrible thief. The apples are right there. Maybe he’s one of those too-clever-for-his-own-britches thieves and he figured the apples were being watched so he stole an onion. Apples are like the stuff behind glass behind the counter at convenience stores. Very shoplift-able. An onion is like a gallon of windshield-washer fluid; you can steal it but it’s only a dollar seventy nine. I know, apples are cheap too, but come on, they’re delicious. Onions can be delicious too, but not as a stand alone item, uncooked, crossing the street, walking a bike.
I am tired of all this judgement. A man crossed the street carrying a yellow onion minding his business and my mind was so intrigued or beguiled that I had to write this story. I saw the Onion Man for maybe thirty seconds and I have his entire life and motives figured out. That really stinks. I guess it’s human. Judgement was and is a survival technique. Our caveman ancestors had to decide wether or not another caveman was friend or foe before they became victims of a club. And now, thousands of years later, I’m sitting at a stop light judging a man carrying an onion. That’s science, folks.
Science aside, I’d really like to know why he was carrying that onion. I wonder if that was his lucky onion? You have a rabbits foot, he has an onion. He could be an actor and he needed the onion to induce tears while practicing the lines of a play. He could be a cheater and he needed the onion to feign sincere remorse. He could be freshly divorced and his wife took everything except his bike and this onion. Carl Weathers could be in the new Hotel Indigo across the street. Maybe he has a stew going and he needed this man to buy him an onion so he could finish his stew. I hope Carl Weathers was really over there.
“The man with the onion” is a terrible title of a children’s book. It’s not a great topic for a short story, but you’ve gotten this far. I wish I could say I made it up. That I didn’t see a man crossing the street with an onion. But I did. Then, I spent the afternoon writing about the experience. Life gave that man an onion. Did I make Onion-ade?
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