The Farmer's market ghost

I used to sell pickles at the local farmers market. My friend is 3rd generation pickle man so he sells them all over the place. I used to sell them at one of the busier markets outside a church. When Sunday mass ended, the crowd would pour out into the market.

There was a man who attend mass and then walked with his cane to the middle of the market. He had long hair and a beard, he walked with a cane.

He was quite talkative, and all the vendors and regulars knew him at the market.

I never got his name, but we would talk frequently. He had run into tough times and was homeless for a while. He suffered from an undisclosed mental illness. The church had helped him get back on his feet.

He was grateful for the church, even though he wasn’t a believer in the faith. I found this juxtaposition odd but refreshing.

He couldn’t find a stable job, but he was quite creative. After church he would sit in the middle of the market, resting his cane between his legs. I would sometimes give him a pickle bucket to sit on. But most times he preferred the pavement.

He would sit and draw pictures on discarded carboard. He would have ripped up cereal boxes and amazon packages. His drawings were abstract but had some recognizable forms like smiling frogs or dancing fish.

He would give them away to anyone who liked them. He asked for donations but not expecting any.

You can imagine how much controversy this brought to market. He was a Rorsarch test for the market goers. Some were bothered and appalled by his presence, others would engage playfully, but most pretended he didn’t exist. They walked past him with no regard, like he was a piece of litter in a busy parking lot.

If someone gave him a donation, he would make sure they took a drawing. He was reluctant to accept anything without giving something back. Most people gave without taking, but this only made him more persistent. But he would relent and express his gratitude.

Some market goers began to complain about him. He would never call kids over, but he always offered his art to them if they were curious.

Most parents didn’t like this, and I don’t blame them. I am sure I wouldn’t want my kids excepting drawings from a stranger sitting in the middle of a market doodling on ripped up Cheerios boxes.

On a hot, sunny packed fourth of July weekend, an elderly woman shouted at him for taking up too much space. He apologized and offered to move. She scoffed and ran off. It was the final straw. The town police came with the market head and they asked him to leave.

As he packed up his things and got to his feet, I offered him one last pickle on a stick. He declined gracefully. He didn’t care for pickles.

I said I was sorry for how it all ended up.

 “Vampires, zombies and ghosts walk among us. I’ve lived with them. I see them everywhere I go. Most people transform into these monsters without knowing. They are dead before they go to the grave. “ he said.

He handed me a drawing on the back of an oatmeal box. It was a smiling dinosaur with sunglasses.

I left it in the pickle van. It slowly became a sponge of pickle juice until it disintegrated.

He doesn’t come around the market anymore, but he still attends mass every Sunday. I never forgot about what he said about the monsters who live among us.