While I was contemplating whether a wrinkled cantaloupe was worth ninety-nine cents, my autistic six-year-old son was pressing a full-price Fuji apple to his lips. A sound that might have been “nom nom” prompted me to turn around.
“Philip!” I exclaimed. I hoped to find that he had been playacting for the mirrors at the back of the display, the ones meant to create the illusion of twice as much produce, but that my budding narcissist believes are there for him to practice his most dramatic expressions. Tossing the melon in my cart, I grabbed the apple from Philip’s hand. No pretending – a clear impression of Philip’s two front teeth remained where he had broken the skin.
“I guess we’re buying this,” I sighed as I dropped it into a plastic bag. I gave up on perusing the rest of the discounted produce. Just limp celery and browning bananas any way, I told myself. We finished our shopping with only a few, “Don’t touch thats” and “put that backs” for entertainment.
“Will you please keep that out?” I asked the bagger as we were checking out. He gave it to me without question, but I couldn’t stop myself from confessing to the cashier, “He already tried to eat it.” She smiled and continued scanning our purchases while I put the apple into my purse. I briefly considered whether I should wash it before giving it back to Philip, but knowing how much non-food crap he puts into his mouth on a daily basis convinced me it wasn’t worth the hassle.
Having paid for the fruit and the rest of our groceries, I put the bags into the trunk and buckled Philip in. I gave him the bag with the apple before closing his door. He began to nibble it as I drove home.
Finally, I thought, he’s eating something other than pepperoni and Cheez-its.
I reached out to turn on the radio but stopped. The sounds coming from backseat were beautiful. Crunching, chewing, chomping and “mmm”-ing blended together into a sweet symphony. I glanced in the rear view mirror to watch Philip gnaw the apple. I breathed in the fruity fragrance as it drifted toward me.
“How’s that apple?” I asked.
“Apple,” he echoed before taking another bite.
The frustration I felt in the store evaporated. The moment was a recital of successes: Philip not only verbalizing, but repeating something I said. Philip adding a new food to his dietary repertoire. Why would I want to turn on the radio? What could possibly sound better than these noshing noises?
I heard it before my brain registered the blur in my peripheral vision. Having eaten the skin off the apple, Philip was done. Rather than returning it to the plastic bag, he lobbed it over the passenger side head rest. I glimpsed down to see it rolling on the dirty floor. I opened my mouth to begin my “Philip, we don’t throw things” admonishment, but stopped. I had to admit it did look like a ball.
I guess the concert is over, I thought as I turned the radio on.