Eddie Constable

In the 1940’s, towns like Framalopa were too small for chains like A&P and Piggly Wiggly.  Consequently, the landscape was dotted with small neighborhood grocery stores, usually mom-and-pop operations with little merchandising and a spare inventory.  You were lucky if you could choose between two brands of pickles.  The vegetables came mostly from local truck farms, and God only knew where small grocers got their meat.  As for chickens, they came from local farms—not gigantic chicken factories with cramped cages, fluorescent lighting, and assembly-line slaughtering—which meant they were fewer in number and therefore expensive.  (We had chicken every Sunday by way of celebrating the Sabbath, but never during the week.)

Constable’s Market was located on Osprey Avenue about four blocks from our house; and we bought most of our groceries there, though we also bought bread from Jay’s Bakery, when Mr. Jay would deign to sell it to us.  My father liked salt-rising toast drowned in butter, and my mother would stop by Jay’s every couple of weeks to buy two loaves.  Mr. Jay—whose real name was a 14-syllable, Eastern European word—would bake so many pastries and loaves of bread every day, sell out, usually by noon, and then head for the causeway, where he would spend the rest of the day fishing with a long cane pole.  Sometimes, grinning like a horse collar, he would hang around...

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