The editing (or perhaps I should call it, “the total re-write”) continues slowly.

I am at the point of making serious decisions. Decisions so dire it makes editing feel like murder. But, sometimes I know that scenes and people have to go because they aren’t helping with the overall story (even if it makes me a serial killer.)

Mr. Griswald is one of those people. I met him several years ago and it was love at first sight (at least in my mind’s eye.) Then I had the unexpected opportunity of meeting the almost exact physical embodiment of Mr. Griswald in my neighborhood in Chicago. The real man was as delightful as the fictitious one.

Mr. Griswald’s small part in my book is one of my favorites. But, I fear he may have to go. And to come to terms with that, I’d like to introduce you to him.

Mr. Griswald, of The Gourmet

Cleo stepped into The Gourmet, the domain of Mr. Griswald. He peered at her through the fog appearing on his horn-rimmed glasses, a steaming teacup paused at lips hidden beneath an elaborate white mustache. He was a fixture of the culinary shop, a slight, but sturdy man who added a distinguished air to the atmosphere.

The Gourmet was not like any other shop. Mr. Griswald had paid quite a bit of money to be sure of that. People often spoke of flow and positive energy, and these were exactly the kind of people he wanted to patronize his establishment. Designers, decorators, and the odd spiritual guru had advised him on the proper form and function of nearly everything and as a result the shop was inviting and refined. Equal parts culinary delights and art; a place a person might never want to leave. The staff, like waiters in a fine restaurant, were ready to run down the nearest aisle to fetch almost any food imaginable. They advised the chefs in the finest homes and restaurants on the ingredients most appropriate for their creations; therapists for the culinary world.

As inviting as his shop was, Mr. Griswald was not. He was perpetually frowning and disapproved of nearly everyone, but he did like Cleo. And she liked him in return, especially his mustache, which he took great care to curl up at the ends each morning. She thought it made him look very literary; not like a real person, but a character with foibles and problems, threatening to nobody, least of all her. His approval of Cleo was not bestowed so generously. She had earned it.

Cleo had been there when Mr. Griswald had been viciously, as he saw it, assaulted by her neighbor, Roman Vance. Roman, who had previously been banned from the shop, stepped inside and shouted “Hey Gris, check out this tomato, it’s quite ripe!” It wasn’t very clever, but the entourage following him erupted in laughter as Roman launched the tomato into Mr. Griswald’s face, where it splattered and then slid down his front, defiling his fine tweed jacket. Cleo hadn’t laughed, which the gentlemen, as he believed himself to be, greatly appreciated. She simply walked over to him, lifted up onto her tiptoes, pulled the handkerchief from his jacket and gently wiped his face, all the while never taking her eyes out of her book. He stood there, frozen in his state of disbelief, insulted by what had just happened and confused by the absent-minded way this young girl was trying to help.

When Cleo did look up, she apologized, “It’s a very exciting part.”

Mr. Griswald laughed, releasing his terrified staff who joined in the revelry, and he decided he and Cleo were going to be very good friends. And friends were exactly what Cleo needed, because those hooligans who were constantly harassing Mr. Griswald did much worse to that poor little girl. He’d seen it with his own eyes.

Mr. Griswald decided early in his career, long before his elevated status as owner of The Gourmet, that it was the duty of grocers to stamp out hooliganism. He reasoned that hooligans, who were not gentle with people, would most certainly not be gentle with fruit. Mr. Griswald knew this lack of respect for proper food handling would cause bruising, and lead produce prices to plummet, which would inevitably lead to the downfall of civilization. Cleo, on the other hand, took great care with her fruit. He liked the way she gently handled each piece, examining every inch of its surface, smelling, and then tasting it after she’d made her purchase.

If Mr. Griswald caught anyone harassing her, he would deliver justice by refusing to sell goods to the chefs in their parent’s employ. “Why won’t I sell my goods to you this fine morning? Well, let me tell you . . .” Results were immediate. Telephone calls were made, apology notes delivered and sizable monetary gifts bestowed in Cleo’s name to feed starving children across the sea so that exotic dishes could be served on time.

Mr. Griswald knew of his great power but never spoke of it, out of propriety. Every good grocer knows, when you control the food, you control the world. And when you bruise the fruit, you will be made to pay.

Cleo picked up a pint of plump blueberries, packaged carefully on a bed of fine linen in a little metal tin, as she did every day. Mr. Griswald, as always, bristled her cheek with his mustache on her way out and watched her protectively as she made her way down the street. Roman Vance interrupted his vigil, suddenly appearing on the other side of the window in brightly colored sneakers and dark baggy clothes, his keen face, dark mirth-filled eyes, and unruly auburn hair just inches from Mr. Griswald’s face.

Mr. Griswald sputtered indignantly as Roman made a rude gesture at him before running down the street, laughing maniacally. By the time Mr. Griswald regained his composure, Cleo was gone, and so was his opportunity to observe the stranger following her.