Simple stood on the stoop of his shop, wrist resting on the handle of a broom he often used, chin propped on top, watching people walk to or from wherever they were going or had gone.
He welcomed the few nods and a seldom, “Simple,” given by those who knew him enough to speak to him directly.
His given name was Simpson, a man who listens, and even though he didn’t know the meaning of his name, he was.
Before crowds passed so quickly, in the going or had gone, he was addressed as Mr. Sacheverelli—when people had the time to string seven syllables together in order to address him properly.
“How are you today, Mr. Sacheverelli?” said a customer. “How’s Marion?”
“Ah, Marion! My fine lady is primping herself into perfection and eating only the finest fish from the market. She’s got seven little ones you know, and is busy getting them fit for the world.
“Marion,” he’d call. “The man in the herringbone hat is here!”
But as time went on, he’d turn to speak and the man in the hat’d be gone.
Swiftness became the rule, and therefore his name was shortened to Sach-che-vey—which he rather liked. It was poetic and mimicked the swishing of his broom, so that when he swept he would hear it whisper, “Sach-che-vey. Sach-che-vey.”
His shop was perfectly square, with a front and back door perfectly aligned, another thing Sach-che-vey liked. He’d sweep the dust over the stoop, along the checkered aisle and out the back door where it belonged.
As more time went on, he and Marion watched their seven grow and leave their small upper flat, perfectly square and above the store, to make their way in the world.
Passersby barely nodded now, and regulars expected their ware ready for them on the counter, plunking their fare on top, no time for sounding cash registers or serrated receipts.
Over the years, the poetic “Sach-che-vey” was replaced with “Simpson,” which was reduced to simply “Simple,” said with backs toward him on exits, goodbyes barely spoken.
He finally placed a small table out front that held popular items so they could grab, plunk and nod. Oftentimes even the nod was missing.
One day, tired of sweeping, he sat on a wooden chair with Marion nearby, busily licking the last bits of fish from its newsprint wrapper, and was found in the shop at dusk. The obituary announced, “Mr. Simpson Sacheverelli, owner of the Sixth Street Market passed away suddenly on Saturday with no known relatives.”
Those glancing at the article didn’t recognize the name.
The new shop owner grabbed the broom, handle worn and smudged, hardly noticing the rhythm it whispered as he swept. He didn’t notice his young boy lift a plump cat from behind the empty counter.
“Look, Papa!” he cheered. “I keep her, Papa. Yes?”
With a simple nod and smile, he closed them in for the night, then swept the dust along the checkered aisle and out the back door where it belonged.
“Sach-che-vey. Sach-che-vey. Sach-che-vey.”