-------------------------------

Just as every city in our fair country has a not so fair stretch of fast food joints, shopping malls and car dealers leading up to it, a generic strip which looks the same whether you're in rural Kentucky or urban California, so every natural food store has the same smell, be it in Oregon or Texas, a smell of tea and coffee and herbs and grains spiced up by an indefinable something, perhaps a whiff of incense, or, at the very least, natural soap. Now this smell may or may not be more pleasant than the unimaginative and unending asphalt and concrete foreplay leading up to the American City--that is up to the reader to decide. Far be it from me to prescribe preferences. This is nothing more than a little apt description spiced up by a little pseudo philosophy.

Diana and Geoff were being assaulted by the natural food store smell as they went shopping for dinner. "Be grateful you aren't living in the nineteenth century," Geoff said as he deposited a bunch of organically grown green onions in the shopping basket Diana had on her arm. The Happy Cucumber wasn't big enough for shopping carts.

"Why is that?" Diana asked. "At least choices were easier then. Shall we take the red leaf or the butter lettuce?"

"Well, the butter's on sale." The Happy Cucumber was not above having sales just like a normal supermarket, although the prices were still high in comparison. Biologically correct vegetables had their price, and it wasn't cheap. Diana could still remember when alternative food stores were full of poverty-stricken engaged idealists; now they were full of leftward-leaning, health-conscious yuppies.

"Okay, the butter it is," Diana said. She shook the excess water off the biggest head she could find.

"In the nineteenth century, a breach of sexual fidelity was still punished with death in some places," Geoff lectured her. "How about an avocado?"

"Shall we make guacamole?" Geoff nodded. "Then we'll need some corn chips. But as far as I know, infidelity was only punished if the perpetrator was a woman and she was married. And then it's called adultery."

"True. But think of all the fallen women in literature," Geoff pointed out. "They weren't all married, and they still had to die to pay for their sins - Hetty, Ruth, Anna, Emma, Effi, Tess..."

"Just a minute," Diana objected. She chose some corn chips from the shelf--not low salt--and relegated them to her shopping basket and the company of their future dip. "I may not be a literary scholar, and I don't know Effi, but I know Tess, and there wasn't any infidelity there, only premarital sex."

"Now you mention it, that's all Ruth and Hetty indulged in too."

"So the real issue was not infidelity itself," Diana stated. "It was socially sanctioned sex." Geoff laughed and Diana felt as if she had earned a brownie point. She had given up English long ago, but at least she could still hold her own in a conversation with a Ph.D. candidate. If only the conversations wouldn't be so long. As they finished their rounds at the Happy Cucumber, Geoff still wasn't finished lecturing her about fallen women, their literary function, and their relationship to Victorian society. As the conversation dragged on, she dropped out of it. Geoff was perfectly happy talking to himself. Maybe she really should introduce him to Mercy; Mercy was conveniently unavailable, and she probably would have been as enthusiastic about fallen women as Geoff was.