Friday, January 02, 2015


My wife and I only know the big grocery stores from the outside since we feel strongly that we should favour the communion of saints. Favour is the right word. Sometimes it is a nuisance, and yet I do not want to say anything bad about the practice. If the minister and his wife cannot support businessmen from the congregation, who will?
But there are limits, which led to a disagreement with the green grocers, two bachelor brothers from our congregation—the Brothers van Loon. They came around every Tuesday morning in their truck loaded with fruit and vegetables, and we felt obliged to buy from them. But my wife was not happy with their produce: the vegetables were often wilted and the fruit bruised. On top of that, she learned from a neighbour—who does not attend our church—that their cauliflower was more expensive than their competitor’s.
The competition also came down our street on Tuesdays. I suggested to my wife to leave well enough alone, but she is not so inclined. I think you can imagine how things went. It happened like this.
My wife flagged down the other green grocer as he was driving by. She looked at his cauliflower and compared it with what she usually bought from the Brothers van Loon. The cauliflower was so beautiful she thought she was looking at a bouquet of Spring flowers! Unable to resist the temptation, she bought two magnificent heads, but, as she was returning to the manse, who happened to turn the corner in their truck but the Brothers van Loon! And they had seen it all.
Acting as if nothing were amiss they came to our door: “Vegetables, madam? Some beautiful cauliflower?” “No, thank you; not today.” “Oh, not today? Did you perhaps buy from another supplier?” “No,” said my wife. “No? And what then did Madam buy from that backstabber?”
That is how the trouble began. My wife was furious and felt deeply insulted. In such instances I do well to show nothing but loyal solidarity.
After a few days things simmered down, until the brothers made the following move. The Brothers van Loon are proud of their high ethical standards, not only as it relates to commercial enterprise, but in the ecclesiastical realm too. They love to speak about “principles,” at men’s society and at congregational meetings, and are convinced that “on principle” everyone in the church should buy from them.
I was beginning to weaken in my resolve and suggested that we return to buying from the Brothers van Loon, but one look from my wife terminated that suggestion.
The next act of the drama came with a postcard which my wife found in the daily mail and showed to me. This is what it said:
We cannot respect people who abandon their principles. Go ahead and buy from the world! Brothers van Loon, green grocers.
Dismayed and not knowing what to do with it, I put the postcard in the breast pocket of my jacket.
As I had a week’s vacation time left over, my wife and I went to Paris for a few days where we had a lovely time. The Brothers van Loon and their principles were far from our minds.
One evening we were strolling down the Boulevard Rochechouart enjoying the fascinating spectacle of light and colour when we passed by a rather suspicious looking establishment lit up by an abundance of neon lights depicting images of women who, apparently, were not bothered by the cool evening air.
I stopped suddenly and said, “Look over there!” She looked at me in surprise. “At what?” she asked. I peered intently at the entrance to the cabaret. “There, at the ticket counter! Is it them?” She looked and then grabbed my wrist. “Yes, it’s them. Both of them.” The two Brothers van Loon, green grocers, were standing in line.
My wife took one look at the colorful sign above the entrance and wrinkled her nose in disgust. My nose is not as eloquent as hers; instead, I asked sarcastically, “Beautiful cauliflower, madam?”
We stood still for a moment watching the two unsuspecting sinners and then continued our walk somewhat stunned by the turn of affairs. Before we went more than ten paces a brilliant idea flooded my mind. “Wait here,” I said.
I hurried back to the entrance of the cabaret and with many murmurs of pardon, sorry, un moment, etc., I succeeded in approaching the unwitting Brothers van Loon, green grocers, from behind, just as they were taking their tickets and receipt. With a quick movement I pulled the postcard from my breast pocket and laid it on the counter right in front of them.
The last thing I saw were the two heads of the Brothers van Loon, green grocers, leaning over the counter reading the lines:
We cannot respect people who abandon their principles. Go ahead and buy from the world! Brothers van Loon, green grocers.
There are principles and there is revenge. Into which category this move of mine fell I will have to think about.

*Translation and adaptation by George van Popta of “De Wraak is Zoet,” De Weleerwaarde Heer (pp 67-70), Rev. M.E, Voila: J.H. Kok, Kampen, The Netherlands,1961.