The Fruit Shop by Gilbert Wong: An extract from The Journal of Urgent Writing 2017


The Fruit Shop: A story of growing up as a Chinese New Zealander

Wong Gee and Co was open five and a half days a week, and only succeeded when treated as a way of life rather than a job.

Dad's day started early and ended late, a 12-hour shift most days except the weekends. He would leave by 6am to trim cabbages and cauliflowers, wash lettuce and carrots, and set up some of the produce on the shelves before leaving for the daily fruit and vegetable auction at 7.30am.

Mum would rouse us in time for her to leave to open up for business at 8.30am and start re-stacking the fruit and tomato shelves.

By about 10.30am Dad would return, his truck piled with new produce. He would then spend some hours unloading and re-adjusting the cool-store, bringing new produce in from the rear for Mum to sell in the front.

Mum ran the front; Dad the back. Mum liked talking with our regular customers. Dad preferred silence or the refined burble of the Concert Programme. So that people could buy fresh produce for dinner on their way home, Wong Gee and Co did not close until 6pm.

On Fridays the town had late-night shopping and we stayed open until 8pm. On Saturdays we opened from 9am to 1pm. Before we went home, we'd wax and polish the checkerboard lino floor. On Sunday afternoon, Dad would go by himself in the truck to ready produce for the week ahead. He'd trim some greens, wash carrots and spuds, bring some produce out of the cool-store and leave it ready so Mum could easily stock the shelves come Monday.

We closed on Good Friday and Easter Monday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, and sometimes the days between Christmas and New Year. In order to take those days, however, we had to do a giant clean-up and quit all perishable stock or remove it to the cool-store. After this we would pack the car and drive for eight hours to visit my maternal grandparents in Napier.

They, too, had a fruit shop, the Shanghai Fruit Company.

Read the full extract at here.