Fruit of biblical proportions.
By Michael Hunt
The peaches are ripe, and their skins are slightly sticky. He picks a few, pressing lightly, mindful of the soft down on the delicate skin beneath his fingers. The scent is sweet and aromatic.
He is picking them for the woman he loves, because five minutes ago, she had asked for some fruit.
“Certainly,” he had said, and had kissed her gently. Her lips had been moist and a muted brownish-pink, like the darker patches on the peaches. Her skin was as soft and downy to his touch.
The garden is large, and there are a dozen or more fruit trees in it. He feels content here, amid the patterned green shade and sunlight. It’s turned out just the way he imagined it would when he planted the trees four or five years earlier, not in rows, but anywhere that just seemed like a good spot. They are all thriving. A few bear flowers; others carry mostly-green fruit. Behind him lies the house, bordered with grevilleas and hibiscus, daisies and lillies.
Four peaches lie in the bottom of his wide, flat basket. He puts it down among the tangled roots of two pawpaw trees.
They both love pawpaws, and on one tree there are two ripe ones. He cups a hand around the smooth curve of the ripest. Its sun-warmed skin is firm and full. He twists carefully. Its weight sinks onto his hand, and he places the other hand upon it, enclosing it with the spread of his strong, brown fingers. There is a sweet, milky stickiness around the hard, circular bud at its tip. Its weight makes the basket settle a little deeper into the soft grass.
Beside the pawpaw trees there’s a red hibiscus, but he doesn’t pick any flowers. He’s already picked enough, has filled the house with their perfumes and colours. He did all that, and swept the house and washed the clothes, while the only woman he’s ever loved had a well-deserved rest, sleeping off yesterday’s exertion.
She had smiled when she saw all the flowers. “They’re beautiful,” she had said, “just beautiful.” That had made him smile, too.
So he can wait a few days before refilling the vases. The flowers can stay in the garden for now, a Mecca to the local bees who are buzzing around, lazily, heavily, like overfed diners still circling a smorgasbord, wishing their stomachs were larger.
He walks past the yellow blossom on the guava tree, and the hard, green nuggets hanging all around a late flush of pink apple blossom. In the far corner of the garden is a lemon tree, and wherever its shadow falls, the wild raspberry canes grow.
He sniffs the untamed astringency of the leaves and dips his hand gingerly among the thorns to pick the deep crimson berries. They’re a pleasure to be shared, perfect for popping straight into the mouth. Just right for rolling around with the tongue, slowly savouring the taste and texture.
He carries them in his up-turned palm so they reach her in perfect condition.
Near the house a banana tree is proudly displaying a bunch of green fruit. One of the fruit in the middle of the bunch is turning yellow, and he prises it out. It isn’t quite ripe, but its hardness, its pointed longness, looks good beside the softer, rounder fruit in the basket.
Peaches, pawpaw, raspberries, banana. He inhales their mingled, head-swimming perfume, longing to bury his face in it, surrendering to its living wonder.
“Some fruit,” she had said. So, fruit it is. Perhaps more than enough, but it doesn’t matter. They can save some until later, when they might discover new subtleties and sensations which have been overlooked in the initial gratification of their hunger.
Beside the back tap he picks a dark green sprig of mint which he lays on the peaches. Over and around them all he places the soft, purple berries, then opens the back door and steps inside. Outside the bedroom he pauses, wondering whether she might have fallen asleep again. All he can hear is the distant calling of birds as he quietly opens the door.
She is sitting up in the bed. The baby is gently sucking the sweet milk from her over-full breast. He smiles and she smiles happily back at him.
“Oh, you are wonderful.” She says, reaching out her free hand and pulling him towards her. They kiss, remembering when the seed was planted.
When they draw apart again, she looks into the basket, and asks, “No apples, my darling?”
He takes a raspberry, and puts it to her lips. “Not yet, Eve.”
She captures the morsel in the soft, pink wetness of her mouth, and says, “Awesome. Who needs apples anyway?”