A Bottle of Orange Pop

The late summer sun crawled at the back of her neck and her flip-flop feet clung to the pedals of her hot pink bicycle.  Her mousey brown hair was tied up into a pony tail and her sky blue shorts and tank top were doing their best to fight the heat.  She was knocking at the door of her early teenage years, and with teenage years came more responsibility.  Or so her ma said.

“I need you to take your bike to the store and get me a few things.  We need bread…lunchmeat…toothpaste…cereal…chips…are you writing this down?”  Ma punctuated each of her list items with another puff of her cigarette.  There was a haze of smoke lingering around her face; a face deeply lined with years of hard living.

“No.”  The girl in the blue shorts had said.  Then she had scrambled through the haze over to the telephone table, where a pack of yellow post-its sat next to a plastic cup full of pencils.

“Oh…and a two-liter of orange pop.  Don’t forget that.  Your Dad’ll have a fit without it.” Ma never looked at her once while she made her list.  She just sat slumped on the sofa, cigarette between her fingers, The Price is Right shouting from the television in front of her.  Her boney ankles were propped up on the coffee table, feet barely grazing the ash tray.  The girl in the blue shorts sometimes wished that her ma was different – more like other moms she had met – but at least daytime Ma was better than nighttime Ma.  Daytime Ma was in a cigarette-filled haze, but nighttime Ma dipped into worse things after the kids went to bed.  Bottles and bottles of alcohol.  Needles.  Ma thought that the girl in the blue shorts didn’t know.  But she knew.

So she had found herself on her hot pink bicycle, flip-flop feet clinging to the pedals, two bright yellow plastic dollar store bags hanging precariously from the handle bars.  She rolled down the sidewalk, past houses with well-manicured lawns and flower pots peering out of windows, and wondered what it was like inside of those houses.  Were they as happy and carefree as they looked?  Or did a heavy haze eat away at their insides, too?

Then, it happened:  One of her plastic bags fell from the handle bars and smacked down onto the sidewalk.  The bottle of orange pop rolled out onto the cement.  She sighed and climbed off her bike, picked up the pop and dropped it back into the bag next to the toothpaste and the box of cereal.  But the weight of the orange pop was too much for it now.  The dollar store bag, already weakened by the fall, gave up entirely.  The bottom split and dropped all of its contents onto the ground.

“Crap!” She picked up the pieces, sticking the toothpaste into the other sack and cradling the box of cereal and the orange pop in one arm.  She would have to push the bike forward with the other arm.  It was going to be a long, hot walk.

She passed a couple of houses before it happened.  The unwieldy two liter of orange pop slipped from her arm and fell to the ground again.  She picked it back up, wishing to herself that such stupid things as big bottles of pop and cheap plastic bags and Mothers who didn’t care about anyone but themselves had never existed.  She cradled it in her arm again, and pushed the hot pink bicycle forward.

Then it happened again, on the corner next to the video store.  The orange pop slipped from her once more.  She sighed and let bike, remaining sack, and cereal drop to the ground next to it.  She pulled her phone out of her pocket.  There was no way she was going to make it home anytime soon like this.  She would have to call Ma to come and pick her up.  She punched in the number for home.

Meanwhile, back at the house, the phone rang.  But no one heard it.  Ma lay in a heavy sleep on the sofa, the talking head on the news announcing an approaching rain cloud from the t.v. set, the haze floating above her head, her cigarette burning a hole in the yellowed upholstery.

The girl in the blue shorts sat next to her hot pink bike, phone in hand, and waited.


(Note:  Just a bit of fiction for y’all today – because sometimes I get to see tiny pieces of people’s lives and I like to let my imagination fill in the blanks.  Forgive me girl in the blue shorts;  I wish you far better things than this.)




The Inside of a Peach


Ahhhh…Morning.  He stretched his long slender brown body and prepared himself for the day’s work.  Carefully he inched across the curve of the peach, not minding the layer of white fuzz that scraped across his belly.  The orchard was noisier than usual this morning, but that did not concern him.

(A rumble and a thump.  The tractor turns into the orchard row where trees are dripping peaches from their limbs and deposits a battered wooden box stamped with a green letter P onto the ground.)

There!  There it was!  The perfect spot.  He bit down into the skin of the peach until he broke through.  And now for the fun part: he bit into the sweet juicy flesh and started eating his way into the peach.  He was a peach miner with plenty of gold to dig.

(“Ahhhh…pobre de mi.”  Javier plucks a peach from the tree and drops it into his canvas-bottomed picking bucket.  The heat from the sun is beginning to cause droplets of sweat to form on his face and invisible peach fuzz is tickling at his arms.)

The peach miner had formed quite a tunnel.  He was now completely surrounded by peach.  With each bite, he felt that he was getting closer to heaven.  Life was good.

(“Que pasa, Greg?” Santiago greets the tractor driver as he lifts the ropes attached to the sides of the picking bucket from their hooks, releasing the canvas bottom and allowing it to drop all of its contents into the battered wooden box.  Greg leans over the box, picks out a brown rot peach, and throws it to the ground.)

He had reached it!  The center of the peach, a wrinkly brown rock.  The best bits of the peach congregated around this centerpiece.  He diverted his tunnel to go around the pit.

(“I sprayed for these suckers seven times!  I’m going to have to do something different next year.”  Uncle Tim picks a wormy peach out of the box and cuts it open with his jack-knife to reveal the trails that the worms have left inside.  This box has far too many wormy peaches in it.)

He did not hear the murder plots from the center of the peach.  He was too deep within the walls, too entrenched in juicy goodness to hear anything now.  He hummed underneath his breath and took another bite.

(“Look at this one, Grandma.  There’s two worms on this one.” The skinny girl with the long brown braid tosses the wormy peach out of the box, and picks up another.  There is a hole in the peach the size of the head of a pin.  She examines the hole.  “I think I can see the worm down in there.”)

He had no idea that he was being watched.  Thud!  The peach miner felt the walls of the peach shake underneath him, alongside him, over his head.  He tensed and froze in place. What was that?  An earthquake?

But it wasn’t an earthquake.

It was just me…

Sorting fruit in the orchard and imagining the life of a worm inside a peach.