It is raining. A hose is broken on the shaker, so work is at a stand still, despite the plump red-ripe cherries hanging readily from the branches of the trees in the orchard.
I sit in my protective box of a tractor while the rain edges closer and closer, eating away at the sides of the cab like a child slowly nibbling away at the sides of a doughnut. The tractor cab is unfortunately not the fortress that it was in its younger years. It fell prey to a careless driver – a large man with a penchant for driving fast with windows and doors propped open to let in the air.
One day he flipped it over a guard rail, spray rig and all. Crack! Smash! The tractor tumbled and landed aching in the ditch. One day it was the back window, improperly propped. Smash! Shards of glass. The tractor sighed. Another day it was the doors. A too sharp turn. A long-limbed tree. Smash! Shards of glass. The tractor shivered and shook. Now only one bit of glass remains: the front window. The last man standing in a long drawn out weary-to-the-bones battle. My only defense from the rain.
So I sit. I can hear the forklift in the background, running around the cooling pad like a chicken that has discovered a worm. Mine! Mine! Mine! Beep! Beep! Beep! It is picking up tanks full of cherries and placing them on the pad to be cooled with water flowing icily from the well. Once cooled, they will be taken to the processor. The little forklift is hard at work.
But I –
am waiting, whilst rain patters on the roof of a worn-down tractor I do not much care for, but have been assigned to drive nonetheless. It is a tractor with forks on the back meant to drop off empty cherry tanks and pick up full ones. It is a tractor that I do not trust on the orchard hills. With each hill I find myself tensing, my body willing the tractor to do what I want it do by physically doing the action myself.
Climbing a steep hill? My feet straighten and press against the floorboards and my hands push at the wheel. Come on tractor! No stalling! No wheelies! We’re almost to the top! Keep going! Keep going!
Navigating a side hill? As the tractor tilts to the side, I lean the opposite way (as if skinny little me will greatly shift the weight of either a tractor or a tank full of water and cherries). I lean with all my will. Stay on all fours, tractor! No sliding! Just a little further now! It’s flatter up there! Keep moving! Keep moving!
“I hate this tractor,” I tell my brother as I lower my tractor forks down and release a full cherry tank on the ground next to the cooling pad.
“Everyone hates this tractor.” He says it matter-of-factly, because, well, it is a matter of fact.
When I want the tractor to go into third gear, it protests in indignation and stalls out on me. When I don’t want it to go into third gear, but accidentally put it into third instead of first, it roars and happily runs forward much faster than I had intended. The forks drop ridiculously slowly as I back up to the tanks…except once in a while…when they decide to catch me off-guard and drop like a shot. There are only two gears for reverse – Slow as a Sloth or Zoom-Zoom. In short, this tractor is an aggravation.
….but at the moment, it is my friend, shielding me from the rain the best that it can in its crippled state.
We have temporarily declared a truce, this tractor and I…
just a couple of out of work co-workers, waiting.