Fiction / September 2010 (Issue 12)

Stone Fruit

by David William Hill

I bite into a peach, and it smells of sulphur and soil and a summer spent standing on asphalt beneath a flimsy mesh awning, slicing the fruit—cut, rotate, cut, split, pop out the pit, repeat—and placing each half on a large wooden tray. Juice seeped into small cuts on our fingers, burning. I learned to yell, "Fruta," with gusto, as if I really meant it, from the old, toothless woman who worked the station next to mine.

"Fruta," she calls, and a fresh crate of peaches appears at her side, shiny and dew-covered, so cold they're solid as gall stones, trucked in from anonymous orchards, delivered by strong young men with deep brown skin. They punch a hole in her card and haul the empty crate away. She cleared four, sometimes five cards, to my one.

I remember her hands, the way every peach sat snug in her palm, like a baseball in a worn-out catcher's mitt. Her knife hand clenched in a permanent fist. Her shrivelled face, orange-brown. Her long white hair, braided down her back.

And afternoon breezes like a breath of forgiveness, drying the sweat on your neck, but never quite reaching your armpits. Such small relief, as the sun descended on those low, barren hills in the distance.

Read David William Hill's commentary on "Stone Fruit" here.

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