:: Article

Morello, Van, Marasca

By Samuel M. Moss.

She counted some pits on the table. She was, of course, very beautiful but in a muted, specialized way. Eyes that set on you as if you were a convict. Even more beautiful (sadly) when she had three drinks in her: the anxiety would fall away, she could really open up and flow no different from oil. Charm, a word whose use we have forgotten but one that fit her well.

You could imagine her in a grand old farm house on a prairie, wiling away her days at some artistic project that could not deign to fall on another’s eyes. Perhaps a dog or two by her side. Alone even. Lain in a hammock out of the sun. Dozing, dreaming, whether awake or asleep. She loved flowers, but only certain kinds. Wildflowers, knew them all by name. She cultivated a directness, and her voice, when she spoke anyways, never faltered.

The purpose of those pits, unclear to me. A lesser person might pierce them, string them together, make a necklace or other dangling thing. No, she sought more subtle ends.

#

Neither of us had any money. Not at all at that point. Neither of us had jobs either. I still don’t understand how we got by, how we fed ourselves, how anything got done. She’d had some fund of bonds tended to by an absent aunt. Seldom spoke about it, never showed it off. You would have thought us tramps but for an abundance of Bach in the cabinets, the McIntosh’s tubes glowering atop a teak cabinet. You would have thought her destitute except for bouquets in the corners of every room.

#

Every morning the petrichor came thick. Some days a tangible mist rose from the sun-hot macadam. We would sit for a time sipping cream in Persian tea on the front porch. No one came to the far end of our cul-de-sac, no sane one anyway. Some zoning snafu saw every other lot vacant, grown over with rank weeds and minor trees. Our own Xanadu. Every now and then some kids would bike down and turn slowly around. They thought us witches maybe, or some other hobgoblin’s kin.

“One thing I’ve learned,” she’d said one morning, unbidden, “Is that if you talk enough about something you don’t have, it will eventually find you.”

I had to wonder if that was why she never talked of stuff.

Once we moved out that house too would be torn down, its turrets and gables, far older than we, ripped right to shreds.

#

“I am taken by cherries and by their possibilities,” she had said.

It was never worth it to respond, or prod her on, or say anything at all, really. She would take the conversation as long and as far as she deemed proper.

“Kirschwasser, maraschino, eau de vie” looking off toward the mountain, “Dried then soaked, brined even, if necessary.”

I had always loved her, a little. Her feelings toward others endlessly opaque. Not only that, but whatever you thought she thought of you, you were always wrong.

#

Two acres of feral orchard grew a bit behind the house, the trees untamed and—in their corkscrew glory—shameless. Found though a hole in the hurricane fence and down a short path. Trunks obscure from crabgrass and rushes. She would sit there and think for a stretch. I’d find her alone, chin at rest on forearm.

She had worked to learn its language: shuck, blight, bloom, rot. Cut rows with a sickle and laid a thousands dollars of drip lines.

That summer we picked barrels full of the things. Small and sour; our sweat didn’t seem worth it. They sat in the cellar for weeks. Became, in short order, a bitter wine.

#

We had always worried about ticks, then one day she got sick. Her smell had changed long before. Like when you walk past the perfume desk at the mall, everything wrapped up together as one, each beauty blended with the next to become unbearable.

#

It had worked in some sense, but in other senses, not so much. When the day came that I had to say goodby the tornado siren went off, the power went out and we had to huddle together for two hours. We were silently in the basement together by the light of a candle, beside those hot and breathy barrels, each labeled with its breed: Marasca, Van, Morello.

In any other circumstance it might have been romantic but by then we each just gripped our own specific candle and stared at our own wall, alone.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Samuel M. Moss
is from Cascadia. His work has been published in decomP, Gone Lawn and Vastarien among other venues. He is an associate editor and web lead at 11:11 Press and currently works as an orchard hand in rural Oregon. Twitter: @perfidiouscript

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, June 15th, 2021.