March 31, 2006
Fragrant in Taste - A Short Story
My father always told me that you should never fell a tree. He said that trees that grew fruit we’re all we could depend on. We couldn’t depend on the government, we couldn’t depend on our neighbours but we could depend on trees. It made sense when I was little. My family lived at the bottom of Beilun Mountain. There was my mother who stayed at home and worried, my sister who was only six, our dog who we hadn’t bothered to name and my father of course, who was a kumquat farmer. As the son of a kumquat farmer my life revolved around kumquats. We picked, ate and drank them. At night I even dreamed about them.
I’d see two of them, golden yellow, hanging in the centre of a platter of dark green leaves. I’d stand there for a while. Watching them. Then they’d start to grow until they started to look like oranges but they’d grow and grow and keep growing. And just when they looked like they might explode I’d turn and start running down the mountain. Weaving in and out of the thick crop. Kumquats everywhere. I’d keep running and running until the mountain started to slope. The kumquats would start dropping off the branches. Thousands of the little yellow beans flying through the air, hitting the ground, bouncing and then tumbling. And every time, every single time, I’d loose my footing on one and fall backwards, smashing my head on a rock. I’d awake then and my little sister would be at the end of the bed watching me.
My father’s father had been a kumquat farmer too. It was all you could become in Beilun, my father would tell me in the evenings. I had no choice, he’d say. Back then we couldn’t just leave and do studies like you can. He’d tell me this next to near every night and every night I’d listen carefully like I was hearing it for the first time. My father had been harvesting all his life. Forty-nine years. It was hard to tell if he liked doing it. He knew all there was to know and how to do things like any master of a craft but did he enjoy doing it? I just don’t know. I thought to ask him some days but couldn’t do it. What if he said no. What if he said no I don’t like doing this but yet I’ve been doing it for the past forty-nine years. And then what? We’d probably both be embarrassed and when we got home my mother would be able to tell something was up and she’d ask what was the matter and that would only make things worst. So I didn’t ask.
One thing I did know was that I didn’t like it and I’d tell my sister that sometimes. She’d always go and get an old leaflet we had on the benefits of kumquats and give to me when I told her that. She liked kumquats and she knew how important they were to the family so she wanted me to like them too. I’d read the leaflet out loud for her. "Fragrant in taste, enjoy the effects of stomach-appetizing and aerating, thirst-quenching and sleepiness-allaying, phlegm-reducing and cough-relieving, and odor-preventing and lung-moistening of the kumquat." I miss her. I miss my mother and my father and I even miss the stupid dog. I only see kumquats in the supermarket now. When they’re in season. Six apiece lined up in a little plastic tray. Country of origin Beilun, New China.
Downhill from here by Liam Geraghty appears every week in the Kildare Nationalist
Posted by LiamG at March 31, 2006 11:16 PM