Fiction logo

Douglas and His Pear Tree

Eye contact and pears is the perfect combo.

By Caitlin Jill AndersPublished 3 years ago 7 min read
Douglas and His Pear Tree
Photo by Delia Giandeini on Unsplash

When she was 10-years-old, Corrine figured out that the only way Douglas would look at her was if they were both eating pears.

At first, her mom didn't believe her. A lot of the things Douglas did didn't make sense. He'd only drink his water or juice if the glass was on a plate just like the rest of his food. He didn't like the way jeans felt on his stomach and would only wear sweatpants. He needed every door in the house to be closed at all times. He didn't know how to say I love you. He couldn't talk at all. He had so many quirks. Apparently, though, this one was just too weird to believe.

Douglas was seven at the time, and he barely ever made eye contact with anyone. His doctors and therapists said it was normal. Autism made eye contact really difficult for him. It was ok. It didn't mean he didn't love them. Or at least, that's what Corrine's mom would always tell her. She'd say it while looking at Douglas with sad eyes. Corrine had a feeling she was saying it more for herself than anyone else.

That day was the first day Douglas ever tried a pear. Their mom didn't usually buy them, but Corrine had had one at her friend Gabby's house and decided they were her new favorite snack. Her mom hemmed and hawed about it in the grocery store, saying that she didn't want to buy a bunch of pears and then have no one eat them. Corrine promised her she'd eat them all, so that day a few hours before dinner time, she decided she fancied a snack and went to grab a pear. Douglas followed her into the kitchen because he wanted her to come up to the playroom and turn on Sesame Street. He saw her grab the pear and immediately hit her on the shoulder. That was his way of saying he wanted to try one too.

Corrine knew she should ask someone first before letting him try one, but he was so insistent, and he almost never asked to try new foods, so she figured it would be ok. She handed him a pear and tried to show him how to eat it.

"Bite down hard and chew," Corrine said and made the motions with her mouth. Douglas mostly ignored her, and it took him a few tries, but eventually, he got the hang of it. He stood in the kitchen eating his pear while Corrine stood next to him eating hers. After about thirty seconds, he suddenly looked up at her, locked eyes, and stayed that way until he was done. He somehow knew to stop eating the pear when he hit the core. Maybe it just started to taste bitter. Corrine wasn't sure. When the pear was gone, he finally looked away and wandered up to the playroom to wait in front of the TV for someone to turn on Sesame Street. Corrine was stunned.

"Mom, mom! Douglas ate a pear and made eye contact with me the whole time! I swear!"

"Don't swear. And also, don't lie. And also, don't give your brother snacks he's never had."

Her mom was intrigued, though, that Douglas had eaten a pear, and so the next day, she offered him one at breakfast. He took it without looking at her and methodically started to eat. He stared at the pear and his hands and the floor and anything, really, except for any of the people in the room. Their mom shrugged. "No eye contact. Guess it was a fluke?" She said it with a tone that suggested she never actually believed it in the first place, though. Corrine was determined to prove her wrong.

She got up from the table, grabbed a pear from the fridge, and sat back down next to Douglas. She started to eat the pear, and as soon as Douglas heard the crunching sounds, he looked up at her and held eye contact while they ate their pears together in silence.

Of course, their mom still assumed it was a fluke or a phase. Later that day, she tried it herself, and it worked. She had their dad try it the next day, and it worked. She made a note about it for the school and his home team, and over the next week, all of his therapists and teachers and anyone who worked with him gave it a try. It worked every time.

If someone was eating a pear at the same time as Douglas, he made eye contact with them. It was foolproof, and it made no sense.

Their mom demanded an explanation from anyone who seemed credible, but no one had one. His therapists couldn't explain it. The school was mystified. Even the experts online were stumped. Everyone had vague theories, but no one had any concrete reason for why this was happening.

For Douglas, it seemed to be a natural instinct. If he was eating a pear at the same time as someone else, he looked at them. It was as if that's just what you did, as if Douglas had a culture all his own and that was one of the cornerstone beliefs. Of course, they tried it with other fruits too. Apples, bananas, blueberries, etc. In the span of only a few months, they'd given Douglas pretty much every single fruit to try. For someone who didn't love trying new foods, it was a big deal. He wouldn't try them all, obviously, but he tried some. When those didn't work, they tried other foods too. None of them elicited the same reaction as pears though. For some reason, pears were special.

As each person spent time eating pears with Douglas, something started happening. Douglas' relationships with the people around him started to develop in ways they never had before. He started giving hugs to his mom and Corrine. He liked to touch his dad's face. He actually smiled at his teachers and therapists. At first, it only happened during the five or so minutes it took for him to eat his pear, but slowly, it started happening outside of pear time, too. He'd been so locked in before. He'd finally found a way to connect with his loved ones. No one understood why it had to be through pears, but after a while, it didn't really matter. Pears were the key to unlocking Douglas, so for his family, pears became a staple.

Once everyone discovered what eating pears did to Douglas, they wanted to eat them with him all the time, and luckily, that's what Douglas wanted too. Pears quickly became his favorite food, but only in their raw form. He wouldn't eat them cooked, or dried, or baked into something else. He usually didn't like them cut up, either. He wanted to hold them. That was part of the experience.

Before long, their mom was ordering five cases 0f pears a week. It sounded like overkill, but it really wasn't. Every single pear got eaten, and somehow no one ever got sick of them. Really, they never wanted to. They loved Douglas too much.

As the years went on, everyone was amazed at just how much eating pears helped Douglas grow. He seemed to feel safe when he ate them. They were his tool to communicate with the rest of the world. He was holding a pear the first time he ever said a word out loud, and the first time he formed a sentence. At school, his teachers started the "Eat a pear, make a friend" club to try and help him relate to his peers, and that's how he made his first real friends. It was so surreal, that a piece of fruit could do so much. But then again, that was just Douglas. He'd always done things his own way.

One day, their mom was standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes, gazing out the window. Corrine and Douglas were eating pears behind her, and she smiled at all the crunching sounds. She couldn't help but chuckle at how much pears had changed her life. She wished there was a way to pay tribute to them somehow. And then, she had an idea.

It took an enitre weekend to plant the tree. Preparing the soil and digging a hole took longer than they thought it would. Finally though, it was planted, and they all stood back to admire it. Douglas seemed a little confused, and they tried to explain it to him. This was a pear tree. This was his pear tree.

From then on, Douglas spent at least an hour a day sitting by the pear tree. Sometimes he ate a pear from it, and sometimes he didn't. He mostly just liked being near it. With the tree, Douglas didn't have to be holding a pear to make eye contact with someone. The tree gave him the same kind of confidence that holding a pear did. He was himself under that tree, and therefore his family spent a lot of time under there, too.

Whenever people would come over, they would always ask about it. Corrine and her mom and dad all tried to explain it to them, but no one ever quite got it. "You planted an entire pear tree just so Douglas would look at you," one particularly insensitve guest asked one day. It didn't matter what anyone thought though, and it never would.

On her last day of high school, Corrine sat out under the pear tree in her cap and gown, and pulled two pears down from its branches. She handed one to Douglas, and he looked at her as they ate. He reached out and nudged her tassle, smiling as it fluttered in the air.

"I love you, Corrinne," Douglas said under his pear tree, and that was all that would ever matter.

Short Story

About the Creator

Caitlin Jill Anders

Full-time writer with anxiety just figuring it out.

Enjoyed the story?
Support the Creator.

Subscribe for free to receive all their stories in your feed. You could also pledge your support or give them a one-off tip, letting them know you appreciate their work.

Subscribe For FreePledge Your Support

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments

There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

    Caitlin Jill AndersWritten by Caitlin Jill Anders

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.