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Strangers' Fruit

by na’im 9 months ago in Fable · updated 9 months ago
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and the diminutive woman

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Two tired men approached a diminutive woman who doddered along displaying a gentle smile. The smile was strong enough to push back her large cheeks and close her eyes. As she walked, she hummed a strangely familiar melody. Her feet moved across barren ground softened by a pile of ashes and adorned by a half-eaten apple. A thin brown worm moved in and out of the apple. She spoke softly. Her voice, rich with sadness was much different than her face conveyed. As she approached the silhouettes of the two tired men, the vibrations of her words seem to come from behind her and pass through their tall, male bodies.

She said, “You are the first to complete the gauntlet. You will share the award evenly if you can complete the last challenge. If you look over my right shoulder, you will see ripened pears. You have thirty minutes to come back with the one that most represents harmony,” the bluesy old woman relaxed into meditation and lowered her head.

“We have thirty minutes to bring back a pear that represents harmony?” James asked.

“Do we have to agree on the same pear and how do we decide?” Jim asked.

“Harmony to you or harmony to the tree?” James asked.

“Harmony to us or harmony to other pears?” Jim asked.

“How many chances will we get?” James asked.

“Can we come back earlier than 30 minutes?” Jim asked.

“Each one of us picks a pear?” James asked.

“Does it matter which one of us holds the pear?” Jim asked.

“Are you the final judge?” James asked.

“Do we get to explain our reasoning?” Jim asked.

“Twenty-nine minutes,” the diminutive woman spoke in a tone devoid of any coloring and without lifting her head.

James and Jim looked at each other in disgust. They’d never met before but both knew they’d rather be partnered with anyone else. They walked over to the pears behind the diminutive woman and stopped at the largest pear tree they’d ever seen.

“You know you want to make your point first. Go ahead,” said James.

“You didn’t seem concerned about that back there. Why now?” replied Jim.

“Listen. Your people always want to speak first. That’s why I spoke first back there,” said James.

“That’s ironic coming from you?” replied Jim.

“My family needs this. Let’s figure this out,” said James.

“My family doesn’t?” replied Jim.

“Are you kidding me? Look. The bottom of the tree has smaller pears than the top,” said James.

“How will we ever get to the top?” replied Jim.

“Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,” said James.

“Are you kidding me?” replied Jim.

The two tired men stared at each other for over a minute. Neither one wanted to be the first to offer a suggestion.

“The bottom of the tree has dirtier pears,” said Jim.

“Okay. Well maybe we’re supposed to pick a pear from the middle,” replied James.

“Dirt is from the earth,” said Jim.

“This whole tree is from the earth,” replied James.

“The pears on the south side of the tree have a little more brown to them,” said Jim.

“You want a little brown don’t you,” replied James.

The two tired men stared at each other for another minute.

“Okay. How would you define harmony?” said James.

“I think your definition would be much more interesting,” replied Jim.

“Listen, I don’t like talking with you any more than you like talking with me,” said James.

“Why do you assume I don’t like talking with you?” replied Jim.

“This is frustrating me,” said James.

“Oh. Is it hard to be cool?” replied Jim.

“I would hate to be somebody who has to follow this conversation,” said James.

“Takes too much consideration, huh?” replied Jim.

The two tired men stared at each other for another minute.

“You realize this is no way to win a challenge?” said Jim.

“Depends on what challenge you’re trying to win,” replied James.

“Looks like we now have an anxious audience,” said Jim.

“I’m fully aware. I’m more conscious than you think,” replied James.

“Well. This has to be exhausting for them to follow,” said Jim.

“All of us passed by exhaustion a long time ago,” replied James.

“They are going to want a resolution to this,” said Jim.

“So who are we really doing this challenge for?” replied James.

The two tired men stared at each other for another minute.

“Did you see that worm?” Jim asked.

“What do you think it means?” James asked.

The two tired men stared at each other for a few seconds.

“We are quite the pair,” both men said at the same time.

The two men looked at each other, locked elbows, and walked back to the diminutive woman.


About the author


K-12 educator originally from the South now freezing in the Upper Midwest.

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