Maypops

So here’s a little something from Thirteenth Stroke:

Maypops

maypops

 

The sun came out and the park was crawling with people like an industrious hill of ants.

Hill-a-beans,” the boy said, legs dangling from a small bridge that crossed the stream that ran down the hill and through the middle. The sunlight made the edges of his dark hair seem transparent, or blonde. A mosquito attempted a covert landing on his mottled, brown sleeve. Beneath the curls of his hair, he scrunched up his forehead, eyeballing the blood sucker that had found him. With a smack, the mosquito was resolved in a smear of red goo and a few gray-black fragments. From the overlook, he licked his lips and pulled the fruit from his pocket. He had picked it earlier. He winced, biting immediately into a particularly hard seed of the maypop.

He turned the yellow-green skin of the fruit over in one hand, wiping the bits of mosquito on his dirty pants with the other. It had come from a mound of vines that grew farther up the stream–past where the people went–before the water collected in the park, absorbing trash and snot and piss and oil from its occupants. He hacked the seed from between his teeth, spitting it down below. It descended swiftly and silently into the whispering water, then out across the nearest flat rock and onward into the park. He turned the fruit again, filling himself with a fresh bite. It was a luxurious mouthful of seeds and pulp that was ripe enough to drool over.

His eyes roamed over the multitude of people. Each walking their dogs or with their family, kids running around in a fit of excitement or protest. Joggers in matching clothes keeping pace with each other, making their way in a big circle. Bicyclists terrorising slower walking older people. Flowers. Ducks. The phantom of the hard seed still throbbed in his molar.

Eventually he dropped the last bits of skin and pulp he hadn’t wanted into the water with the rest. He got up, let out a disappointed sigh, and shifted off into some place more dense with trees where the people would not notice him. Along the way, his browned hand massaged his jaw where the inexplicably hard seed had pushed into his tooth. He smiled, stretching the skin around the bones. He wondered if the Maypops would eventually all be hard and inedible. Full of tiny, tasteless stones that would collect on the river basin, discarded by the Earth. The leaves rustled behind him and he was gone.

—–

Years and years later when the park was forgotten and transformed into a smelly basin for wastewater, and pokeberry grew from every facet of everything, the sluggish, thick stream pushed up a rocky hill around a bend in the flow. A huge boulder diverted the water around, forcing the dirt into a mound. Anyone willing to cross the smelling water could climb the hill and eat of the maypops. They had traveled and spread downstream in the time that passed. The absence of people had allowed them to flourish.

There they stood, atop the looming, rocky pile, high and dry from the foul water. Their only nourishment was from the sudden summer rains that slid between the sand and stones and thinly stretched roots. Fortunately, they had little need for much water. Somewhere in the distance, voices of men and women and children can be heard, carried on the breeze. The stream of sludge is a slow parade of garbage that circles around the hill, honoring it with the discarded trophies of the people. Cans and plastic bags and bits of rubber slide in a oily snake around the bottom of the island of royal fruits lost. 

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