Beneath a peach tree in the grass lie peaches rotting. Their flesh has liquified into a brown putrefaction and the skin, spotted and discolored, hangs loose like a sack around the rotten innards. The sour odor of dead flesh, mixed with the sweetness of oozing sucrose, rises above the drone of flies that swarm the fruit.
Standing beneath the tree, Bart reaches down and takes up a rotten peach in his hand. The thin skin breaks apart in his fingers, spilling the brown slime like a leprous wound. Wiping his fingers on his pant leg, he cleans the rotten flesh from the peach pit with his shirt and then he shows it to the little girl who stands barefoot beside him.
I wouldn’t trade a hundred thousand summers of bounty for you, my indian summer child, he says to the girl.
In his hand, the stone lies purple and wrinkled like the brain of a small animal and in one fluid motion Bart places it in his mouth and swallows it.
You are a living miracle in this necrotic land, he says to the girl. A land that is now yours. The trees, the fruit, the soil and the roots. You will care for them even if the harvest is tainted with disease or lost to pests because I have given it to you as a birthright.
Bending down, the girl, too, takes up a rotten peach and cleans the dead flesh from the seed inside. Squeezing it in her hand, the seed sprouts under the pressure of her fingers and grows a tender sapling. The sapling buds branches and the branches bear fruit until it is bent and bowed with the weight of the clustered peaches like an overburdened servant.
Crowning the sapling in the girls hand is an orchard oriole perched on a branch. Its rusty plumage is streaked with white and as it calls its lonely song its neck swivels in abrupt motions to listen for a response. But throughout the orchard and the surrounding fields there is no response, only a silence that is keen as a knife blade.
Christopher Aslan Overfelt lives and works on the empty plains of Kansas. In the summertime he grows cucumbers and in the winters he takes attendance at the local high school.