Cherry Season

Part of a writing exercise thingy:


You hate food balloons.  Anything with a tough skin over a mushy middle.  Peaches are okay.  The skin isn’t thick enough to conceal rot.  You know where you are with a peach.  But grapes, most grapes are horrible.  You can’t just pop a grape into your mouth.  That’s just disgusting:  until it’s too late, you can’t tell whether the grape’s going to be rotten or not.  There’s a thin blade between optimal grape eating time, and rotten grape time, and you can’t always tell with your fingers when it is.   You don’t eat the mushy ones, of course.  But grapes rot from the stem out, so sometimes they still feel firm when really they’re falling apart.  Pop one straight into your mouth, and you get a mouth of rotting sweetness that makes you gag.  No matter how carefully you feel for dry stems or search for a wet brown ring around them, you’re going to end up eating a couple of rotten grapes in every bunch.  So you avoid grapes.  The risk is too much, the reward too little.

Cherry tomatoes are pretty touchy, too.   But you like tomatoes more, so you risk it: you cut them in half first, of course, and check the yellow seeds and the white flesh and the watery, pale insides and think about how it’s too bad that most tomatoes aren’t allowed to get really ripe.  But of course that’s a risk, too.  It’s one thing to say you’re serving tomatoes, and it’s another to serve the perfect tomato, and you get most of the reward, as a restauranteur, from just saying you’re serving tomatoes and not actually serving good ones.   Serving good tomatoes is too high a risk that a customer’s going to bite into rot.  You can lose your shirt chasing the perfect tomato.

But then there are cherries.

You don’t buy cherries when they’re expensive.  There just isn’t any point.  When they’re cheap you buy a lot of them.  The first few batches are too sour.  Underripe.   You bite down on them with your upper teeth at the edge of the stem so that your incisors sheer down the side of the pit.   Cherry pit poison scrapes onto your teeth and you like it.  You bite off half the cherry, eat it, then use your teeth to bite the pit out of the other half.  There’s juice on your fingers, it’s staining under your fingernails.  With the really ripe ones you find stray dots of juice like blood spatter at a crime scene.  Then, like a magic trick, you spit out the pit at the same time you eat the other half of the cherry.  A switcheroo.   And toss the pit away into the trash while you swallow.

Cherries rot from the inside out.  At least, the ones you trick yoursel into eating. The rot that lies along the pit tastes dry and tannic, like mummy flesh, and you can fool yourself into eating two or three before you have to stop, because your body is in revulsion of your betrayal.  Poison.   You’re eating poison, you know.  If you don’t stop this instant I will vomit this back up, I don’t care that you’d need to eat a ton of these in order to be in actual danger, young lady, I’ve had enough of this…

Then you retch.

And that’s the end of the cherry season, and you’re back to hating all food balloons, everywhere, except the ones like ikura eggs that go crunch between your teeth.  Even orange slices are iffy sometimes.  But that glorious cherry season.  Every year.  You push it as far as you can go.  To the point of feeling the rotten cherry slide back up your throat.

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