Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Prince of Peaches

Uriah needed his last rites because he was going to die. He got into the shade of a peach tree where flies and hornets were rising and diving over the sappy entrails of a hundred peach corpses, and the heat was breathing out from their rotting wounds and up from the dust and the trampled yellow shocks of grass that tickled the hair on his arms as he crawled. He got his back upright against the bark, but it was a low tree with twisting branches, so he had to keep his head down, and that was fine by him, because he was hiding. Uriah wasn’t hiding to survive, not anymore. He was going to die as sure as those damn peaches were going to fall. He was hiding only so he could die alone.

FBI wouldn’t give him last rites nor last words. They’d even stop him getting his hearing in heaven with the Lord if they could. No, if they found him under that peach tree, they’d fill his sopping shirt with a fine set of hot holes and fresh blood as quick as their fingers could find their triggers.

God damn, he needed a drink!

His flask was drained dry, he knew that, because it was brave and took a bullet for him during the fighting at the junkyard, and its contents of shit whisky went all down his pant leg and now he felt, quite unreasonably, like a little kid who couldn’t get to the outhouse in time. The memory came at once, him running wet to the outhouse under pursuit of the horror of urinary emasculation.

The other bullets had sprayed into his thigh. That’s what was going to finish him.

Then he heard the FBI car humming through the grove and he heard it braking and the tires grinding in the dirt. Shit, the doors were all opening and closing, it sounded like thirty or forty different doors, all opening and closing. Uriah put his gun in his lap. How many could he get before they saw him? Maybe one if he took careful aim.

“Come out, boy!” they were hollering.

Uriah could see their hot Oxfords picking up dust beneath the low trees, just there in the grove across the way. Uriah took aim, but all he had was their disembodied leather shoes, and didn’t pull the trigger. Instead, he reached up and pried a peach off its branch. He put his teeth into it and the juice swelled in his mouth and over his lips like a dam blew open. He swallowed the bite and took another. It made his gut tingle. He set down the gun and found two more peaches, one for each fist, and he dove into them tooth first, trading punches to his mouth until his hands were each gripping the sugary tatters of fibrous peach core.

God damn, he wanted to shout, those were good peaches. He went for two more, then four more, and soon he’d have to pull himself up to get another. But it was like the Lord was watching over him in his last hour, because the peaches started just to fall. One after the other, the minute he’d swallow the last morsel of one, down come another, fresh and furry right into his open palm.

When he thought his stomach would burst wide apart and spray all the land with peach fluids, he stopped and reoriented himself. Those FBI shoes were gone. He looked across the grove. Nothing there, not a sound. He thought he should run for it. He examined his leg to see if it was up for the job and found it healed and dry, and no blood anywhere to be seen.

“What in the world?” Uriah said.

He looked up, and clear from the sky the peaches were falling, thudding around him and rolling into neat golden piles at his feet. The bees were gone. A warm breeze swept through the grove and pushed the green grass. The warm sun made his flesh prickle. His flask was full, shining in the light, and he thought maybe he’d stay there a while.