STRANGE FRUIT • by Laura Alexandra Hunter

“You eat?” Carmel’s landlady was standing on her doorstep with two pieces of fruit unlike any she had ever seen before.

“What is it?” Carmel asked speaking slowly and clearly.

“You eat?” Evie repeated with a smile.

“Yes.” Carmel took the fruit. “Thank you.”

That night Sean said she should throw them away.

“You don’t know kind of shit that is.”

Carmel kept them. They looked like quinces, but were the same shade of red as a pomegranate. The next day while Sean was at work, she sliced one open and ate a bit. It crunched when she bit into it, the taste both bland and tart at the same time. Popping candy without the artificial strawberry flavour. Her mouth felt dry after eating it. She left it on the kitchen table and threw it away when it started to weep.

The second piece of fruit remained on the windowsill for a few days until Sean complained again. Carmel put it into the corner cupboard next to the sink. He never looked in there. It was the cupboard that housed the strays. The cut glass shot glass she had lifted from her neighbour’s house when she was babysitting as a teenager. The last cup in a set of six they received when they got married. The one-of-a-kind wineglass that came in a gift set with a bottle of wine. It was given to Carmel when she stopped working. The silver knife with a bone handle that she had found at an estate sale; afterwards, Sean decided they only needed one car. The Bunnikins set her godmother gave her before Sean told her children weren’t really for him.

She wasn’t sure why she couldn’t throw it away. Perhaps because it was given with a happy heart? Perhaps because it is a sin to waste food, even odd food? Perhaps because she was defying Sean?

A month later Carmel opened the orphan cupboard looking for a missing gravy boat and found something extraordinary. Her old china was interwoven with green. A stem and several shoots had grown from the fruit and twisted their way through the cupboard. Two cheerful green leaves thrived at the base of the stem. The fruit itself was shrivelled and withered, probably the only source of nutrition for the plant in the darkness.

She reached out to touch it. A tendril coiled itself around her finger — the slight pressure comforting like the grip of a newborn baby. She gently untangled the plant from her crockery, picked it up and held it to her chest. It nestled closer. Carmel breathed in its mossy green smell, before going to the garage for her gardening tools.

Laura Alexandra Hunter indulges in creative pursuits. She occasionally tweets using the handle @LauraLxH.

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Rate this story:
 average 3.6 stars • 37 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Walter Giersbach

    Well done. I enjoyed the fruit’s growth in the cupboard’s darkness as a metaphor for grief being assuaged.

    • Trollopian

      Walter, I agree. I try to judge flash fiction on its own terms: read it quickly, and then immediately ask myself “did I like this?” (Before asking “why?”) I liked this. The accumulation of small detail (the foreign landlady, the cupboard of rejects, the controlling husband) made my heart ache for the narrator. Sarah calls this “frustrating,” I prefer “tantalizing.” Four stars.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Quite a frustrating read. Too much, and too little, all the way through. A venerable idea with lots of room to make it fresh, but not made use of. The giveaway in the first paragraph, requiring much more of a payoff than we’re given. Not enough care in word choices leading to jarring repetition within the same or consecutive sentences. Too much description, but no hint of why Carmel is so submissive. I surmise that she’s not terribly old. She has no children. What exactly does she do all day?

    What will distinguish this from “Little Shop of Horrors?” What’s the purpose in showing us Evie’s difficulties with English? Foreigner gives foreign fruit? Don’t hit me over the head with it.

    Only half a story here, as it stands. Two stars.

  • Michael Stang

    What I got from this story:I got lost in the cupboard, I got too much information spelled out like I was not reading this hard enough, I got the fact that Carmel should not be using sharp gardening tools. I got the metaphor but by the time I got to it, it tasted like the first piece of fruit.

  • Donna Jean McDunn

    I liked the story. It’s true that much of it is left up to the reader to fill in the gaps, but the story, I believe, was written to add mystery and intrigue, which it accomplished. I didn’t care for sean, he came off as very controlling and I think Carmel just found an ally.

  • Garden of Eden meets Jack and the Beanstalk without the interesting giant in the land of the barren woman. The gratuitous use of “shit” was a detraction that added nothing without developing some interesting conflict between Carmel and her husband.There is great potential to develop Carmel’s angst of being motherless. The cabinet inventory added nothing to the story. The interesting part of the story was never told: what happened after Carmel planted it. The existing story could be told in three condensed paras leading up to what should be a writer’s dream to write.

    I disagree with Sarah. It’s not hardly half a story. 1 star

  • Carl Steiger

    First, the title threw me off, making me think of lynchings, then I thought it was going to be a variation on the theme of “don’t eat the fairy fruit,” and finally, after struggling to get rid an erroneous mental image of a cupboard full of stray kittens, I don’t know what it is. Looks like Walter and Trollopian get it, but I didn’t.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      To quote Keira Knightley in “Pride and Prejudice”–“That’s the most unforgiving thing you’ve ever said…”

      • Carl Steiger

        Lucky for you you’re not always in earshot (real or virtual) when I’m expressing myself.

  • I was surprised when the story just sort of . . . stopped. I liked the metaphor and the set-up, but there didn’t seem to be much filling in of the blanks. I get why the cupboard was inventoried (representing, perhaps, a life full or dreams, now fresh again with the “beanstalk”), but that seemed to be the only place in the story that featured any detail.

    Much room remains. Thanks for sharing.

  • Paul Friesen

    I found it interesting that 3 or the 5 items mentioned in the discard drawer were cups and glasses.

    • JAZZ

      And this was important because……..

  • Paul A. Freeman

    The MC wasn’t proactive – she waited all those years and only sprang into action when the foreign lady gave her an exotic fruit. That passivity is really what let the story down, I felt.

  • I was really surprised when the story ended. It feels like the beginning to something longer. Actually, I was sorry the story ended because I was enjoying it. I love the premises, the symbolism of “strange fruit” and what it meant to the MC.

  • Chris Antenen

    Like Carl, I had trouble with the title and its images, and then wondered if I had ever used a title that had such strong associations – all about me, right? As usual, I learned something, but was not able to shake off the song, so I didn’t rate the story.

  • Deborah Zlatarev

    We spend so much time criticizing passive people, especially in literature, that we never think about or try to accept the reality of their feelings. I enjoyed MC very much, maybe because I can relate to her. I used to be a passive person, until I grew out of it (fortunately, early enough).

    I loved the mystique, the muted undertones of her grief and weariness in a mundane life. I especially loved the metaphors and symbolism, the imagery… there’s so much I consumed in this little story, it was like a cold, refreshing glass of water in a nice, sunny, spring afternoon. I don’t know. I understand the criticism, but I don’t agree with it, and I respect those comments regardless.

    We’re a society so accustomed to conflict and the resolution of conflict, that when we read an introspective piece with no clear-cut, clean resolution to a vague (if not lacking) conflict, we are met with annoyance and bewilderment.

    I give this five stars.