There was a peach tree there. It was the smallest of all the trees, a small trunk with only three main branches and never seemed to change, unlike the apple trees that seemed taller, leafier, and fruitier year after year. Apple trees are glorious in bloom, but peach blossoms are even more so, and there was always that heady time in the spring, with all the fruit flowers so aromatic and luscious that you wanted to drown. In the hiatus, when all the flowers died, and the fruit emerged, you could still catch whiffs of that perfume, especially if you raked up the fallen petals, put them in a Mason jar, closed the lid, and waited for a day or two. After that, the white and pink petals started to turn brown, so you needed to empty the jar and not leave it in the back of your closet with all the clothes you didn’t wear anymore. What is that horrible smell, don’t you know that flowers die so you can have fruit next year, don’t you have the sense you were born with? Apples. Erupting first, green green blush blush red red. Out first, and there were so many of them, and you ate the new ones and cooked down baskets of them for pie filling, which you could put into Mason jars and preserve and keep for months. Not the peaches. The peaches took longer to ripen, and the little tree never produced many of them to begin with. Sometimes they stay tart and fall off the branch and don’t suck the pit it is poison. You had to wait late into the summer and grab one off the bough before the birds got it and keep avoiding the pit, leaving red flesh on it, slapped from your hand, juice running down from your mouth, don’t you have the sense you were born with? In autumn, unlike the apple trees, with browning and desiccating leaves that fell and scattered themselves on the grass; the peach tree held on to its leaves, though they curled inward from the edges and were sometimes still there on those cold frost outlined mornings. The first frost peach was the best. The last was impossible to eat. But the canker. That small split in the grey bark about halfway up the trunk. You didn’t notice it slowing growing upward and splitting wider but it grew. Each spring blacker and blacker with spores and the amber jelly ooze, a fungus, gummosis, which each fall you would make into small yellow spheres with your thumb and first two fingers and put them into a Mason jar, hoping they could turn hard. Every autumn, you harvested the soft resin, made it into amber spheres, and put them all into another jar, what is all this mess, what are you trying to do, don’t you have the sense you were born with? Every autumn, you lose more. But there was a peach tree there.
Rina Palumbo (she/her) has a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins and is working on a novel and two nonfiction long-form writing projects alongside short fiction, creative nonfiction, and prose poetry. Her work is forthcoming or appears in Ghost Parachute, Milk Candy, Bending Genres, Anti-Heroin Chic, Identity Theory, and Stonecoast Review et al.