The Farmers Wife Cuts the Peach
What the Judges Say
Michael's "Last Bite" offers a meditation on a singular experience: the pleasure of sharing a peach. The writing is sensory, measured, mouth-watering. A beautiful piece, written with heart and awe.
We sit at the wooden table on the patio of the farmer, and the farmer’s wife cuts the peach. There is a block of yellow cheese. A sleeve of crackers and a round metal tray of no particular style--of no particular shade. Brandless, dateless. Without frill. A jar, an unmarked jar, of honey.
As we eat, the farmer’s wife cuts the peach. As we eat, she watches. Three slices are freed from the stone fruit and laid on the tray. What disappears is replaced. The light is golden outside the screen windows.
There is honey and we dip the crackers in the honey. Twisting the cracker out of the honey jar, there is only one angle that catches the drip. The nine-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter can’t get the twist that frees the cracker from the drip. The cracker goes back down. Comes back out. Goes back down. Comes back out. I chew my cracker and watch and recall the curiosity and uncertainty and blind corners of my own youth. The farmer’s wife watches.
A screen wraps around, all the way around. Two cats lay poured here on a wooden stool, there on a wicker chair. Motionless cats, except for the slow, nearly imperceptible rise and fall of their rib cages. The fans stir lazily and drive the air downward. Slowly. I eat the peach with the cheese and honey and I tell my stories.
The silence drinks them.
The height of hubris holds no water here. Nor does fame. There is nothing but us, equal in the eyes of a hot summer day. Sweat cools and dries on our cotton clothes. The breeze rises gently into the porch from nowhere in particular. A cat switches its ear from north to south.
Sweat from my forehead soaks into the calf ’s leather gloves baking on the hot tailgate in the sun. A black widow spider creeps in the pile. We kill her with a brick. Nobody remembers seeing a rattlesnake in forever -- such a long time. Cause unknown. The air has a color.
The farmer’s wife cuts the peach.
The little girl talks of her swim. The water is high. There is a deep channel in the middle. I want to ride the horse, she says. Go catch her.
The chile pequin is thirsty. The beaten four-wheeler lies sleeping in the shade. The rusted iron bell hangs upon the front gate. Miles of electric fence lay coiled up on a plastic spool beside it. Corrugated metal and dust and rope and the sounds of grasshoppers zipping through the tall yellow grass. And paper feed bags. A story of a green snake that snuck into the porch years ago--show no fear and pick it up-- the children must not be taught to fear. The children pet the snake.
Thoughts of drought and temporary excess: a horizon of never-we-remember lush green, a valley green all the way to the bottom. An antler in the tree. The earth, naked in the sun, dry and chalky, crushes underfoot. We drink water.
There are things you cannot see from a photograph, from a computer monitor, from a big fancy television. I don’t care how many pixels it has. I eat the peach to keep the moment going, not ready to let it end.
The farmer’s wife cuts the peach.
This story was originally published in the August/September 2015 issue of Edible San Antonio.