What is This?

About six months ago, the tunnel courier delivered to me a series of "comedies" written by Ephraim P. Noble from 1968-1974. Maybe there is an older meaning to the word "comedies" that I'm not familiar with, because they seem nothing like comedies to me. In any case, I have scanned the covers of each of these very short stories, and hope to post them here on a regular basis.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Fruit or Foul

"Fruit or Foul"

The packaging of the box should have given it away. But I’ll make no excuses. I had been fired as an assistant professor of English at Penn State. It was 1970. My lease was up. The girl I loved—with the most beautiful small scar over her left eyebrow—had run off with some charlatan hippie guru who convinced her that my analytical approach to Thoreau and the other Transcendentalists was exactly what they would have hated. Who knows? Maybe he was right. They moved out into a field and lived in a teepee for two years.

The box, which appeared outside my door, was simple: a small wooden crate, about two feet by two feet. No marking on the outside except a partial elephant that seemed to be stepping out of some invisible dimension.

Inside, the most fragrant, luscious fruit, like a time capsule from the garden of Eden. Plums, apples, fat purple grapes, apricots. It was a riot of Technicolor, and compared to the drab surroundings of my half-packed apartment, was a revelation.

Why did I convince myself that the fruit was a trap? I had enemies to be sure—what decent man doesn’t?—but the likelihood that they would send me poisoned fruit seemed remote. In my defense, I will say that I had made enemies of everyone at this point: the radical student group RADIANT UNION had convinced themselves I was an agent for the government. The government was sure I was a radical professor.

Even the elderly woman behind the Woolworth’s food counter whom I had known for years and who affectionately had nick-named me “Chip” refused to serve me. I could barely get the garbage men to take my garbage. The mechanic to tune my car. The librarian to stamp my card. The lifeguard to rescue me. The minister to give me communion. The stamp to take my lick. The birds to eat from my feeder. The calendar to accept my black X’s. My records to play at proper speeds.

My heart to feel.

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