In Oranges

by Alex Dally MacFarlane

To celebrate our first anniversary, each of us here at the Cabal has come up with a story beginning with a line provided to us by the illustrious Jay Lake. Alex Dally MacFarlane starts us off with the tale below, and tomorrow Daniel Braum will take us somewhere else entirely...

“Zoli liked to hang around psychiatrists’ waiting rooms to hit on the low self-esteem chicks.”

The altered citrus sinensis’ comment barely made Roland pause. Even when it waggled a branch heavy with oranges near her face, she refused to look at it.

“He also liked to kick puppies.”

“Now you’re lying.” She planted a final passiflora edulis seedling in the flower bed, which was covered by a knee-high glass structure to protect the plants inside from the chilly nights. Hopefully these seedlings would not be as troublesome as the last batch. I hope the brothel-boys keep their windows closed at night, she thought, and couldn’t prevent a smirk. Passion fruits are passionate when allowed to express themselves. Why am I surprised?

Brushing soil from her fingers, Roland turned to the orange tree that grew in a nearby bed. Its flower-mouths moved in a way that looked rude, even if she couldn’t quite tell why.

“My brother was an opportunist. You act as if I didn’t know this. But I do know that he didn’t kick puppies. Or kittens, before you suggest that.”

“You act as if you knew him better than I did,” the citrus sinensis retorted, trying to mimic her voice.

Its words stung, a little.

“Then tell me why he went, if you knew him so well.” When the plant offered no reply, she shuffled along the wooden walkway between beds to another batch of seedlings that needed planting out. “You enjoy being smug. You don’t actually know anything, at least not anything important.”

“I’ll know when he dies,” it said curtly.

She wanted to ignore its games, its cruel streak--which had made her brother so fond of the plant, she knew. But this was new. “Oh?”

“He let me bite him,” the citrus sinensis said, smug-toned. “And now I have a part of him inside me. It will tell me when he dies.”

Glancing at it sideways, Roland murmured, “I didn’t know you could do that.”

And she lunged up, running and jumping for one of its branches before it could swing them away. It thrashed at her, shouting rage-filled nonsense. She plucked an orange and dropped to the ground. “An orange every now and then,” she told it, “and if you’re telling the truth, I will also know when the war kills Zolinder.”

“I won’t let you,” all the flower-mouths said, loud and shaking.

Laughing unpleasantly, Roland peeled aside the orange skin. “Even you sleep.”

She tasted bitterness, soil, sweat, pain. Life.

Tasting, also, anger at the tree for withholding this, she said, “You’ll grow more. And you’re a fool if you think I don’t care about my brother enough to hurt you.”


so informative, thanks to tell us.

Posted by: rorUnsado | September 30, 2010 12:56 AM

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