The Orange Tree
There was once a goddess, or a trickster, or a devil. No one knew exactly what it was. All anyone could tell was just that. It was.
In the ancient legends of my home, it was said that apples were the fruit of Satan. The gift of death. And so, my people spent their days cultivating to the distant cousin: the orange. To us, it was a fruit of life, and eternal bliss.
And so one day, this goddess, or trickster, or devil descended from her golden palace of the heavens, in order to obtain this food of legends. She graced the earth below, emanating a golden light wherever she glanced. And it just so happened, she glanced upon me, the poor boy. Gently smiling, she walked up to me and asked for the nearest orange tree. I told her what I knew.
What I knew was that the rich man down by the river owned the finest orange tree in the entirety of my land. I told her that everyday, I eat under that orange tree, and that I am gifted of its glory and wonder. Deeply excited she rewarded me with that golden smirk, and proceeded to cross the river, reaching the rich man’s home. Genuinely interested, I followed in pursuit.
Upon arriving, the goddess thought of a wonderful plan to trick the rich man into simply handing the fruit over to her. She first asked me if I was a thief at heart. I answered yes. Grinning, she proclaimed that I would assist her in this scheme. Suddenly, golden light radiated around her, and she shimmered into a different being altogether, transforming into the image of a wild dog. Hoping her current appearance would sway the rich man into feeding a stray, she barked for me to knock on the door. I did. As soon as the rich man walked out, I hid behind the orange tree itself. The goddess, in her current form, pleaded appealingly to the rich man and begged for an orange. But the rich man saw through her fallacy, and immediately kicked the dog out, yelling his head off and shouting in warning tongues. Rebuked, the goddess retreated to try again.
This time, the trickster created a new plan, one that would not falter. In that same golden light, the trickster transformed once again. For this form, the trickster became a beautiful woman, more so than her original image. You see, the trickster had planned on tempting the rich man in order to gain her orange. Determined, the trickster ordered me to knock once more. I did, and I hid behind the tree a second time. But it was not the rich man that appeared, but the rich man’s wife. Automatically sensing the illusion, the wife chased the trickster in anger and spite. Terrified, the trickster retreated for a second time to lick her wounds.
Now it was at this point that the devil was becoming furious and agitated. And in her mad haze, the devil took upon the image of me. Contorting with rage, she barked for me to knock a third time. She was convinced that the rich man was not heartless, and would therefore not deny the hunger of a poor child such as myself. I knocked on the door for the last time, leaving once more to my hiding spot behind the orange tree.
This time, it was neither the rich man nor his wife that answered the door. Instead, it was a boy not much younger than myself; the rich man’s son. Immediately, outrage crossed his eyes; he took his mother’s broom and chased the devil all the way across the other side of the river. As it turned out, the devil had had enough in the affairs of mortals. But she would not leave empty handed. And so, she returned to me, in my sanctuary behind the orange tree. Curiosity and envy leaked from her voice when she asked me how I, the poor boy, had managed to trick and steal the rich man for so very long. I told her my answer.
Upon hearing it, she flew up to her golden palace in a storm. Her beauty was gone; only her hate and bitterness remained. And so that goddess, or trickster, or devil cursed the rich man’s name. And she cursed his wife, and she cursed his son. And she cursed my name. She vowed to never again consume the fruit that caused her so much frustration. But most of all, she vowed to never again speak to me. My answer had upset her that much. Because you see, I never once stole from that orange tree. Never. Because the rich man’s son was my friend.