Fruit of the Poisoned Tree
Smooth impermeable skin
Flesh sticky; broken, it becomes slimy
Subtle but unmistakable taste
Readily takes on other flavors
Darkly colored skin
Popping, bursting, explosive flesh
Acidic sharp tangy taste
Closer to the skin, flavor sharpens
An edge of bitterness enters
An unexpected bite
Sweet, sweet, sweet
Smooth and juicy
Sounds an aftertaste of two higher notes
A little like two notes struck together
Forming a new tonal quality
Not a major harmonic; more eastern
Mellow mellow greenish yellow
Silky yet slightly grainy
White, white flesh
Sweet, very juicy
Elegant ivory, set against spring-leaf green.
( The task was to look at fruit set before me, on a plate, describe their qualities, and, finally, turn them into characters in a short short story)
FRUIT OF THE POISONED TREE
His plans were simple. Same as at any other social gathering. Mix in. Then play. His own secret pleasuring play. This night it would be to see how closely he could mirror someone else’s secret desires, secret fears, even secret demons.
She was the center of the small group. Eyes flashing, hands dancing, she held them all at her command. Laughing at one. Touching another. Allowing the explosive brilliant auburn curls that framed her face to brush another’s cheek. Holding forth. Holding sway. Animated. Talking. Conversing, if that can be said of one person speaking to many. Addressing individuals within the small gathering yet easily welcoming and including any who drifted over to see what - or who - was of such interest, was expressing such energy. Her liveliness drew them. Popping, bursting, explosive -- exciting.
He stood at the back for a time, watching. Then, gradually edged in. All the while slowly but steadily mirroring her movements or the emphasis of her words. Expressing his accord. A nod here. A dip of the chin there. A pulling down or lifting of the brows in concert with hers. Nothing obvious. Small things. A brief moué to match her shrug. A shrug to compliment a questioning glance. All demonstrating how very correct he found her to be. He had no sense of what she was talking about. He didn’t care. It wasn’t the point.
The group began to sense his energy. So did she. Still very engaged in her words and in holding the group’s attention, she began to seek him out. When their eyes met, she smiled in recognition. And he smiled back. Then abruptly moved away, pushing back through the group until, in fact, he left it. And felt her dart of disappointment. He was right. She was another player. But he was gone only long enough to collect his first drink of the evening. Returning, he lingered at the back until he saw her find him again and felt a ripple of energy flash between them. Now again he began, bass to her fiddle. Mirroring, giving back, reflecting, almost aping her in gesture and expression. Moving in a bit, then hesitating, then again on the move, always in synch with her endless movement. She never stood still but was always taking first a step here and then there, seeming to float about the circle that formed around her. She was very good. Very adept. And very passionate about her chosen topic. In time, as he moved closer to the front of the gathered people, she moved closer to him, unaware of being lured even as she lured others.
Just as she reached where he stood, he made again to leave. But first reached to take from her her empty glass, raising his own in a silent question. She smiled assent. And when he returned with two drinks, one for each of them, she came to him to accept her drink and then remained there, standing just slightly in front of him, addressing her words outward but positioned so that her arm would occasionally brush his chest, her hair his chin.
For a time he again played a duet with her. But then, slowly, he began to sound the occasional dissonant note. Notes that gradually began to swing against her rhythm. The first time he breathed out audibly, in a soft snort. Causing hardly a noticeable pause in the attention focused on her. A bit later, he shuffled in place, raising his wrist to check his watch frowning fleetingly. The next time, he sighed and repositioned himself a bit to her right, putting between them a woman wearing an exotic sheath in brushed silk of a deep rich yellow-orange, the color of ripe mango flesh. From just behind this woman’s shoulder, he took up a stance of arms tucked tightly, high across his chest. On his face he created a look of first doubts. Then he started to punctuate her rush of words with little shakes of the head. The briefest of grimaces. An almost turning away. Once or twice his mouth moved, as though he were unable to keep from disagreeing verbally, but what he said could not be heard, even by those closest to him.
He still wasn’t paying close attention to the matter on which she was so intensely discoursing; just that it had to do with the arts and freedom to create and voices from other cultures. At last he began shaking his head decisively. Finally, he uttered the single word, “NO.” -- Loudly. -- Timing it so that is came just as she had paused to accentuate a long and extended point she’d been making. It was like someone plunging a brightly lighted room into sudden darkness. Everything stopped. All turned to look at him.
Without missing a beat, his prey stepped past the woman he’d placed between them and faced him directly. Smiling joyously, she at once turned her back on him while stepping in so closely that he became merely backdrop as she curtsied deeply and made an elegant salute to the crowd. “You see?” she cried, gesturing widely, “Voices of dissent. Voices of creativity. Here the true artist speaks!” And, stepping free of him, she swung back around briefly to bow her head prettily to him. Then spreading her arms wide and calling, “Come, come along now,” to her audience, she ushered them away, across the room and out onto the patio.
Only the woman who’d been standing beside him, she of the mango-colored dress, remained. Looking up at him, she smiled a slow sweet smile that showed him deep dimples, glossy lips and languorous eyes. “My,” she said. “She called your bluff, did she not?” She reached up and slowly caressed his cheek with the back of one soft warm hand before leaving to follow the crowd. Just as she reached the door, she turned back to him. “She’s a practiced bitch, you know. Fascinating, but just that little bit poisonous. You really compliment each other very well.”
Only when she had disappeared and he felt safely alone did he allow himself to sink into a nearby chair. No one had seen. No one knew that when the woman he’d been so cleverly busy de-throning stepped up to meet his challenge, already going him one better by deftly turning his rejection of her into the crowning moment of her dissertation, she had also bested him physically. For as she had turned back to face her audience, she had also positioned one siletto heel squarely atop the toe of his shoe and shifted all her weight onto it while making that deep curtsey. As if intending to puncture not only his ego but his foot.
It had taken all of his strength to remain erect. To maintain a face that would reveal none of the agony he was experiencing in his foot. Now he pushed off his soft suede shoe and peeled down his sock to reveal his naked foot. It was just as he’d thought. The skin was broken, flesh torn in places, small blood blisters rising in others, and at the center, a clearly defined indentation already turning a bluish-black.
He caught a familiar scent and looked up to see his wife standing before him. Her green eyes matched the color of her dress, a color that displayed to greatest advantage the white flesh of her bare arms and long slender neck. Her exaggerated pear-shape seemed exactly right for her somehow. Smaller breasts set above a high waistline that swelled out into generous hips and thighs. She smiled at him, the expression in eyes and posture exuding a mellow and sultry but somehow gritty sweetness. “Come heart,” she said extending a hand, “come now. I think it’s time we go home.”