Rodents in the Orchard

April 13, 2009

In which the author briefly rehashes an old story by considering what he doesn’t remember.

I don’t remember how long I searched the orchard for them, or exactly what time of year it was. The peach and plum trees may have been dropping rotten pods already half eaten by sparrows, or were budding or heavy with sweet-smelling fruit. I’m not certain when I told my parents what had happened and which one of them had gone into town and returned with ice cream from Dairy Queen. Or when I stopped running in circles and began standing, heaving, yelling into the approaching darkness the names of my friends: Mario, Luigi.

What I do know is this: when I was seven years old I decided that my white hamster was mean because he was white, and that if only he, like my preferred hamster, was brown, he would be perfect. And to make him brown I would take him, no, both of them out into the loosely packed red dirt that covered out flat land.

I marched into the orchard behind my house in Aspermont, Texas with Mario and Luigi in hand under a scorching June sun or through a dust-filled October wind and found a hole somewhere beneath a fruit tree. There I sat them, with the hope that I was doing something to better them, to better us. Go play, I said. And after their black eyes stared at one another and their small faces twitched, they ran in opposite directions.

I don’t remember how long I searched the orchard for them, only that I stood over an empty hole, panicking, searching for tiny trails of dust rising from the earth.

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