Dare I Share a Peach

Jun 11, 2016 by

In the security monitor on the wall above the front door, Michael saw the neighborhood baker holding a small white pastry box. The box and the white chef coat glowed pink from the red porch light in the wintery overcast afternoon. She handed the warm peach beehive to him, and apologized, explaining the peach had to be reconstituted from two dried halves.

“I’ll enjoy it, Thistle, thank you.”

“I can’t depend on the co-ops anymore – orchardists are vanishing to survival communes. I’m sorry, but this is my last delivery, Michael, the streets are getting too dangerous. Sometimes I feel foolish to stay in town, but locking myself away in a gun-mune doesn’t seem good, and I just won’t.”

Michael nodded. Muggings were increasing. Walking around in only tightie-whities was safe, common practice last summer, the aura of insanity was protection from random acts of greed, and gun-munes. Gun-munes by design were carefully planned acts of greed.

“Here, I made this for your bike.” Michael gave Thistle a pinwheel of colorful hemp-paper triangles and her payment of two pints of homebrew bubble-wrapped to travel in her wire basket.

“Use this zip tie to cinch the pinwheel to your handlebar.” A motion in the bushes at the side of Mrs. Chindmer’s home across the street drew his attention; a stranger was peering into her window.

“Hey, what’re you doing?”

The man turned and stared at Michael, didn’t run, didn’t wave, and worse, two young boys at his side did the same, just stared.

“Know them?”

“No.”

“Ooh, not good,” Thistle shook her head. “Got to go. Thanks, Michael.” She attached the pinwheel, blew to make it spin, and then rode off, turning to wave and ringing her thumb bell twice.

Michael watched Thistle shrink by distance until she disappeared behind the garbage pile on the roundabout. He waved even though she was out of sight. Then, he heard a crash, perhaps a crash, definitely shouting, more shouting, ringing, and a scream – a woman’s scream, gunfire, and then silence.

Was that Thistle’s bell? Michael wondered, running to the house. He grabbed his rifle behind the door, ran back outside, the door slammed shut, and he stopped in confused panic. That stranger and those two boys were staring at his home, the porch light had automatically changed to green, indicating the house was vacant, available to any squatter. Michael had left the door unlocked. Conflicting demands paralyzed him: Go to Thistle; go to house. Go! No! Caution broke his bravery and left him standing, holding the rifle barrel like a walking stick.

Disappointed, he closed his eyes and bent over, resting his forehead on fist and muzzle. He noted his brain poised in the path of a bullet, and distracted himself with the idea of giving those two boys the warm peach dessert. He stood. Already halfway down the block, the strangers were small in the distance.

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