The Pears

It’s September, so fall fruit is erupting on yards and sidewalks, in gutters. There are plenty of ghost orchards in the old suburb where I live – remnants of fruit trees are everywhere – stumps and jagged skeletons and even some healthy trees that are still producing. Our next-door neighbor, Larry, has a stalwart apple that’s a great friend to the deer who travel back and forth on the path they’ve tamped down between our yards before clambering up our back steps into the alley. I’m always grateful he hasn’t cut it down. Part of what was magical about our house when we first bought it were Larry’s trees. A line of crabapples and a giant pine that brought us shade and comfort. I cried when they cut it down. They made such short work of it, but the stump smelled of fresh pine for years afterward.

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On one of the still-remaining brick streets Baru and I walk at the end of every day, two young fruit trees are growing close in the tree lawn: an apple and a pear. I’ve noticed them for several years, through every season. It’s a block  I like to walk; down at the far end of the borough it runs along the ridge that shelters Chartiers Creek.

They are young good trees; the pear is rangy and adolescent, the apple shorter, pod-shaped, more like a little kid. This year both are heavy with fruit, but the pear is especially abundant. The apple is all in its head—top-heavy. Even in his wariness Baru makes friends more easily than me, and he charmed the man who belongs to the trees, so we ended up bringing four pears home about a week ago. I don’t know anything about that man other than he pressed his pears on me with some awkwardness and urgency—several fell for every one he succeeded in picking. He told us the woman who delivers mail also likes pears—that there are too many for him to eat (hundreds, did he say that?) He said the pears would get ripe in about four days, that’s how it worked, you had to pick them first then let them ripen. It took much longer than that, at least a week. By that time I expected them to go the way of most fruit, from rock to mush overnight. But no. The pears took their time. It was only this morning I could tell one was ready by its sweet smell and the slight red blush it wore.  It was delicious.

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