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by Joan Leotta

I brought Auntie a box of Comice pears to celebrate her ninety-fifth birthday. Her favorite. She opened the box.

“Green globes, soft to the touch. Ripe. Like me,” she sighed.

“You’re not green,” I protested.

“But at my age, I am certainly ripe.” Her eyes twinkled. “Let me thank you with a story.”

She began: “Once there were pears whose juices ran down the chin when you bit into the sweet creamy flesh. Only rich folks could buy them. The farmer who brought them to market refused to give one to a starving beggar, even to sell him a bruised one for a reduced price. That same afternoon, a magician bought one for the required silver dime. He devoured the entire pear, except for the seeds. With a flourish, he planted the pear seeds right there! One by one he dropped them into the slim trough of a sidewalk crack.”

Auntie took a pear out of the box and bit into its soft green skin. The white inner flesh gleamed and liquid sweetness dripped down her chin. The drops shone like dew on a fine old rose. “Good!” Auntie proclaimed.

I jumped up with a napkin to blot up the pear’s transgressing stream of juice. I laid the napkin on her lap.

“Have a pear with me.” She gestured toward the box. I hesitated. The pears were for her. She smiled and continued the story between bites.

“The magician waved his hand over the newly planted seeds. Instantly, a fully grown fruit-laden tree sprouted up. He offered his pears to all, free of charge. The beggar took the first perfect specimen.

“The merchant was amazed. He also ate one of the magician’s pears and found it to be as good as his own. Pears gone, the crowd dispersed. The magician vanished into the alleys around the market. The merchant turned to pick up his cart to move it to a busier corner.

“His cart was almost empty! He shivered and then realized the pears given out by the magician had been his own. The tongue of his wooden cart had been the tree. The magician’s art was in making the pears seem new, the magician’s ‘trick’ had been to share even when the merchant was unwilling.”

She placed the pear remains, full of seeds, on the napkin I had given her. I stole a look at my watch. Was it time to leave yet? I did not have much time to give that day. So busy.

She waved her hand over the box of pears and repeated, “Have one.”

In that moment, enchanted, I recalled the years of magic she had given me in stories, love, and gifts of favorite things. I sat back in my chair, devoured both the pear and tale and shared a cart full of hours with her, sharing tales of my days as well.

Joan Leotta has been playing with words through writing and performing since childhood. Her motto is “encouraging words through pen and performance.” Her award-winning poetry, short stories, books and articles have appeared in many journals, magazines and newspapers. She has work forthcoming in Knox Literary Magazine and Eastern Iowa Review. She performs folklore and one-woman shows on historic figures in schools, libraries, museums and at festivals. Joan lives in Calabash, NC, with husband Joe. You can learn more about her work and reach her through www.joanleotta.wordpress.com. You can like her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joan-Leotta-Author-and-Story-Performer/188479350973.