by Michael Gigandet
There is no excuse for mistreating a peach.
I feel particularly strong about south Georgia peaches when I have travelled all the way into Nashville, through all of that traffic, to buy them from the peach truck lady over in the 12th Avenue South neighborhood, a community so grown up and stylish now you don’t even notice the deteriorating subsidized housing project you pass on 12th Avenue on your way to the fruit and vegetable stands, the overpriced coffee shops, boutiques and restaurants.
On Saturday mornings in the summer, the peach truck lady, a wholesome 25 year old in tight jeans and a plaid shirt with the tails tied at the waist, appears with her pick-up truck in the parking lot of a boutique clothing store (formerly a gas station) to sell her peaches to discriminating Nashvillians.
And every Saturday morning the peach truck lady gives me the same advice: “They came off the tree 12 hours ago. Best to let them sit in the trunk of your car for a day to bring them on.”
And I say: “I will. I’m baking pies with this bunch.” Or, “I’m going to make peach jam with these.”
I like to say things like that because I enjoy the look on her face when she takes in the picture of a 60 year old retired lawyer puttering around his kitchen in an apron.
(I’m serious. I give my pies to the neighbors for fun. A widower living alone can’t eat all of those pies. I also put up a lot of jams and jellies and give them away in gift packages at Christmas.)
The smell of those fresh peaches when I open up the trunk lid of my Mustang on a summer Sunday evening must be the smell of the New World before you see land.
When the season ends, that’s it. No more peaches.
I set aside my last basket of peaches for my daughter. Since she’d moved to Lexington about four hours away, she didn’t visit often. On Sunday morning, I sat on the porch with my coffee and watched for her.
I could not account for the distance which grew between us after Em died. Geography certainly, and maybe some of it was just age and instinct. Every animal on the planet forgets its nearest and dearest except, in a very few species, its mate.
After Em’s death my daughter’s weekly telephone calls became dutiful and shorter until they became bi-weekly. I was afraid to call her. Her calls became texts, sporadic spurts of information.
I gave her the peaches and offered to take her to lunch, but she couldn’t stay. I waved to her from the driveway until her car disappeared around a curve.
A week later, I sent her a text: “How’d you like those peaches?”
“They spoiled,” she replied.
A few hours later, I said aloud, “Too bad” and thought of other things.
Michael Gigandet is a lawyer living on a farm in middle Tennessee. He has a JD degree from Vanderbilt University and has been published by the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. He recently had a story selected for an anthology with Pure Slush.