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The invisible persimmon family

A short story | By David Hansen | Nov. 25, 2009

The sparrows eat the persimmons in the morning, the crows eat in the afternoon. The orange, broken meat is dying on the tree, resembling the surrounding leaves, what few remain. Winter is arriving. Even this year's harvest wasn't very good. 

When Joe reaches down to grab another half-eaten fruit rotting on the ground, someone yells, “Hey, what are you doing?” 

Joe unfolds slowly, feeling his 53 years. He's wearing a tractor hat and dark overalls. His face is weathered, belying a lifetime of sun. He's a born farmer from Iowa, now without permanent shelter in Laguna Beach, where he arrived six months ago, tired of the Midwest winters. 

In Iowa he always got seasonal work. But here there are no seasons to speak of. 

“Get out of here!” the voice says again. Joe turns away, grabbing his duffel bag and a handful of persimmons. He will eat them later in stages. 

Joe makes it back to his cave-like home on the water as the sun starts to set over Catalina Island. His home is in a secluded nook off the main beach, where a cliff recedes into a finger cove. It's a private extension of a park they call Heisler. Joe shies away from crowds so it suits him. The night breezes are getting colder, but nothing like he's used to. 

He still misses Iowa, though he's not sure why. His parents are long dead, his sister estranged. He lost his wife and daughter to a drunk driver and never remarried. 

He wonders if he made the right decision coming to California. He finds himself thinking too much now, which is unlike him. He'd rather work than ponder, provide rather than make small talk. 

Joe eats the fruit; the astringent hits his cheeks and causes him to pucker. He chews slowly and tries to forget his thoughts. 

Out of the corner of his eye, a girl, maybe 10, bounds along the rocks, venturing farther than others. 

Joe has learned to become invisible but this time it doesn't work. 

“Hi,” the girl says, suddenly standing in front of him. 

“Hello,” Joe says quietly, looking away, hoping she leaves. 

“What are you doing?” she asks. 

“I'm eating a persimmon.” 

“What's that?” 

“Do you want some?” Joe asks, cutting a sliver with a pocket knife. He reaches out with the fruit on the knife's blade. 

The girl starts to reach for it. “JESSICA!” the mom screams. 

The girl jumps. Joe drops the fruit. 

The mom races over the rocks, falling, yelling. “Come here, now ... hurry!” 

The girl turns to her mom but glances back at Joe and says softly, “I'm sorry.” 

As the girl and mom fade away into the night, Joe overhears, “Did he hurt you?” 

His heart skips a beat at the thought of hurting the girl. 

He wonders if things would have been different if he hadn't lost his family. 

They would have liked Laguna. 

©Copyright 2009. David Hansen.