Monday, September 20, 2010

The Oranges

It wasn’t that she didn’t want the oranges. It was their timing. The UPS man drove up the driveway just when she was getting out of the shower. She heard the dogs bark and she knew someone was coming. She bundled up in her terry robe, the one that she stole from that hotel . . . the hotel in Dominica, where she met the Russian who invited her to go fishing with him . . . and she went to the door and it was beginning to snow.

The sky was low, touching the tops of the bare poplars, and she stood there in her bare feet and waited, while the dogs barked behind her. The UPS man came bounding from the truck and she watched him, in his brown pants and his brown down jacket and his brown watch cap with the yellow letters -- U P S and she felt sorry for him, because he drives around with no door. Couldn’t he fall out of the truck? Isn’t it cold? But here he came, and the dogs, all of her dogs, pushed at the back of her knees and she put her hands down and felt their cold noses on her fingers, and snow flakes fell on her nose and the UPS man came with this crate that was filled with oranges. He put the crate at her feet and asked her to sign -- she took the thing that looked like a pen and scrawled her name on the little screen that always reminded her of an etch-a-sketch and her signature came out looking something like what she imagined it would look like when she was very old and in a nursing home, signing a piece of paper that approved the authorities to put her in a room with seven other elderly women who would scream in their sleep.

But, she was only signing for a crate of oranges, sent to her from Sunny Florida. “They’re saying we could get 13 or 14 inches,” said the UPS man and she handed him the pen and looked out across her yard . . . the big brown truck was fading away with the shower of snow and its exhaust billowed and made her think she would like to be standing in it, asphyxiating herself. Her feet were cold and her hair was wet. She wondered if the UPS man wondered why she was just out of the bath at 1 in the afternoon. She’d been up since six a.m., but he didn’t know that, did he?

“14 inches . . . that would stop the world.” She said and her dogs went quiet. They always went quiet the moment she spoke to strangers on the doorstep.

The UPS man turned and he was gone into his brown truck and she watched him speed down the driveway. The truck left tracks in the driveway, yes, it was snowing alright.

She looked down at the crate. An audacious card with buxom girls embracing a palm tree was affixed to the top of the crate, she swept the snow away and read the message:

To: Tina

From: Harry & Frank

Hey! We’re in Florida and wish you were here! Girl . . . oooo . . . oooo

She thought, “They don’t wish I was there . . . ” and then she bent down and picked up the crate. It was heavy. Real heavy. “Thanks guys, send me oranges for the snow storm, thanks.”

The dogs crowded her as she carried the crate in the kitchen. She put it on the floor and kneeled down, the dogs put their noses to the crate, “NO, those are not tennis balls. Those are oranges!”

She looked out the kitchen window. It was snowing harder now. She was relieved she had plenty of firewood. She held her oldest dog’s face, she leaned into him, and cried, “Power’s going to go out, you know it is, always does. But Harry and Frank sent oranges. Thank God for Harry and Frank.”

1 comment:

T.S. Dogfish said...

That story - with the snow and the oranges and the fire and the threat of power outtage - made me feel cozy.