It had been winter for so long, it seemed like, and I was ready for the clementines. In Georgia that year there had been no autumn. It was 89 degrees one day, 40 the next, and snowing inside of a week. Since the beginning of November it had been scarf and hat weather, soup and space heater weather, whiskey in the coffee weather.
"Let's get some now before they are gone," I said to him, and he smiled at me and said, "There's no rush," and I said, "Yes, there is," because he didn't understand. Soon the season would be over, and there had been early icing in Spain that year, so they'd already had to destroy half of the crop.
So we went to the store, even though he reminded me how packed it would be two days before Christmas. We went to the Whole Foods around the corner. I'd read on a blog they'd be getting a shipment of organic clementines from Valencia. The Spanish are the only real clementines, as anyone who knows will tell you. I imagine they must have fallen in love, the conquistadors, on their first journey to the Americas.
"Just imagine, pushing your way through the equatorial heat. Splitting mangrove saplings with your machete, pulling palm fronds apart with your hands, swatting at the mosquitoes, and coming upon this perfect orange globe, glowing there in the sun."
He was adjusting the baby bjorn, trying to tighten it around his waist while holding Parker's head gingerly in his hand.
"Are you listening?"
He looked up, frowning so tightly that you couldn't make out his mouth beneath his beard. "Hmmm?"
"Do you ever listen?"
"I was," he said. "But you know, citrus originated in Asia."
"Yeah. You know, Persian limes? Mandarin oranges? They were cultivated in China thousands of years ago. The Spanish would have already known about them...and I don't even think they grew wild in Florida. Most likely they were brought over and cultivated later." He hitched the baby up on his chest and made for the cart rack. For some reason, it was a crushing blow.
We ate the clementines that night, an old Christmas special on the TV that I'd seen a million times, with commercials I'd seen a million more. My hands were sticky, but I didn't want to get up to wash them. They were hard to peel. One of them, unaccountably, was full of seeds.
Matt Sailor is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. He holds an MFA from Georgia State University, and is a 2014 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing fellow. He works as an associate editor of NANO Fiction. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in AGNI, Five Chapters, and Hobart, among others. He is currently at work on his first novel, 1985.