Kay pulled her car into the garage on a murky Thursday night after a round-trip drive from Seattle to Florida. It was just this sort of weather that had convinced her to go, to get out of the persistent rain of November and search for the golden globe of the sun, which, she believed, was embodied in the yellow sphere that was a grapefruit.

When the idea first claimed its place in her thoughts, she considered it ridiculous. Why would anyone drive thousands of miles for a silly looking yellow fruit? She could just pick one off the produce table at the local grocery (and mischievously imagine sending the whole pyramid cascading to the floor).  When she announced her plan to her teenage son, he looked at her obliquely, as though he wasn’t quite sure who this woman was.

“When the rain begins in the fall, I’m going to go south and find the perfect grapefruit,” she said one evening in February, before the cherry trees began to bloom and made her forget the inky weight of the winter clouds in Washington State.

“How will you get there?” her son asked as he sliced carrots in the kitchen for the salad.

“I’m going to drive,” she answered pensively, looking into an imaginary distance over his shoulder.

“Drive?” he asked, puzzled. “But how do I get home from school? And who’ll make dinner?”

“Well,” she answered, “by Fall you’ll be 16 and can drive yourself to school, and you and Daddy do pretty well in the kitchen when I’m not around. You’ll manage it.”

After staring at his mother for a moment, the boy went back to slicing carrots.

And so, when the first rains roared in with the wind one November morning, she set off, stopping first in Arizona, and then in Texas, looking for the perfect grapefruit. The ones she found were large and smooth, but the skin wasn’t quite the right hue, and so she drove on, across the bayous of Louisiana, through the hills of Alabama, to the Sunshine State.

And there she saw it, just outside Homestead on her way to the Keys, the very fruit she’d been looking for in a grove of roadside trees. The dark glossy leaves of the trees sheltered the heavy, shiny fruit, whose dimpled skin, a vibrant yellow, bore a subtle blush of pink.

She pulled the car to the side of the road and calmly climbed over the slatted metal fence that surrounded the trees. In just a few steps, she arrived under the arching branches of a tree and absorbed the cool air and pungent fragrance of the yellow globes clustered above.

Then, in one fluid motion, she reached up and plucked the fruit hanging right over her head.  The stem gave way with a snap and the branch sprang upward, relieved of its weight.

And there it was, round and warm and glowing in her hand, like a perfect sphere of flame.


March 8, 2016


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