Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

Another Way To See Things

An arrest, a trip to the morgue, and the pave­ment only just begin­ning to warm under the morn­ing sun, but Hernandez knows even with so much of it still ahead, his day won’t get any bet­ter. Before start­ing the squad car to leave the coun­ty morgue park­ing lot, he glances in the card­board box sit­ting in the pas­sen­ger seat. It con­tains all of the things he col­lect­ed from Gabriel’s desk yes­ter­day and…

…a peach.

His hand drifts from the igni­tion. He looks again.

A large, per­fect peach rests on a plas­tic evi­dence bag con­tain­ing a brass sprin­kler head. For a moment, he resists reach­ing into the box. It might not be real. He can’t smell it, but the tex­ture, the shape, the almost imper­cep­ti­ble limb scar on the top are all so sub­stan­tial. How would it get there? He knows he locked the door and he knows it wasn’t there before he went inside. The only pos­si­bil­i­ties he can con­sid­er: on the one hand he’s los­ing it and on the oth­er some­one had access to his car and the evi­dence.

He reach­es for the peach and it dis­ap­pears. He is not sur­prised. Almost relieved. Just a lack of sleep. He starts the engine and turns around to guide the car back out of the park­ing space. Once out of the space, he turns to face for­ward and sees that the peach has returned.

You’re not there.” He puts the car in dri­ve and tries to ignore the fruit. The sun is at his back as he makes his way south­west to Brenlee through new hous­ing devel­op­ments, then cow pas­tures whose few remain­ing bovine res­i­dents chew cud obliv­i­ous to the visions of sub­di­vi­sion any pass­ing fool sees over­layed across this land. The inte­ri­or of the car grows slow­ly warmer as he dri­ves and after ten min­utes of pas­ture he sees the almond and peach orchards mute­ly seek­ing refuge at the out­skirts of Brenlee hud­dled togeth­er on the hori­zon. He reach­es to turn up the air con­di­tion­ing and smells the peach. As he approach­es the orchards the scent grows stronger.

Hernandez turns off the air con­di­tion­er and rolls down the win­dow. It is only in the high 70s out­side. The wind whip­ping through the win­dow keeps him cool but does noth­ing to dis­si­pate the sweet dusty rich odor of that peach stow­ing away in his box of evi­dence. He checks his speed. 65 miles per hour. Too fast to be sleep­ing.

His grand­moth­er would call this a vision. “But it is no saint Abuela, just a peach.” He can hear her answer, ‘Con estos bueyes hay que arar.’ Right. You have to plough with the bur­ros you have. Like she ever touched a bur­ro or ploughed any­thing. “And rose gar­dens don’t count Abuela,” he tells her. Still, she has a point.

A peach. Not a sin­gle peach, but the smell of hun­dreds maybe thou­sands of peach­es — it was every­where around the boy’s body. So, instead of fol­low­ing his head and his plan and going to the sta­tion to orga­nize the inter­views with the kids and teach­ers at the school lat­er that morn­ing, he returns to the orchard. As he parks his car near the scene, left­over yel­low plas­tic crime scene tape sag­ging from a near­by tree, he looks over at the box of evi­dence and the peach has gone but the beau­ti­ful real smell of ripe fruit sur­rounds and cov­ers him with a small sense of calm that comes of know­ing he has arrived where the dead boy most needs him.