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.