There was once a girl with a terrible gift.
The girl could pull any kind of fruit out of any kind of pocket. Oranges, quinces, lemons, kiwis; bananas, watermelon, guava. Even dragonfruit. The most difficult were blueberries, becausenobody ever wanted just one and the girl could only pull a piece at a time. She didn’t mind, though. Nobody else did, either: in her city, fresh fruit was hard to come by, and most people were willing to wait. So it took a long time for her to realize the secret horror of the gift. Because all things considered, fruit is more useful than other kinds of terrible talents. (Her best friend, for example, could produce flowers from any kind of hat, which caused all kinds of problems, like pollen allergies and bee-stings and the inevitable scratchiness of a hat with flowers poking out of it).
Nobody cared if a piece of fruit wilted or smelled or scratched. There were no bees. People appreciated the snack.
As the years went and she got older, the gift-giving became a habit for the girl. Like a necklace she put on every morning and wore out because it was nice to look at and everybody said so. Soon she didn’t have to put it on in the morning because she never took it off at night. Nobody minded her in all that finery, because when it was cold, there were always pineapples for her teachers; apples for her aunties; and plums for her dad. When it was summer her sisters ate clumps of grapes like jewels. She reserved bananas (at all times) for enemies, except they were still appreciative and nobody got hurt and everyone was eating more fruit than their mothers ever packed in any of their school lunch bags.
More than anything the girl liked giving fruit to strangers. Strangers expected nothing and therefore anything struck them as extraordinary. It was a nice feeling.There was nothing better than seeing a person fed. And no matter the season she liked to be thanked. She told this to her friend who made flowers. He copied her example. (Most people, it might be noted, can’t eat petals.)
One day, the boy who made flowers tried to give some to a man who thought it meant something it didn’t. In the hospital, the walls were not fruit or flower-colored. They were beige. There were no hats and all the pockets had pens or other official implements in them, meant for important things like drawing blood and keeping friends alive.
Holding her hand next to the beige walls he said he didn’t understand why people couldn’t just accept the gifts given them.
“I mostly thought his baseball cap would make some nice daisies.”
He had a cut which bled a little like redcurrant jam.
“They were nice daisies.”
When the girl went home she thought long and hard about flowers and gifts and red-currant jam. She pulled guava after guava out of pocket after pocket. Meanwhile, her friend graduated the hospital; they both graduated the high-school.
At the ceremony, fifty names went mispronounced; three diplomas were missing; and six-hundred posies fell when the graduation caps bloomed mid-air. Her classmates yelled and screamed and laughed. The girl felt sick.
Afterwards, she folded her gown into a square the size of a pocket. She put it in her car. Then she drove to the the Walgreens (she’d yet to meet anyone who could pull Ibuprofen out of a hat) where she found the most inspiring pockets she’d ever seen. They belonged to the pharmacist, a woman with night-sky skin and blazing smile and an apron with two front pockets. The girl couldn’t help herself. It took two strangers plus the girl herself to balance, not one; not two; but four watermelons on that drugstore counter. The pharmacist was too confused to help. She tried to decline the strange girl’s attempt to barter fruit-for-Ibifrofen (the one, after all, couldn’t reduce cramps) until finally a melon tipped from the counter and split into shards the size of plates. A manager was called. Complaints were made. There was inevitably more yelling, and the woman with the blazing smile kept smiling even as she scooped watermelon pulp off the carpet. The girl left the store (rolling the offensive fruit into an aisle; here, where it sat for several hours before the pharmacist reclaimed it to take home to her partner: but this happened much later, when the girl lay, watching a cooking show on her couch.)
Watching an apronless chef braise an apricot , the girl swore she’d never make another plum, pluat, or grapefruit, ever, ever again. Lying on her stomach with the TV remote balanced on a seat cushion she swore she’d never do such a self-serving thing as give anyone unrequested fruit. And setting her head onthe pillow she dreamt up nobler, more worthwhile uses of her time: things like Computer Science; remembering to feed the cat; and being kinder to her mother.
Over time people forgot the girl ever pulled sweet things from jacket pockets. It turned out she was pretty great at coding. Her mom was very appreciative, and so was her cat.
(Both the pharmacist and her girlfriend agreed: it was incredible watermelon. The girlfriend couldn’t believe how much her partner loved her, and told her so. That night they had really, really great sex.)
words by Isa Flores-Jones w/ hands by Camila Ortiz