Still Life: A Love Story

MARGARET ANDREWS

Retiring for the evening, the unknown artist glanced around his studio and left the room with a quiet "click."

"The coast is clear!" shouted a banana.

"Whee!" screamed a kiwi.

Rex eyed the green apple across the table. The red apple waited all day to talk to her. Nonchalantly, he rolled over and charmingly delivered what he'd practiced all afternoon. "Hey Greenie, I noticed you came in today with the latest bag of groceries. Where ya from?" Rex was real smooth with the ladies.

The green apple smirked at the red round playboy. "Listen pal, you red boys are all alike. You sweep me off my feet, take me to your bowl for the night and then dump me for the next piece of fruit you see."

Rex tried a softer approach. "Aw, I figured you could use a friend. You shouldn't judge an apple by its color."

"I should say the same to you," she replied indignantly. "You think because I'm green, I'm easy."

Boy, he thought, she's obviously been bruised in the past.

• • •

A fruit's motto: Life is too short. Apples and oranges last a week or two, if they avoid the floor. Bananas, however, quickly brown. They party all night like a bunch of fraternity brothers surviving maybe four or five days. Once a piece of fruit turns, it rots in mind and body. Since misery loves company, it joins the other bad frowning fruit crawling around and reeking of depression. Rotten fruit are miserable, cantankerous and colorless. Doomed for the trash, they're lucky if they die without the horrible infestation of fruit flies, the nightmare of all fruit. You walk into a room of crowded pineapples and say "fruit fly" and you walk out with a shirt pocket full of quickly lost fruit juice and leave behind a heebie-jeebie-filled bundle of nerves.

• • •

"Forward Ho!" cried the leader of the strawberries, marching her troops toward the chocolate syrup bottle. The little red army squirted the chocolate into a bowl and dove in with a thick gooey splash. A banana flipped on the portable radio. Caribbean music and tropical laughter filled the studio.

The wide-eyed green apple stared at the strawberry banana dance party. Frightened, she began to step back toward the edge of the table.

"What'sa matter Greenie?" asked Rex. "Ain't ya ever been to a fruit party before?"

"What are those bananas doing?" she gasped with awe.

"Oh, those boys peel off their skins and dance every night with the strawberries and chocolate. It's just delicious! Say, what's your name anyway?"

"Grace," she hesitantly replied.

Rex wondered how this green orb of innocence survived the grocery store notorious for its rampant debauchery in the produce sections. He remembered his grocery store days, frolicking through the melons. He had stumbled upon a warm and fuzzy, misplaced peach. When she revealed her pit to him, his stem curled. And Myra, the exotic mango made his seeds quiver. She ultimately dumped him for a pompous papaya.

On Rex's first day in the studio, he found a luscious orange. A bunch of grapes warned him that apples and oranges don't mix. He decided against getting closer to the orange when later that evening, two beefy grapefruits rolled over him threatening his skin if he came anywhere near the bright silky orange. Apparently, she already had a boyfriend.

But Grace intrigued him. For a fruit so seemingly unworldly, she was defiant. What was it about this new juicy gal? Her flawless green skin that reflected the moonlight glow? Her little freckles dotting her perfectly round body? How she blushed when she watched the freshly peeled bananas dipping themselves into chocolate and dancing licentiously around the giggling strawberries?

Rex watched Grace roll closer to the edge of the table. She stopped and looked away from the fruit orgy. He noticed that she still had two sprouting leaves on her stem. Wow, he thought, a virgin! How has she managed to escape unscathed from all the apples piled on top of her in transit, or the perverted bananas in the grocery store?

Rex considered himself old and wise. He'd been around for a while, nearly seven days. Those frat-boys wouldn't make it past three days judging by their quick-ripening behavior. He felt sorry for the green apple and for some reason, wanted to take responsibility for her safety. Particularly when he thought of the rotten fruit in the studio.

The rotten fruit had over-ripened. They were black, mushy, and hairy. They trudged nightly around the studio together, spoiling other fruit and leaving a sludgy muck-trail in their wake. Rex would protect the nave Grace from these beasts.

Grace returned her gaze to the chocolate swim-fest. Slowly, her features softened and Rex noticed how beautiful she was. She caught him smiling at her and smiled back. His seeds quivered. No one affected his core like that since Myra, the exotic mango.

He rolled over to the fruit punch bowl. "How's the punch tonight, guys?"

In a smooth Jamaican accent, a mango bartenders replied, "Oh Rex, mahn, the punch is so fine. We have Tortuga Rum from the Cayman Islands. And here's another for your fine lady friend over there."

Rex rolled over to Grace and offered her a cup of punch.

"Thanks," she replied. She took a sip, contemplated it, and took another big gulp. "This is delicious. What is it?"

"It's a Caribbean specialty."

She took another big gulp and felt her face redden. "It makes me kinda tingly."

"Slow down, baby, or you'll find yourself on the floor."

Rex and Grace danced to the Caribbean rhythms until Rex was out of breath and Grace was out of punch. "May I have another drink?"

"Sure. You stay right here, okay?"

"No worries, brah!"

Ruby, another red apple came up to Grace and introduced herself, so Rex left them to talk about girlie "applette" stuff. He rolled back over to the punch bowl and chatted with Perry, a pineapple who spent some time complimenting Rex on his date of the evening. "You got yourself a young one, my friend. Be careful with her, and don't let her out of your sight."

\Rex was about to say something but heard a loud "Wheeee!" behind him. He turned to find Grace spinning around and dancing a little too close to the edge of the table.

"Grace!" he cried.

Grace yelped and disappeared from the table. Rex rushed over expecting to see the object of his desire a mere mushy spot on the linoleum. He looked down to see Grace stunned, dazed and a little bruised on the chair below. "Are you okay, Grace?" he asked with relief.

Grace giggled. "Hey, can you tell 'em to turn up that music?" She started to sing along: "Why don't we get drunk and screw." She giggled again dancing on the chair. She spun around and looked up at Rex. "Hi cutie!"

"Sweetheart, please stop spinning until we can get you back up here."

Then he saw the sludge. On the floor, approaching the chair. The rotten fruit saw the near falling of Grace and oozed closer. Rex could see the evil sneers on their globby faces.

Grace started to spin around again. "You mean like this?" Still laughing, she slipped off the chair into the gloppy middle of the rotten mass. Immediately enveloped by the black hairy mass, she let out a muffled giggle. Then she was gone.

"Grace!" he cried. "Grace! NOOOOOOO!"

The rotten fruit jeered at Rex. A low gurgly voice boomed out, "Now she's one of us Red Boy! She's spoiled, if you know what I mean! HA HA HA HA HA!" The burbling glob ejected two wilted leaves as it rolled away into the corner waiting for its next victim.

"Oh, Rex," said Ruby.

"I ... I think I loved her Ruby. She made my seeds quiver. Her moonlight reflection was incredible."

"Yeah," said Ruby softly. "Makes you think twice about falling for organic."

"What are you talking about?" Rex was confused. Granted, Ruby was wise, been around awhile,
showed a few wrinkles. But what the hell was she talking about?

"You didn't know? She was picked up from a roadside stand. No pesticides, no immunity, no exposure to anything. And this kind of place overwhelms them. Still, I'm sorry for your loss, sweetie."

Rex realized why Grace was shocked about the banana orgy and why her leaves were still intact. He felt a dull ache in the middle of his core. If he couldn't spend the evening with his new found and subsequently new lost love, he would drown his sorrows.

"Can I make you another rum punch, brah?" the mango bartender asked.

Rex looked meaningfully into the bartender's eyes. "Grace used to called me 'brah.'"

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