About the Author
I was nine years old when I ate my way over Lanai, the Island of Ghosts, moving between the rows of armored pineapples in their fields, through the groves of wild guavas, picking upward in the passion fruit vines, under giraffe-like papaya trees, ripe mango after dripping mango in my first season of boredom.
This was the summer that my father’s face expanded, stretching past the walls of the house, until it watched everything I did. This was the summer that I had my buddy Terri, who meant everything to me. This was the summer that my head seemed inhabited by bees, each noisy with a plan of its own.
It was a summer of heat and melancholy in which Terri and I were always hungry. Eating was something to do after the musty blanket we used as a tent in my yard had collapsed, after we had seen The Ten Commandments at the 10 cent movie-house, after the birdlike Baptist Missionary, Miss Griggs, had explained the Bible in her little white church, after Arthur Silva, the kid who nobody liked, spitefully peed on the limbs of our secret banyan tree. And there was the golf course, which was rarely used, a place to run and be alone, away from my father’s now huge eye, to sit above the guava-filled ravine at its edges and stare at the pineapple fields stretching out in their endless order, and always to find something to eat.
The path to the golf course wound through a gloomy grove of Norfolk pine trees past a single house looking out over the first tee. This was the house and the yard of the Edwards. Mr. Edwards was the game warden for the goats, wild pigs and deer in the mountains on the north shore of the island, and Mrs. Edwards was a witch. She had to be, the way she seemed to hate children. Tall, with a rather long nose, a pocked complexion and mangy blond hair, she wore tight capri pants and little spiky heels rather than the sandals and flowing muumuus that the island women wore. Whenever we passed she was always at her kitchen window with her murky blue eyes watching us. She never spoke, except once, when we were sitting under a tree nearby, she had appeared behind us like a nervous apparition and wheezed in a high-pitched voice to stay away from her yard.
The day we harvested guavas in the ravine, she was not at her window, the window was closed, and we thought ourselves free. With an empty cardboard box stretched like a rib between us we ran down the green fairway to the edge of the ravine. Growing rampant in their trees and rotting on the ground, the guavas were round and brightly yellow with skins that were spongy and sweet and the pink seeds cradled in them rolled around on our tongues. The odor of the fruit was pungent as we let them fall with a thud into the box, checking only that there were no worm holes in them, and being happy, singing dreamy songs as we picked.
When the box was overflowing, we pulled it back up the hill, resting at the top, at the edge of the Edwards’ yard. There were no cars in the garage, and the kitchen window was still closed. No one was home.
Sitting the box down, we bravely walked into the garage. Its white cement floor was spotless and on the walls were uncluttered shelves and copper hooks on which tools were hung.
It was so disappointing, not at all what we thought a witch’s garage would be like. There was nothing unusual or mysterious about it at all, nothing to explore, except a huge freezer in one corner, the type with a door that hinges upward like a coffin. Terri had already returned to our box, but I wanted to open the freezer. When its metal latch gave me a shock, determined, I found a plank of wood leaning against a wall and pulling the wood over to stand on, pushed the door up with a heave.
The freezer was divided into halves, on one half neatly stacked boxes of frozen vegetables. But on the other, wrapped in translucent plastic, as if sleeping, with bits of frost in its hair, lay a perfect frozen fawn. Its back was dappled and its eyes a murky blue, one which looked right at me. I closed the door quickly without a sound and carefully put the wood back. The next few days grew hotter and the coolest place seemed to be my garage. And there, to our delight, in its clutter my father had hung from the ceiling to ripen like a pendant the most perfect amber bunch of bananas we had ever seen, at least two-hundred of them, each smooth, spotted and ready. At the end of our first day in the garage fifty-two peels lay in a dull brown heap.
It continues to amaze me that neither Terri nor I got sick that evening, just as it amazed me then that my father never said a word about all those bananas, as if they had not been missed. I’ve told the story of eating twenty-six bananas at a sitting many times over, but I never told anyone, not even Terri, about finding the fawn, nor about how that night, for the first in a long life of nights, I would think about death.
|© Laura Beausoleil, 2010|