The banana grew brown age spots. The pear began to grow so watery that we all began to fear an attack of weeping any day. The apples came in went in rapid succession, shining with promise like the James Dean of fruit, before shuffling off this mortal bowl.
We grapes, however, were picked off one by one. Time went slowly for us. Some branches of the family began to look rather bare, members gone before we ever really got a chance to know them while others worried of growing wrinkly and ugly before fulfilling their purpose in life. I was one of these unlucky lingerers.
As time passed we that were left became less than pleasant. Not just bad company for the lack of edifying conversation, but the smell and look of us. The wrinkles were bad enough (folds of skin curling over in sagging waves) but the smell of us too! At least now there were fewer of us there was more room for each to air out a bit, but the fewer of us there were the more likely it was you would get picked next and the increasing fear of the inevitable did nothing to improve our rapidly stinking decay.
I mentioned it before, but it bears repeating that the conversation grew just as stale as our bodies. It became a kind of ritual with us. Each time another was plucked from the stem someone would ask whether all this waiting was really worth it just for a little more time attached to the vine. Then another would reply “it beats plucking out early!” and the argument would draw in each of us remaining until the whole thing came full circle. None of us came to a point.
For my part, the wait was worse than anything. But to go with the flow I usually tended to chime in on the positive side. Nobody likes a sour grape, right?
On the inside, though, I could feel my soft center turn to bile. How could life be so small? Was it really just a matter of the branches clearing? For what was I still here? In the silence that always followed our small jam sessions the empty spaces around us always looked a little stark. This was the time when the absence of others was most clear. All around were reminders of those who who’d been plucked away.
Yet once those juices were flowing it became difficult to ignore the bowl world surrounding us had its own beauty. Like in the morning, when the sun shone in from the window, an arc of light would glance in, illuminating the surface of some full bodied apple and warm us all with the glow. Or, even in the middle of sad sigh that left me sagging, my round behind would lean into the curve of a ripe banana so soft and enveloping it was like what I imagined being picked is like.
And there was always that. The hope that one day, I would be picked. Hopefully, one day soon.
Just as I came round to this living I watched as the alternative happened. My friend across the vine, already one with a tendency to droop low, started to hang near the rim of the bowl, and jumped.
I was bursting to scream. I could feel myself go purple. An overflow of emotions pushed at my skin waiting to pop, but I had no outlet.
We turned toward one another, shocked. These kinds of ends go unspoken of until it happens. No one wants to admit it, but it’s not an uncommon occurrence. Mostly it happens only to the very young or the very old. It’s sad for the young since they never really had the chance to become well-rounded individuals. And when it happens to the old, you understand. Maybe they never had the chance to fulfill their dreams of becoming a big pop star, but it was their time. These things just happen. It’s sad, but just like being chosen, we cannot fully understand the reason.
But this…this was a choice of free will. We all know the option, to end it all, to make the plunge into the great beyond, but why? How could he have chosen to drop before his time? We all fall eventually, but to make a conscious choice, is unthinkable. To never be picked, but rather to roll over and die. Sure, you make a big smash spread out on the floor, but all by yourself you’re not jelly, not even produce, just a lonely splotch of grape, a waste. Until that moment I didn’t know I had the capacity to feel this rotten.
A few more days went by, a few more grapes went bye. I spent the morning taking in the glory of sunlit warmth through the window and the following chill of our daily rehash. Then one day, I felt myself up-lifted, and not the sense of being enlightened. I had been plucked.
I could see the basket below, filled with my friends and neighbors. And further down below that, the counter, and then the deep, deep floor beneath. I was rushed to a form of transport, enclosed with a few others inside a small box. We could all hear loud noises calling out around us as we settled in for what we expected would come soon.
But still we waited. This wasn’t what we expected. If we had to go, it would have been better to go quick after such a long time anticipating this end, our death. But it just kept dragging on and on. After our repeated roll of muttering and shifting around uncomfortably in what we assumed would be our final resting place where we began to accept that we would each die, slowly, we were brought out into the light again.
Suddenly the world was bright and we could see each other and we smiled. Once again I watched my fellows get plucked from around me, shivering just slightly before they disappeared. As I looked up, all I could see was a bright light. And finally, it happened.
I rose up, lifted towards the light. Half way there, I began to shiver though, as if cold, with dread. This was it. I would never again feel the light through the window. I looked down and all I could think was never again would I ever see those shining faces. And then, before I had another moment to contemplate my life, it was over.
I thought that it would be painful and cold, dry with discomfort, but it wasn’t. Instead it was warm and soft as I slid down into eternity.