The planting of the orchard was almost complete. Sixty rows of sixty saplings had been laid out in the acreage reclaimed from the overgrowth. Three thousand five hundred and ninety-nine neatly burlap-wrapped root balls had been dropped into their holes, optimistic cowlicks of foliage promising abundant harvests in the future.
But there was the one last tree. It sat in a pool of oily water in the bed of a slat-sided truck. The crooked trunk had barely any branches and no leaves, just tight clumps of woody gnarl where one might expect a hint of green.
The burlap had gone moldy and fallen away to reveal roots swollen with smooth white bolls, as if a pile of earthworms had somehow managed to swallow a pile of peeled potatoes or eggs. They broke open under a little pressure, releasing the fluid that had puddled underneath the plant. It smelled faintly of clam muck, and this -- along with the sensation of popping the root-tumors, so much like seaweed -- made Richardson think of childhood summers at the beach.
Much had changed since then. He nodded to the foreman. "Plant it," he said.