Monday, January 10, 2011


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.

--Steve Kilian

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