I am a guest at this table, and not long for this world. I don’t
I’ve been dead before. And I can probably do better than a piece of
fruit next time around.
Understandably I keep thinking about the knife.
It’s right next to me.
It doesn’t speak. I feel like I ought to be trying
to make conversation, maybe elicit some sympathy. It’s like getting into an
elevator with your hangman.
The woman in the purple head scarf has
already massacred several of my colleagues from the fridge. On a plate about a
foot away from me, carrots, cabbage and beets lie in shreds beside the severed,
skinned chunks of what was once a Gala apple. There is a beheaded fish, though
technically it was that way when I met it. There are ground-up bits of another
fish, which I never did meet, on a separate plate.
I’m thinking about the
What will it feel like, going in? Will I register pain? I am
drily aware of the truism that if I scream, no one will hear me.
woman is waiting for a man to come back. He’s going to bring friends. She cleans
up the brutal aftermath in the kitchen so that by the time they get here there
will be no evidence of our slaughter.
Unfortunately my memory isn’t what
it used to be. I have no recollection of how I died the last time, or who I was
when I wasn’t fruit.
Probably a vegetarian.
More importantly, I
can’t remember why I came back. I don’t mind dying, not really. But I’m
beginning to worry that unless I remember what I’m doing here, my deaths – the
last one and this one, and maybe more of them – will be not only senseless, but
The woman is wiping down the last of the juice from the
counter. I can’t look away.
* * *
The singing, at least, is nice. If I
have to go, at least I get a lively funeral march. The man the woman was waiting
for sings a little off-key, but he sings with gusto, and it reverberates
pleasantly off my rind. She doesn’t sing at all. The knife rings without
expression next to me.
When he came in the door with the two young men, I
wondered if he knew what went on in the kitchen in his absence. I wondered what
his response would be.
Pleasure, it turned out. He was full of praise for
the dissected things in the center of the table, and for the woman who put them
there. He examined me with a long-fingered but calloused hand, and I felt an
uncertain joy in being appreciated.
It was only after he put me down that
I noticed the young woman who had come in with the second of the two men. She,
too, had a head scarf, a burgundy one, and I found myself comparing it to my own
recently rubbed skin and getting a sense that there was something missing in
I’m tense now, but expectant. The singing has stopped, and they’ve
all vanished into the kitchen, leaving an abrupt, suspenseful void. Based on the
hood it’s wearing, I think the bread will be the first to go, and it turns out
I’m right. A different knife cuts it away in slices, raisins hanging in each
slice like little black eyes, and the five silent omnivores around the table
rend the crusts with their teeth. Honey drizzles onto the tablecloth from the
edges of the bread and pools there.
Now the older man takes the apple’s
remains and passes them out, also dripping uncontainable honey, and – “Yehi
ratzon milfanecha... shetehadesh aleinu shana tova umetuka” – that, too,
disappears, crushed, between their words and teeth. The purple woman looks
flustered and rushes out to the kitchen again, and when she comes back, she is
holding the starfruit.
I had hoped it would be spared. I’m sorry to see
it cut down in its prime.
Shedding its paper-towel shroud, it lies
stoically beneath the knife – the one that has kept me and my thoughts company
all evening – as the man cuts off star after star after star with sharp, wet
squeaks. It is divvied up – “sheheheyanu v’kiyemanu vehigianu lazman hazeh” –
and seems to make them all happy.
They pull chunks out of the fish’s
head, which stares out of pitted sockets and makes one of the men
I feel somewhat vindicated. They speak again – “shenihiyeh lerosh
v’lo lezanav” – and eat gingerly, feeling inside their mouths for
I don’t understand any of their words. I wish I did. I don’t even
know what language it is. I’m afraid that when they speak it to me, like they’ve
spoken it to the others, there will be some important instruction, something
I’ll need to do, that I won’t do because I won’t realize it’s what they want. I
couldn’t even stage a passable resistance – how would I know I wasn’t doing
exactly what I was told? As they pass out the pureed fish reconstituted in
bite-size balls, I catch a nervousness in the burgundy woman. She swallows
before eating and closes her eyes as they recite, “shenifreh v’nirbeh k’dagim.”
The man beside her looks pained and puts a hand on her arm.
I sense that
I’m next. I’m cradled again in that long-fingered hand, and as the
starfruit-stained knife approaches, my brief life flashes before me – light
through leaves, a sheer drop, hands, crates, shuddering movement, harsh
fluorescent bulbs, more hands, a dark drawer punctuated with company,
Somewhere between the cracks, I think, I can just make out
shadows of my previous life, but not enough to put together into
The blade does hurt, but the hands are what rip me open and
spill my seeds out redly on the gold-rimmed plate. Suddenly I have eyes
The world becomes multifaceted.
I can see hands,
fingernails, threads, knife blade, tablecloth, man and man and man and woman and
woman, black and purple and burgundy and orange and blue and white and silver,
the mottled cream of floor tiles. I can see them all at once.
ratzon milfanecha” – their words no longer reverberate; they hold handfuls of me
in paper napkins to keep from staining their hands – the burgundy woman has
closed her eyes again; she has her other hand on her abdomen. She raises me to
her mouth, and I realize I finally understand.
As the teeth puncture my
translucent membranes, I know what she’s missing, and I’m
“...shenirbeh zechuyot k’rimon,” they finish, and I am a legion of
crunchy, fertile orbs, pouring into cupped potential, bursting with purpose.