Translation Copyright: Ross Naheedy 2019
Story by Samad Behrangi
One Peach, a Thousand Peaches
Once upon a time
there existed a poor village in a dry desert. Adjacent to the
village, there was a walled garden, lush with fruit trees and lots of
water. The garden was so full of trees that you couldn’t see from
end-to-end clearly. A few years before, the master had plotted his
property into rectangles and had sold most of it to the local
farmers, but he had kept the garden for himself. The land he had
sold the farmers couldn’t sustain many trees and, as such, was
mostly bare. There was no running water outside the garden. The
only productive plot in the whole area was just the master’s
garden; that and some uneven ground around the surrounding hills that
the farmers had bought from the master and planted wheat and barley
Anyway, let’s get to our story.
In the walled
garden, there were two peach trees, one old and mature, one just a
young tree. The two trees’ leaves and flowers were just like each
other, in a way that if anyone viewed them, they’d know that they
were from the same family.
The mature tree had been selectively engineered to produce well. Each year, it produced such beautiful and large peaches that you couldn’t hold them in your fist. They were so beautiful that you wouldn’t even have the heart to eat them.
The gardener always said that a foreign engineer had brought the sapling from his own country and planted it here. It’s obvious that peaches from such a tree would garner a large sum when sold in the market.
Both trees had evil eye talismans hanging from their branches to ward off evil eyes.
The young tree always blossomed a thousand flowers in the spring, but either it’d lose its blossoms every year, or its peaches would fall prematurely. The gardener had tried everything he could with the young tree, but he hadn’t been able to make the tree productive. Year after year, the tree kept growing and looked stronger, but still wouldn’t bear any fruit.
In a last ditch effort, the gardener took a branch from the mature tree and transplanted it on the younger tree, but the young tree still didn’t produce fruit, as if it just didn’t want to bear any fruit at will. The gardener was at his wit’s end. He even tried to trick the tree once. He took out a saw and called out on his wife to bring him the file. He started to sharpen the saw teeth in front of the tree, hoping the tree would be afraid of being cut and bear fruit. After he had sharpened the saw, he took a few steps back and then lunged at the tree, as if he was about to cut the tree at its base in retaliation for it prematurely shedding its fruit every year, but his wife caught him before he reached the tree.
“Please stop if you have any love for me,” said his wife. “I promise you that starting next year, the tree will keep its peaches and bring them to fruition. If it does the same thing next year, then we’ll cut it and throw it in the fire until it turns to ashes.”
With all their effort to scare the tree to fruit, nothing changed the next year.
Perhaps you want to know why the younger tree wasn’t fruiting. Our story will now focus on why the tree behaved as it did.
Listen well! Listen with your ears because the young tree is now telling you her story. Don’t make a noise, so we can all hear the young tree. I think it’s telling us what happened…
We were about a hundred and fifty peaches, sitting in a basket. The gardener had lined the basket with grape leaves and covered us with it so that the sun wouldn’t dry out our delicate skins and that dust wouldn’t settle on our red cheeks. Only a little light made it through the leaves and made a beautiful scene when it mixed with our cheeks.
The gardener had picked us up early in the morning before the sun had come up, so our bodies were cool when we were in the basket. The coldness of autumn nights was still in our bellies and the little heat and light the leaves let through was very enjoyable.
We were all children of one tree. Every year, around the same time, the gardener would pick my mother’s peaches and fill the basket. He’d take them to the town. There, he’d knock on the master’s door and give them the basket, returning to our village afterward. Just like now.
Anyway, it was about a hundred and fifty of us ripe, juicy peaches. Let me tell you about myself, and how sweet and juicy I myself was. My soft, thin skin was ready to burst. My cheeks were so red and if you saw me you’d think I’ve turned red because of shyness from exposing my naked body. The top of me was still wet from the morning dew, so you’d think I had just come from skinny-dipping.
The large, hard seed in my belly was thinking of a new life, as was I. My seed was a part of me.
The gardener had put me on top of the other peaches so that whoever looked in the basket, they’d always see me first. Perhaps he did this because I was larger and juicier than the other peaches. I’m not trying to boast. Every peach, given a chance to grow, will grow to be large and juicy, except the lazy peaches who fall prey to the lies of the worms and allow them inside so that the worms can eat their meat and even their seeds.
If we reached the master just like we were placed in the basket, there’s no doubt that I would have ended up in the hands of the master’s spoiled daughter. She would take one bite off my cheek and then throw me away. The master’s house wasn’t like Sahebali’s and Poolad’s homes. Theit houses had never seen an apricot, a peach, or even a cucumber. The gardener told us stories of the master bringing fruit from foreign lands for his daughter. He’d order fruits like oranges, bananas, and grapes from foreign lands to come on an airplane. Even flowers. Of course he spent money like there was no tomorrow on things like these. Just imagine how much the cost of his daughter’s clothes, school, food, doctor visits, nurses, servants, toys, trips and entertainment were. Let’s estimate 10,000 tomans. Even that’s a conservative figure. Eh, we’ve lost our train of thoughts. Let’s get back to the story.
As the gardener walked through the master’s garden, he stepped on some loose ground and almost lost his balance. The basket almost fell over, but he managed to keep it mostly upright. I, however, fell out of the basked and hit on the ground. The gardener didn’t see me.
By now, the sun had fully come up and was warming the ground. The dirt under me was a bit warm, but the sun shining on me was very hot. Or maybe because my body was cold, I thought the sun’s heat was too much.
The heat slowly passed my skin and started to warm up my meat, warming me to the bone. Then the heat reached my seed. I started to feel thirsty.
When I was with my mother, any time I was thirsty, I’d drink water from her. I’d look at the sun and smile, opening myself up so that she would warm me even more. My cheeks would get hot, and I’d continue to drink from my mother, and eat the nutrients she provided for me. The liquid would keep flowing through me and help me grow day-by-day. My color would get redder, I’d grow and become juicier. I was so heavy that my mother’s branch had bent under my weight.
“My beautiful daughter, don’t hide yourself from the sun,” my mother would say. “Earth gives us food and the sun cooks that for us. Plus, your beauty is there because of the sun. Look at the peaches who hide themselves from the sun, and see how malnourished, pale, and small they look. My beautiful daughter, know that if the sun ever decided to not shine on us anymore, not a creature on earth will survive. No plant or animal.”
From that point on, any chance I got to let sun shine on my body, I did. I’d suck the heat out of the sun’s rays and keep their energy in myself, and kept noticing that I’d grow stronger and stronger by the day. I’d ask myself, “What if someone on our planet made the sun mad and the sun decided that she wouldn’t shine herself on us anymore? What would we do then?”
I never found an answer, so I asked, “Mother, what would we do if sun decided that she wasn’t going to shine her rays on us anymore?”
She used a couple of leaves to dust off dirt off my face and said, “What thoughts you have! It’s clear that you’re a smart girl. You know, the sun would never do that just because of a few bad and self-centered people. It is possible that her light would dim over time and her heat get lower, very slowly. Then we have to think of a new sun for ourselves, otherwise we’ll be in darkness and will freeze because of the cold.”
Oh, where in the story were we?
Yes, I was telling you that the heat had reached my seed and I was becoming thirsty. My juices were getting real hot and my skin was becoming very dry and burst in a couple of places. I saw an ant run towards me. He looked at me with curiosity and started circling me.
When I had fallen from the basket, the part of my body that had hit the ground had split and some of my juices had splattered. The juices had dried up under the sun’s heat. The ant grabbed the dry juice with its mandibles. He pulled hard, but couldn’t lift it and let go. He took a breath and then dug his mandibles in again, this time pulling so hard that I thought his mandibles were going to come out of their sockets, but he eventually prevailed and a chunk of the dried juice broke up. I saw the smile on the ant’s face as it turned around and started running back to his home.
It was just then that I heard some noises. I saw two kids jumping over the garden wall and running our way. They were Sahebali and Poolad and had come to fill their stomachs with fruit. They weren’t afraid of the gardener or his rifle like the rest of the village people were. Not even one of the villagers had set foot in the master’s garden, but Poolad and Sahebali always roamed the garden with no shoes and torn clothes. The gardener had shot his rifle at them before, but they had escaped. They were seven or eight back then.
Anyway, that day they ran over the wall and ran towards my mother. A little while later I saw them coming back and they didn’t look happy. From their conversation, I gathered that they weren’t happy with the gardener.
“See?” asked Poolad. “The last fruit tree drained of its fruit and we didn’t get to have any of it.”
“What could we do?” answered Sahebali. “For a whole month, the fat bastard sat underneath the tree with his gun.”
“The damned dweeb! Didn’t even leave us one peach on the tree. How I really wanted to squeeze the juice from one of them and push it into my mouth. Remember last year how many peaches we ate?”
“It’s as if we’re not deserving. He takes everything and gives it to that shit-for-brains master so that he can waste it all. It’s our own fault that we just idly sit by while he destroys the essence of our village.”
“You know, Sahebali, either this garden needs to belong to all of us people, or I need to torch all these trees.”
“We’ll do it together.”
“We’re not real men if we don’t do it.”
“Yeah, we’re not our fathers’ sons if we don’t do it.”
The kids were really mad, stomping their feet on the ground as they were walking. I was about to be stepped on when Poolad stepped on a thorn. He bent down to take out the thorn and saw me. When he saw me, he forgot about the thorn in his foot. He picked me up and said, “Yo! Look at this Sahebali.”
The kids kept playing with me, passing me between them. They didn’t want to eat me just like that. I was very hot. They wanted to chill me a bit so that I’d taste better. Their rough hands were scratching my delicate skin, but that didn’t matter. I was happy because I knew they’d enjoy me to the bone, and that after they had eaten me, they would be licking their fingers and remembering my taste for days and weeks to come.
“Poolad, I bet you’ve never seen such a large peach until this one,” said Sahebali.
“No, I haven’t.”
“Let’s go by the pool, cool it and then eat it. It’ll be even tastier.”
They carried me very carefully, as if my skin was made of thin glass.
Part of the pool was the under shade of a big willow tree. It was so cool under the shade that with my first breath, I felt completely relaxed. They carefully put me in the stream leading into the pool and blocked my path with a couple of sticks so that I wouldn’t end up in the pool. The water was frigid.
After a while, Poolad asked, “Sahebali?”
“Yeah, what’s up?”
“I’m thinking this peach has got to be expensive.”
“I’m sure it is.”
“That’s not an answer. How much do you think it is?”
Sahebali thought for a little and said, “I think a lot.”
“Like how much?”
Sahebali thought a bit again and said, “If you count that we’re cooling it a lot – a lot – 1,000 tomans.”
“Sounds to me you’re talking nonsense. It’s worth more than that.”
“Well, obviously you’re King Solomon’s treasurer and know more about money. You tell me how much.”
“1,000 is more than 100.”
“No way! Seriously, I’m not talking out of my ass. I heard it from my dad.”
“Maybe they’re both the same number. I’m not talking out of my ass, either. My dad had said 1,000.”
Poolad reached in the water and felt me. “My hand is frozen. I think it’s ready.”
Sahebali reached down and felt me as well. “Yes! It’s very cold.”
They took me out of the water. When I came out of the water, the hot air hit me. Now I wanted them to eat me. I wanted to show them how delicious I was, more delicious than they had ever thought I’d be. I wanted to take all the heat and energy I had stored from the sun and my mother and give it all to these poor village kids.
At the same time as Poolad and Sahebali were contemplating eating me, I was thinking that in all my life I had gotten emotional from time to time and I would again. I told myself, “One day, my body composition was just dirt and water. As my mother took dirt and water from the earth, with the help of sunlight, she was able to raise her body. She produced a blossom, and the blossom became a flower, and slowly I came about. I, in turn, took the nutrients from my mother, little by little, to grow. I mixed them with sunlight to make my seed, grow some meat and develop a skin, and I became a juicy peach. But now Poolad and Sahebali are about to eat me and what has made up my body will become a part of their meat, hair, and bones. Of course, some day they’ll die as well. What happens then to the pieces of my body that are in theirs?”
The kids decided to eat me. Sahebali gave me to Poolad. “Take a bite.”
Poolad took a bite out of me and gave me back to Sahebali. Poolad liked my juices from around his lips. Sahebali took a bite of me and gave me back to Poolad.
Just like I had thought, I was delicious. My meat was being taken away little by little, but now my seed was thinking of a new life. In one minute, I won’t exist as a peach anymore, while my seed is making plans on when and how it can grow. At the same time that I was dying, I was becoming alive.
Poolad threw my seed in his mouth and sucked the last of the juices from between my ridged pit. When he took me out of his mouth, I was not a peach anymore, but I was a seed, alive with a hard shell, hiding the seed of life within it. I just needed a little rest and wet soil to break through my hard shell and become a sapling.
After the kids had licked their lips and fingers a few times, Poolad asked, “What now?”
“Let’s go into the water.”
“Don’t we eat the seed?”
“I have plans for it. Leave it here.”
Poolad put me underneath the willow tree, took a few steps back, darted towards the pool and jump high in the air, holding his knees to his chest and landing on his back in the water. He was under water for a couple of seconds before he scrambled and stood up. The water around him became murky and muddy. Water was up to his chin and the algae was hanging from his head.
“Poolad, turn around,” said Sahebali.
“Are you taking off your pants?”
“Yes, I don’t want my father to find out we came swimming. He’ll beat me if he finds out.”
“It’s not even noon. By the time we return home your clothes will be dry.”
“Haven’t you seen the sun high in the sky?”
Poolad didn’t say anything and turned around. When he heard the splash of water, he turned and started swimming towards Sahebali. They played and splashed water on each other until they got tired. When they got out, Poolad squeezed his drenched pants to get some water out. He then picked me up and they hopped the wall at the end of the garden and started walking to the village, a long walk from the garden.
“So, you said you had plans for it?” asked Poolad.
“Yes. When the afternoon shade comes, I’ll call you,” Sahebali said. Pointing to a hill, he continued, “We’ll go to that hill and I’ll then tell you what my plan is.”
Poolad gave me to Sahebali.
The village paths were empty. Flies and the smell of manure were the only thing filling the paths. Suddenly, a large dog jumped over a wall and in front of us. Poolad played with the dog’s face and ears a bit and took the dog back inside.
The path was uphill, so that the above neighbor’s garden was on top of Poolad’s house roof. Sahebali walked a few houses up and arrived at his home. He squeezed me hard in his fist and jumped into his yard. He landed ankle deep into fresh manure his mom had shoveled into a corner. His mom stuck her head out of the window and said, “Sahebali, hurry up and take this lunch to your dad.”
Sahebali took me to the stables and his me in a hole in a corner and cover me with hay. It was all black and I couldn’t see anything. Add the smell of manure to that for the next few hours, and I thought I was about to die. Finally I felt someone removing the hay. It was Sahebali. He picked me up and rubbed me between his hand for a bit and cleaned me on his pants. We went back the same way we had come to his home until we arrived at Poolad’s roof. Poolad’s sister and mother were drying cow dung on the roof and stacking them while talking to the neighbor’s wife.
“Do you know where Poolad is?” asked Sahebali.
Poolad’s mother responded, “He’s taken the goat to the pastures.”
Sahebali found Poolad atop the hill he had pointed to earlier. Poolad had let the goat roam behind the hill and was sitting there with his dog, waiting. Under the sun, I suddenly realized that Sahebali’s and Poolad’s skins were exactly the same as my own hard shell. They had walked without shirts for so long under the sun and their skin had become dark, just like my skin.
Poolad asked, impatiently, “So, what is your plan?”
“Do you want to own a peach tree?”
“Are you crazy? Of course I do.”
“Let’s go then,” said Sahebali.
“What about my goat?”
“Let’s take it back to your house.”
“My mom said I can’t come back until the sun has gone down.”
“Then let’s leave your dog with the goat.”
Poolad called his dog, played with him a little, and said, “Watch the goat until I return, okay?”
The three of us ran to the garden.
“Jump up,” said Sahebali.
“You don’t need to hide your plans from me anymore. I know what you’re up to. We are going to plant our peach’s seed.”
“Right on. We’ll plant our seed at the end of the garden by the wall, behind a mound. After a few years, we’ll be the proud owners of a peach tree. You understand why we don’t want to plant this anywhere else, right?”
“A peach tree can’t grow on top of the hill between the rocks. It needs water and soft earth.”
“Enough! I’m going to check on the gardener.”
The gardener hadn’t returned from the city yet. Poolad and Sahebali found a secluded area in the garden, behind a mound, and dug the ground. They buried me in the hole, poured the dirt back over me, tapped it, and left.
The dark, wet dirt hugged and squeezed me. Of course I couldn’t grow yet. I needed time to gather enough energy to grow.
When the dirt became cold, I knew that winter had come and that snow had covered the ground. The ground froze all the way close to me, but I was warm under the ground. I stopped thinking and fell asleep with sweet dreams. I dreamt that it was spring and that I had woken up with lots of energy, growing up above the dirt to a sapling and a fruitful tree for Poolad and Sahebali. A tree with large, julcy red peaches, just like shy beautiful girls.
I don’t remember much of the other dreams I had in the winter, but there were a couple more that I do remember. I had grown into a big tree and Poolad and Sahebali had climbed me, shaking my branches, and all the village’s kids were standing under, grabbing my falling peaches mid-air before they hit the ground. They would eat my peaches and the juices would run down their chins and unto their chests and bellies, and go into their belly buttons. A bald kid kept asking Poolad, “Poolad, you never said what are these things we are eating. I want to be able to tell my grandma what I am eating right now, and that I ate a lot of it, because it was so delicious, but I was still hungry. No matter how much I eat, I can’t become full.”
There were two smaller kids as well, completely naked. Lots of flies were flying around their nose and lips. They were eating two juicy peaches and biting them with lots of pleasure.
This was my dream.
And a final dream I had was of an almond tree. I was sick and passed out when I heard a soft voice. I felt as if the voice was accompanied by a familiar smell and it was reaching underground. The voice said, “Almond flower, come closer and let the pretty peach smell your nice smell. If that doesn’t wake her, caress her face and body with your hands and let her smell you. Wake her up soon because it is time for her to become a sapling. All the other seeds are waking up.”
The smell of almonds and its touch moved me, although they felt so good that I wanted to stay asleep forever. But I came about. I tried to fall asleep again, but the almond flower laughed and said, “Dear, it’s time to get up. You’re carrying a seed of life in your belly and you need to make a decision to grow and become a large tree and be fruitful. Is it no so?”
The almond flower was beautiful like a bride who has worn a dress made of snow and her lips had blossomed into a flower. Of course I hadn’t seen snow yet, but I had heard about it from my mother.
I wanted to know who the almond flower was speaking to before and who had brought her to caress me. The almond flower threw her arms around my neck, kissed me, and said, laughingly, “My, you’ve become so big. You don’t fit between my arms anymore.”
She then said, “Spring is here. It’s time to grow and blossom.”
When I head about spring, I woke up. At first I thought spring had come and gone and that I my hard shell had not yet cracked, so I was worried. The dark, wet soil was hugging me still. My shell was wet on the outside and sweaty on the inside. Water was coming from the top and passing by my body, flowing to the ground beneath me. A few seeds of flixweed had taken a hold of the ground around me and were spreading their roots. One of them was tall. My guess is that it had already gone up above the ground. The roots wiggled under the ground, looking for water to drink, collecting the water and sending it by larger roots up above. I saw several other seeds that I didn’t recognize as well. Their roots were smaller and were taking their time to drink and move around. I think they wanted to go above the ground in a couple of days.
Other roots were moving under me. Every time they moved, they tickled my belly. I heard they belonged to the almond tree by the stream. These roots were strong and took a lot of water and nutrients from the soil.
The water that was passing over me was the thawing snow. It finished in a couple of days.
A few days later I heard some strange noises. It was a colony of black ants, fast and agile. When they got to me, they started to bite me with their mandibles. They had brought the warmth of the sun and the smell of spring with them. It looked like they were trying to burrow into me. After a while they realized how hard my shell was and gave up. I didn’t see them again until I went above the ground and became a tree.
I had drank so much water that I was bloated and finally my hard shell burst open. I sent my tiny root out through the cracked shell and dug in the dirt to take in water and nutrients, so that I could grow tall and stand. Then I started to send my sapling to the surface. I taught it how to put its head down, burrowing into the dirt until it was above, and then to open itself once it saw sunlight. While it was going up, I gave it my stored nutrients and continue to feed it with water my root was gathering for us.
I also had air inside the dirt so that I wouldn’t suffocate. The warmth from above had reached down to me as well.
I wasn’t tired any longer. I had grown inside the hard shell for a while. Now that I had broken that hard shell, I had transformed into something different. When I was the hard seed, I was complete, but I couldn’t grow. But now that I had broken out of that shell and wanted to become a tree, I needed to transform myself a lot. I was a very incomplete tree and had a lot of room for growth and movement. I thought maybe the difference between a peach seed and an incomplete tree like me was that the seed had reached the end of its mission in life, and that if it didn’t transform itself, it’d completely die. But the transformation into an incomplete tree meant that a bright future could very well exist.
But everything changes from second to second and when you add up all the small changes that take small seconds each, you’ll arrive at something that doesn’t resemble what you started with at all. Like me. I’m not a seed any longer, but I’m becoming a tree. Branches, blossoms, children, I was responsible for them all, to raise them above the ground. I wanted to spread my leaves under the sun the moment I hit the air above. I wanted the sun to make them green. I dreamt of branches full of blossoms and juicy, red peaches. But I was only a sapling. Just imagine what a bright future I was to have!
But I couldn’t. A small stone the size of a walnut was blocking my path. I couldn’t bore a hole into it, so I had no option than to wiggle and come up by its side. The closer I got to the surface, the more I felt the warmth of the sun. Now I was passing through weed roots. Finally I got to the point that I noticed the light of the sun had brightened the dirt. I knew that there wasn’t much left to breaking that last barrier. Only a few more hours, a few more shakes, and I was able to break through and see light and feel the warmth of the air.
I was still on the soil, the soil that was my mother’s mother, the same soil that gives life to my mother. The same soil that is the mother of all beings.
The almond tree, covered in white blossoms from head to toe, was shining under the sun. The almond tree was so happy that I had finally broken through the ground. Her happiness made me happy.
“Hello almond tree,” I said.
“Hello my beautiful sapling. Welcome to the world above. Tell me what is happening down under.”
The flixweed had become tall and had thrown their shadows on me, but I was only two pale leaves, without any color and still straightening my head.
The day Poolad and Sahebali came to see of my progress, I have twelve green leaves and I was taller than some of the other plants around me, but the flixweeds were still taller than me. I wondered how they could grow at such a pace and with such hurry. First I thought that in a couple of days they’d reach the almond tree and surpass it, but then I realized that their roots weren’t strongly embedded in the soil. Once I realized that, I figured they’d perish soon.
Poolad and Sahebali were very happy to see me. They said, “This is our tree now.” They brought a few fistfuls of water from the stream and poured it at my base. They quickly left after they heard the gardener’s shovel hitting rocks nearby. It was toward the end of spring when I realized that the flixweeds had grown as much as they could and they weren’t growing any longer. They had flowered and were spreading their seeds and slowly turning yellow. Summer came and I was the same height as the flixweeds, but I still didn’t have any branches. I wanted to grow tall and have a few branches.
Poolad and Sahebali visited me often. Sometimes they’d sit by me for hours and plan things for our future. Another day they brought a red snake they had killed with a stick. They dug the ground around me and buried the snake all around me.
Poolad struck his hands together and said, “She is going to enjoy it a lot.” Of course he was talking about me.
“One snake is equivalent to a lot of manure,” Sahebali said.
“I think next year she’ll bear fruit for us.”
“Maybe. I don’t know. We’ve never had a tree up until now.”
“True, but I’ve heard that peach and nectarine trees blossom and fruit earlier than other trees.”
I knew that as well. My mother had bore two peaches in her second year.
I kept wondering what I would look like when I had my own grown peaches. I wanted to fruit as early as possible to see how the peaches would suck the nutrients out of me. I wanted to have heavy peaches, that they should bend my branches under their weight until my branches reached the ground.
Summer passed and autumn came.
I had created a small pipe inside my trunk. Everything my roots gathered from the ground went through this small pipe all the way to the top. In the middle of autumn, I closed the pipe in several places and my roots couldn’t send anything up any longer. Then, my leaves who were missing on nutrients, started to turn yellow. I tied knots at the end of all their stems. When the wind came, it took them from my body and threw them on the ground. I was naked all of a sudden. But every knot I had tied where the leaves were, I planned to have either a blossom there the year after and or grow small branches out of them. I wanted to bear fruit just like my mother, in my second year. I don’t remember for sure, but I think I had four of five knots altogether that I was sure they’d blossom into flowers. I liked to think about my flowers.
The colder the weather became, the more sleepy I became. By the time there was snow and ice on the ground, I was completely asleep.
Poolad and Sahebali had wrapped me in jute bags so that my thin trunk wouldn’t freeze. If my trunk froze, I’d have to grow up from the ground up in the spring. They also did it to fend off the rabbits, because my young trunk was a very yummy food for them.
When spring came, first my roots awoke. Once they awoke, they started feeding nutrients up to my trunk. My trunk woke and started passing the nutrients to my buds and they started to swell. As water reached the ground and seeped over the roots, it continued to awaken the rest of me. My buds were making small leaves behind the thin wood, ready to burst open when time was ready. My blossoms were about the size of a barley each, maybe a little larger. I had three blossoms in total. The mockingbirds had eaten the rest of them.
I opened three blossoms, but after a few days I realized that I didn’t have enough nutrients to feed them all and make them peaches. One of my flowers withered and fell to the ground. The second one I purposefully cut the nutrients to so that it, too, would fall. A gust of wind came and took that one as well. I put all of my energy into the last blossom and sent it all the nutrients I was getting from my roots. I wanted that blossom to fruit a peach the nobody had ever seen to date and for whoever ate it to remember the taste of it until they got old and frail.
The rest of the unopened blossoms I shed and put all my efforts in feeding the base of the last flower on me until the base was full and couldn’t contain the food any longer and burst open, exposing the tiny peach that was inside.
My peach was almost at the tip of one of my few branches and from the day it burst the flower base it was determined to get heavier and heavier. It started to bend my branch and bend my trunk as well. I was worried that if I wanted to bear more fruits in the years to come, I may have to take care of myself. At times I felt as if the peach’s weight was going to break my own trunk. It would be easy to cut nutrients to it and have it fall to save myself, but I didn’t want to fall this peach on the ground of making life easier for myself. To tell you the honest truth, I had planned to have a thousand peaches in the years to come and making sure that this one peach came to fruition was a test to see if I could bear a thousand peaches in the later years. The snake the kids had buried around my base had now decomposed and had strengthened the dirt around me. Because of the nutrients from that snake, I had grown extra branches and my trunk was getting thicker as well.
Poolad and Sahebali were visiting me less often nowadays. I think they were busy in the family farms. But they did visit me one day. They took a thick stick and pushed it into the ground around my trunk. They then tied my trunk to it. I think I remember it was that day when they started to get worried.
“Sahebali,” said Poolad.
“Yeah, what’s up?” answered Sahebali.
“What if the gardener comes and finds our tree?”
Poolad didn’t say anything.
“He can’t do shit. It’s our tree. We planted it, we took care of it, and its fruit is ours,” said Sahebali.
Poolad was deep in thoughts. “But the ground is not ours.”
“Still he can’t do shit. The ground belongs to the person who tills it. It belongs to the person who plants in it. This small piece of land that we’ve planted our tree is ours.”
Sahebali’s heroism lifted Poolad and he said, “Yes. This is our earth. If someone comes after our tree, we’ll torch the whole garden.”
Sahebali beat his bare, tanned chest with his fist as said, “Over this dead body will I let them live in peace. We’ll torch the place and run away.”
I think if they hadn’t buried that stick in the ground next to me and tied me to it that very day, I would have broken, because a strong wind came later that night and shook everything. The next day I saw that a couple of my branches had broken.
Days passed and I put all my effort in making my peach bigger. I let the sun paint her cheeks red and for the heat to get into her meat. My daughter had grabbed my branch and was sucking the nutrients so hard that I thought sometimes it hurt to have her there, but I never got mad at her. After all, I was her mother and had created myself a pretty daughter.
Sahebali and Poolad were so mesmerized by me that they didn’t pay attention to any other tree in the garden. They didn’t even care about my mother’s peaches any longer. I thought of myself as belonging to Sahebali and Poolad and I only gave them the right to eat my peaches, just like they had once eaten me two years ago during that hot summer day.
Autumn arrived and one day Poolad came to visit. I could tell he was sad by the expression on his face. This was the first time I had seen the two separated and Poolad alone. Poolad first watered my base and then sat on the grass next to me. Slowly, he started talking to me and my peach.
“My peach tree, my beautiful peach, do you know what has happened? Do you know why I am alone today? Of course you don’t. Sahebali is dead. A snake bit him. The old Nana Manjoogh sat by him all night long, but she couldn’t do anything either. Sahebali’s dad and I went to the hills and the desert and brought back all the medicine they said would work, but Sahebali didn’t get better. My dear friend. Why have you gone and left me alone?”
He started to cry, and then started to talk again. “A few days ago we were returning from the desert around noon. We were atop a hill and planned on killing another snake just like last year and bring it here to bury it and provide you with nutrients. We went into the valley of snakes. There are a lot of snakes in that valley. One side of the valley is a rocky mountain. Not like a smooth surface that’s completely rock, but think lots of large and small boulders, as if they fell from the sky like rain and piled up on top of each other. The snakes make their homes between the rocks and when it gets warm, they come out.”
“My dad’s own farm plot, our neighbor’s, as as well as Sahebali’s cousin’s dad’s are in the valley of snakes. You can always hear the snakes hissing.
Sahebali and I were looking for snakes at the foot of the mountain. We were sticking our walking sticks in their holes to find a fat snake for you. We had taken off our shirts because it was hot and were wearing only pants. Ours backs were so hot that if you broke an egg on them you’d be able to make fried egg. We were jumping from one rock to another rock when Sahebali lost his balance and fell backward. He screamed so loudly that his voice filled the whole valley. He had fallen back on top of a rock where a snake had coiled. Sahebali screamed again and fell on the ground. I didn’t give the snake an opportunity to escape. I hit it in the head, then the belly, and then again in the head. There were two mice and a mocking bird in his belly.
Sahebali was unconscious on the ground. His walking stick was gone. He must have thrown it when he got bit. The snake bite looked red. I wish the snake had bitten his leg or arm. I would know what to do then, but what could I do with a snake bite in the middle of his back? I put him over my shoulders and brought him to our village. Old Nana Manjoogh told my mom this morning when we were burying Sahebali that he would have lived if I had taken him to her sooner. How could I take him there any faster? My peach tree, you know he was heavier than me. If I had a mule and I was still late, then old Nana Manjoogh could have been right. What could I do?”
Poolad started to cry again. My own feelings were very fragile at that very moment and I felt like I loved these two boys beyond anything else in life. When I thought that I’d never see Sahebali again, I was close to just wilt all my leaves from sadness, dry myself up forever, and never come back alive.
Poolad stopped crying and said, “I can’t stay in our village any longer. Wherever I go I see memories of Sahebali and become sad. When I go to the hills, when I take the goat to the pastures, when I touch my dog, when I dry cow dung, when I play with other kids in the farms, catching locusts and lizards, when I chop weeds, when I’m on the rooftop, I always see Sahebali in front of me. As if he’s always calling me. ‘Poolad! Poolad!’ My peach tree, I can’t take hearing his voice. I want to go to the city and work with my uncle in the grocery store. I don’t know what I could have done so that Sahebali would have lived. Now I don’t know what to do so that I don’t end up like him. I’m young. There are many things I’m not aware of. I just know that I cannot stay in our village anymore. I’m going, my peach tree. Keep your peach.”
When I saw that he was leaving, I fell my peach tree in front of his foot. Poolad picked up the peach, smelled it, wiped the dirt off it, he caressed my trunk from head to toe, and left.
The next year I had grown a lot and had many branches and leaves. I had twenty or thirty blossoms and I could hold my head up high and look around the garden.
Because I was tall enough now, the gardener noticed me and came for a visit. He was so happy that he couldn’t contain himself. He studied my leaves’ shapes and realized that without him putting any effort, a good peach tree had grown in his garden. I was very sad that I had ended up in the hands of the gardener, a gardener who had made enemies of other folks because he had sold himself to the master and literally become a slave.
I had about fifteen peaches, but when I though what kind of people were going to eat my peaches, I started to hate myself. Poolad and Sahebali had planted me. They had grown me, and only they deserved to eat my fruit.
Finally a thought came to me and I started shedding my unripened peaches one at a time. When the gardener realized that I had no peaches left, he thought I was planted in a bad spot. He said, “Next year I’ll change your spot so that you get more water and bear large, juicy peaches.”
The next year when I woke up, I realized my were are tangled and in wrong places underground. Some had completely dried up and some had been cut, but I still had many healthy roots. At first I started using my roots to their full potential and grew new root that were soft and sent them around me to gather water for me. Then I thought about creating leaves and flowers, but then I suddenly recognized my mother standing next to me.
I don’t know how many years have passed since then, but to this date the gardener hasn’t been able to harvest a single peach from me, and he won’t be able to in the future, either. I don’t obey his wishes. He can try to scare me all he wants with his saw.