Illicit Pleasures

Lilies shading from white to deep burnt orange adorn the feet of the cherry trees, whose leaf litter and falling fruit demand daily attention. The cherries hang in dark fistfuls along the lengths of branches weighted to the ground. A lone squirrel stares silently from his perch then grabs a cherry and eats it like a child with an ear of corn. Occasionally he chatters, perhaps to shoo me away.

The songbirds are absent, probably because their baths and feeders ran empty during my time away. The berry and grape vines ran amok, and a seven-foot tomato plant would benefit from some tending. A quick harvest of this city plot brought in three pounds of strawberries, a pint of mixed black and raspberries, and more than twenty pounds of cherries gathered simply to avoid broken branches. The apple trees, too, are in desperate need of attention. Their limbs weep beneath their load of fruit even without sufficient water during this extraordinary summer heat. In a few days, I’ll have fresh squash, tomatoes, and peppers as well.

Amid all this plenty comes the message: it’s back. Not even four weeks after the tests declared it to be in complete remission, she rushes him to the hospital with what seems like a stroke. The cancer has metastisized: lungs, lymph, brain. Several brain bleeds explain the symptoms, they tell her, as she gathers family. They did this only days before, or so it seems, and this time they don’t enjoy the somewhat illicit pleasure of a long-overdue reunion at his bedside or hope for a turn for the better.

Incapable of writing back, I stare out the window blind to the garden and think, “I’m all at sixes and sevens.” I have no clue how that phrase popped into mind or even what it means.

Photo by Ben Griffiths on Unsplash

August 2009

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