forbidden fruit

At the other end of Smith Street, five identical houses, rising along the rise towards Prospect Road; outside four of them, a small tree, each of which, in this mid-winter season, is flowering and fruiting. As is the robust sugar cane planted in the front garden of the first of the houses, the first, that is, if you're walking west, as I was that day. Had I never looked before at these trees, had I never gone along this side of the street? Natives, surely, nothing so strange could have come from anywhere else. As strange in their way as the wooden pear tree is, with its silver and golden fruit. The flowers, a profusion of them, are small, a bell-shaped calyx about the size of a fingernail enclosing two or three tiny red stamens; creamy coloured on one of the trees, a waxy rose pink on another; the other two somewhere in between. On the footpath below the last, fallen fruit: round, spiky, from greeny-yellow to a bright seductive red. Like something out of Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights. Or should that be Heavenly Delights? Boschian fruit, scattered before me. I could not help myself, I picked one up, the reddest, the ripest. It was soft, slightly squishy, not hard as I expected, not like the tiny unpeeled lychee or rambutan it otherwise resembled. Sniffed it: a faint, sweet odour, as of something lost. O god I wanted to eat it. To eat the fruit of the tree of whatever it is. I touched it to my tongue where a bruise was leaking juice. Yes, sweet. It had lain on the footpath how long, amid what toxic detritus? I glanced around, stupidly guiltily, then popped it whole into my mouth and walked on. Melted to a sweet, sticky paste, gritty, that was the stipples on the skin. A sweetness without sharpness, just a slightly flat, greenish undertaste, like you often get in wild things. Crunched on the grit for ages, wondering if, and if so when, poison would begin to cramp in my belly. Yes, there was a slight feeling of unease but that could as well have been psychosomatic as purely physical, who knew? Went on into the cerulean of the afternoon. There was a storm blowing from the sun. Way out west, beyond some hidden horizon, a pink twist of cloud like a tornado, drifting upwards into the empyrean. Days the rain came in, I thought, over and over, a line from a poem I'd been reading. Days the rain came in ... as if in a narcotic haze, though I wasn't, I was just walking with that sun-storm blowing in my hair, tight-roping out along a blue and lost horizon, drifting and turning in a rose madder twister, searching between my teeth for the last grains of paradise.

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