The Grapefruits 

Once upon a time, a captain fell in love with a retired admiral’s daughter. They were married in a private ceremony in her solarium overlooking a gray sea. The solarium had a rare shaddock tree full of beautiful fruits, but the tree fell sick, as did the young bride. The girl told her captain that they would no longer be able to share the fruits of the shaddock or grapefruit tree unless he found a replacement, since the tree in her solarium was clearly dying. There was nothing to be done. Time was running out. The captain set sail on his fastest ship, departing for the southern isles. On one island, he found an abundance of grapefruits, but they were the wrong kind. The second island he visited had the right trees, but just as he had filled his hull with tree specimens and fruits, the ship was attacked and commandeered by buccaneers. Reduced to the clothes on his back, the marooned captain waited. One day, some whalers picked him up and made him their captain, as their own had just died of a fever following a prolonged battle with a humpbacked whale. The whalers set out and thus the captain came to the third island. Here the whaling was good, the natives friendly and patient with the newcomers, the trade winds fragrant with the scent of perennial blossoms, the mountains cool and misted. And it was here that the captain found a paradise of grapefruit groves by the sandy shore with trees and fruit identical to the one he had left in that faraway solarium. The natives sold the groves to the captain in exchange for a few gifts and for enjoying the protection of his ship and guns. A strange thing happened, however. After allowing him to pick a few fruits and suck their sweet juice, eat their magical pulp and inhale their intoxicating fragrance, the tree refused to grant anymore precious fruits to the captain. Outraged, the captain employed every means possible to harvest the shaddocks—ropes, knives, shovels, guns. Nothing availed. The bright globes would not detach from their branches. In the end, he fell into a long reverie of whispers and tears. Sometimes, he imagined that a thief came by night, and nonchalantly harvested with ease what he would have given a limb or two to take with much labour. And despite the occasional sound at night or chimerical vestiges in the morning sand, there was no evidence to support such mad suspicions. Night and day, he circled the tree, he clasped its trunk in his arms, he counted and miscounted its tantalizing, plump fruits, losing track of the hours and the numbers. Losing weight, he continued to walk around the lone tree of paradise, mounting the same seventeen arguments again and again. My grapefruits should be mine. Other citrus are forbidden; they have no value for my enterprise and cannot help; I cannot compromise. Other citrus are not grapefruits and thus not desirable. If I did not want the grapefruit, I would not have made an oath. I would be free and master of my own fate. The difficulty of questing for the grapefruit should not outweigh the benefits to be derived. Grapefruits are full of nutrients; it is good for women and men to have nutrients. The grapefruit tree should be thankful it has grapefruits. Some trees never produce fruit, like those cursed fig trees of scripture! The teleology of grapefruits is such that they are to be eaten and to scatter seed. It is inconceivable for a tree not to share its fruits with the world. A grapefruit tree without grapefruits is incomplete. A grapefruit tree pretending not to have grapefruits is absurd. In the beginning, the tree yielded its fruit–it should do so now as well. Grapefruits are celestial like little suns! They glow with such beauty and they taste divine! There is a long tradition of grapefruit consumption; there is nothing abnormal or irrational in desiring this fruit. My bitterness and hatred of grapefruits has made everything else loathsome. I want to eat ashes. Something so trivial should not have such power over life. The rebellion of the grapefruit blasphemes the creation and the creator! Grapefruits should symbolize life, not death; they are sacramental. Exhausted and hungry, the captain began to dig a grave in the sand under the radiant branches, a shallow, soft place to daydream of his lost princess, a place to drift into sleep. The golden grapefruits continued to dangle from the disenchanting tree in the changeless blue sky of the tropics. What they were sacraments of nobody—not heaven nor earth—could know. 


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