The Perfect Spot I didn't think a small depression between two large boulders was fertile ground. Organic particles had flown on the ocean breeze and found the small indent filled with eroded granite and bird excrement. We noticed it at its inception, my sister and I; she even tried to pick at it with a stick. “Leave it, Mary,” I said, “Let's see what it becomes.” The three seeds looked like lead pellets equipped with feathery wings. I was a curious child who noticed plants. Mary backed off, in her usual carefree manner, and bounded down to the shoreline. We visited the boulders every week. By the end of the summer, a stout sprout had emerged. From its smooth bark, we could tell it would be a tree. We hoped for fruit. “I bet I'll have crab apple cider at my wedding,” said my sister. She couldn't wait to get married. She was a romantic soul. Years went by, and the tree grew a thick, short trunk with a parallelogram crown (of leaves?). Pink flowers dotted its canopy every spring, and more than one maiden became a woman under its fragrant branches. Mary being one of them. Mary's beau worked at the harbour, but when she got pregnant, he got a job on a ship and disappeared. She had hoped for a wedding under the tree. She died giving birth, still heartbroken. I named her child Joseph and raised him. We often sat under the tree where he would listen to me talk about his mother. Paper beats rock, and eventually, the tree split the boulders (boulder?) open. More dirt blew in, allowing it to grow vertical roots. By then, it had become the mascot of our village, a place to bring visitors. From May to October, its colors formed a striking contrast against the dark grey granite boulder. Thirty years after three tiny seeds had landed on our tiny island, our tree produced its first fruit. On the second Sunday of July that year, our mayor, a jovial fellow who raised sheep for a living, tasted one. He juggled three of them to the amusement of the whole village. The last one went soaring high above his head and he caught it with his teeth. Everyone laughed. He bit the fruit energetically, producing a satisfying crunch. A thick silence fell over the crowd as we awaited his verdict. “It tastes sour, like lemon. Maybe hints of ginger”, he declared, “It would be better cooked.” Almost everyone grabbed a fruit. I urged Joseph to wait, with the usual result. He did what any 15-year-old boy does when asked to listen: exactly the opposite. The whole village ended up with severe diarrhea, with old folks and young kids getting the worst of it. Many died. I stayed with Joseph for a week, hardly sleeping, making him drink cup after cup of camomile to relax his stomach. He survived. Despite its deadly effect, the tree didn't lose its popularity. It was as if, by producing poisonous fruit, it had earned folks' respect. In early December, pushed off by strong, cold winds, the fruit fell to the ground. I wondered if it would release tiny winged seeds, but it didn't. Every April, the cycle began again. The tree grew, slowly but inexorably, because it never had to share sunlight. It had claimed a perfect spot. I come to the end of my story. Joseph is long gone, married to a girl on the mainland. They have five children who have children of their own. They are too busy to visit, but I hold no grudge. About a year ago, a terrible pandemic isolated our small island. The supply boat started coming every three months instead of every week. We ran out of sugar, pepper, soap. I have a garden, a few chickens, I manage. I am writing about the tree because I saw a picture on the Internet. Its real name is Mespilus germanica. It comes from Central Asia, and its fruit are perfectly edible, but only after they rot in straw for a few weeks. I tried one yesterday. It's delicious, with notes of cinnamon and dates. I also detected hints of citrus, so the old mayor wasn't wrong. It's almost Christmas, and there's not a grain of sugar on the island. I'm making jam from Mary's fruit tree. I wonder if the villagers will taste it. If they'll listen to an old woman like me.
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