Feel free to take the last peach. Feel free to gather it from the bowl, to peel the woolish skin with the dullest blade, the rusted blade that tempts you with its wicked ways. The distance to the flesh is only a cat’s howl on the ruby lip of a Spanish roof. Forty-one whores have courted me in my time and not one took off her garter when the phone lifted its unyielding ear. Righteousness is found fat-lipped on the edge of a Coca-Cola sign, trapped between the fender of a ’52 Buick and a tinplate wall. Back behind the garage, Mick spits farthest, outshining the other boys. Much practice since they closed down the factory. It is a sorry thing to miss. You know the ache you feel for some time when the cotton grew driving distance, and even if you never held a hoe, it was a comfort. It was a way of believing that time does not move on. Your daddy will always hold you, slip you a quarter when your mama says no, tell you—always—the secrets you need to know. Feel free to eat the last peach. I have never believed in photographs, in clutching a trigger-happy box to record what I am afraid there will not be time enough to see. I have traveled 41 states in my time and each of them had a House of Beauty. Forty-one states, and I never met a man who did not regret that yesterday was gone or a woman who believed tomorrow would be kind. I do not know what will have been my prime, but I feel compelled to tell Charlie and the lady who cut my bangs too short for the junior prom and the men who could not remember to pay child support and the other woman I have been and lost love for that I have failed to forgive them. Feel free to eat the last peach. In 1932 the whores in Madrid lived in the biggest house in town. Red curtains lifted their skirts to reveal the whitest lace a coal town ever knew. In the cedar chest which rots in the southeast corner of my garage, a photograph of that bordello curls its edges against the pinafore my daughter outgrew in 1974. I peel from a windowsill tomato an oval sticker notifying me that I am about to consume a vine-ripened fruit. My knife hesitates at the hard yellow navel. I know I must go on and slice it, peel it back so my youngest child can eat and not become entangled in the tough, unyielding skin. I do not know why I pause or why now I recollect Olive Cabiness in her Alabama shingle home, long before the telephone lines connected her tin rooftop with the same black wires carrying Mrs. Owens’ invitation to Sunday tea. I do not know why I think of her now and the way she sliced them thin and laid them on her blackened toast.
About the author:
B. Lynne Zika’s photography, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in numerous literary and consumer publications. 2023 publications include The Crossroads, The Rye Whiskey Review, and Writing in a Woman’s’s Voice. 2022 publications include Delta Poetry Review, Backchannels, Poesy, Suburban Witchcraft, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. In addition to editing poetry and nonfiction, she worked as a closed-captioning editor for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Awards include: Pacificus Foundation Literary Award in short fiction, Little Sister Award and Moon Prize in poetry, and Viewbug 2020 and 2021Top Creator and Hero Awards in photography. Website: https://artsawry.com/. https://www.facebook.com/b.lynne.zika
Photo by Kelsey Todd on Unsplash