The man who built up history’s curse, and wrapped her book-length spine, was seated by a sycamore one day. It was eleven-hundred-twenty-two degrees between the days of the Sunday’s August, and little boys not days from suckling tit fled between his knees with half a fruit. I remember it like it was yesterday, but something more like centuries ago.
Now I’ll be franker than he was: Many knew how foiled he was by peaches. The skirt of fuzzy wool that wove her tight, that kept the juicy core from men-at-arms, would trick the scholar-scientist into a frenzy. It did not help, I’ll say, that he was anal to an A, while fuming rays frizzled up his woeful hair and made him seem so mad, so piquant hot. Why, I’ll dare to say he gave Helios a hue.
But when a man writes things about the world, and all he says we think is true without a curse or question, the man is apt to think peaches his demesne.
Oh, he hacked and hewed with jagged blades, his froggy butt hanging out of robes. The thinning curls atop his bulbous head gave not much more esteem to that cartoonish image: a brilliant psychopath obsessed with courting peaches, until the juicy sex was ripped from foppish, stubby hands. Then he bellowed like a prince in colic and tantrums wailed throughout the countryside, beating on the walls of Rome and curdling in Caesar’s ears.
Ah, he couldn’t stand the fuzz to be! It wasn’t (if we’re honest and historical) the fuzz itself which cut him down, but its way not being his.
Let me paint it clearer, with some hyssop: If he sat and wrote about a Jew, and how he had it in for carpenters from Nazareth, we’d take him at his raging word. But he never wrote about a peach. Not ever in his tenure!—he couldn’t wrap his lips around it. And for him, that meant, quite plainly, the fruit did not exist.
Oh he longed to rub it on his pillow belly, to drag it gently across his unkempt, chin-held mane, but shivers dropped it to the ground when awful thoughts like these convened. And one day, he’d had enough with stone fruit skirmishes, and laid the fruit beside a tree. He waddled back to Rome that scorching Sunday, to his pen and piney desk. Back to dreaming up the way things were.
Until, I think it was, at three o’clock in the afternoon outside the walls of Rome one Friday, he stumbled on a fragrant band of peaches bare: three dozen or more lying on the ground. Compressing that great oafen gut, he bent half over to retrieve them. His finger nubs collected one and lifted it to pale lips. He rolled it, soft and supple, along his calloused tongue, and slowly stretched his teeth into its flesh—a perfectly resigned and gentle juice that flowed into his billowing gown.
Ah, and he did die a happy man!—if history tells us right. But perhaps would not have done so had he known that peach ambrosia was, in fact, a dirty nectarine.