The abundance of plums won’t be harvested easily.
Not a child anymore, I grasp the branches, hoisting myself with one grunting pull up into the leaves. Cobwebs cling to my hair and face, dead branches scrape at my arms, a few drawing blood.
I steady the small containers, balancing them just so, willing them not to tip. Like myself, they are inadequate to the task: simple tupperware, available, sturdy, but too small, too tall, not quite right.
Snapping off some of the dead branches around me, I survey the plums. Branches sag with their weight. Each cluster brims with fruit — three, four, five, all plump and purple, shining from underneath the orchard dust.
I begin to pluck. Some, left too long, have already begun to rot; some have already been enjoyed by the birds and the bats. Those I pick and toss to the ground to relieve the tree.
But most give easily at my tug, and their surface is not broken. I try to toss the fruit gently into my bins, taking care not to bruise them. I work quickly, with an ear to the front yard and my children’s voices. I should have waited, I think anxiously, until the toddler is down for a nap.
But soon my bins are full and I must descend. The branches again snag on my hair and clothes as I reposition myself. The climb down does not require as much effort; anchoring myself with both hands, I drop to the ground. I reach back up to retrieve my containers and then turn, stepping carefully to avoid the fallen fruit, some of it already filling the air with a sharp, sickly sweetness. Later I’ll grab the rake and gather it up for the compost pile. But for now, I walk back to the house, arms heavy with plums.