Both Jacob and his father sat in silence as they drove down a gravel country road. Over an hour had passed and neither of them had said a word. With a thick cloud of dust behind them, his father pulled to a sudden stop.
“Do you like peaches?”
“There’s nothing in the world like fresh peaches. Let’s go pick some.”
“Hold on . . . what . . . what are you talking about?”
“Son . . . please . . .”
“You know, you’re right. You’ve never been there for me. You’ve never done anything for me. And now, today, you drive me to the middle of nowhere and want to pick peaches?”
“I know, I know. I just don’t know what else to do. This place . . . this was the last place I spent time with my father. Growing up, my father never talked to me, or did anything with me. The only times he bothered to even acknowledge my existence was when he was beating the shit out of me for whatever reason. But, once a year, every year, he would bring me out here and we would pick peaches together. I have no idea why, and he barely spoke to me the entire time, but it was something we always did. When we were here, he was different. It was the only time he wasn’t angry and he seemed vulnerable, small, almost childlike . . . and after he died, I still came out here. But I never brought you. You certainly don’t owe me anything and I don’t deserve anything but will you please do this with me?”
Jacob watched as his father turned and walked down a narrow dirt path.
With a pause of uncertainty, Jacob followed.
The path led to a rickety old fence, the gate, no longer attached, stood propped against a rotting post. The weathered no trespassing sign hung at an angle. Jacob’s father passed through the opening and stopped. He gazed back and forth from tree to tree, finding just the right one . . .
“Over there, that one!” His father pointed beyond the first couple rows.
The ground surrounding the tree was sparsely covered with rotting fruit. Bees swarmed up around their legs as dead peaches squished under foot.
His father reached up and pulled a peach from one of the lower branches, turned and handed it to Jacob. Jacob held the peach in his hand, examined it for a moment and then closed his eyes as he took a bite. Juice ran down his chin as he chewed the soft pulp. Wiping his mouth with his sleeve, Jacob walked to his father’s side and began picking.
The warm sun turned to cool afternoon as they stripped the bottom branches. When they had picked all they could reach, the two sat beneath the tree and examined their work. Jacob took a peach from the top of the pile and handed it to his father.
And there they sat, all afternoon, backs against the tree, eating freshly picked peaches.
Jacob’s father tossed a half eaten peach to the ground and leaned back his head. Till now, not a word had been spoken since their arrival at the tree.
“God, I can’t eat another peach.”