There were prickly pears everywhere. They nested in baskets and bowls were tucked into bureau drawers, in the glove compartments of cars, and hidden in clothes dryers. I knew of one woman, who could only speak on the Day of the Dead and had several rolled inside of her stained, terry cloth apron, right next to the paring knife that she needed for various purposes. There was nothing else to eat. Everyone loved the ruby fruit, except for me. I would have eaten anything—a cucumber with skin, an unshelled shrimp, a scrap of hard bread saved from the breakfast zuppa. A grandfatherly type came towards me in long strides I didn’t think he was capable of. His eyes were protected against the sun by his fedora which sat high up on his head and his cigarette was persistent, glowing in his shaking, thick fingers. He was persuasive, but I had my mother, a true Taurus’s stubborn streak. And I had a growling stomach to think about. He held out the prickly pear to me, and I sunk my teeth into the cactus-like flesh. I kept biting like an animal and spitting the skin on the ground. The smile drained from his face. Later, he would warn others about me, that I was impulsive and ungrateful, that I failed to abide by the local and time-tested ways. Wasted a perfectly good goddamn piece of fruit, he’d mumble, ambling up and down the sun soaked village. O Dio, the women would cry in response, peeling the fruit into handmade ceramic bowls which they’d offer to the children who played in the courtyard, every day without fail, until dusk.
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