Luckily it had rained heavily this past week. The scent of earth hung in the air like angels. Steam could be faintly seen emanating from the ground in the fields showing how hot it had been here lately. Birds flew about, rejoicing in the renewed source of hydration.Even the crickets and cicadas came out for a midday romp instead of hiding from the oppressive sun as they’d been had to do as of late.
We had been experiencing a record-breaking dry spell this month which was especially disconcerting to the farmers who were hoping for a really spectacular rainy season. They could really use it after last year’s drought and subsequent economic downturn that forced most of these men–even the older ones who hadn’t really worked in decades–to pull in any and all odd jobs they could find.
You see, oranges are the biggest cash crop where I’m from and normally by this time in the season the oranges are swollen globes as big as a grown man’s fist. The burden of their weight causes the branches of the trees to droop so low they do toe touches. The pungent sweet scent of them wafts through the air and can be noticed miles away from the plantations. And the rich, loamy soil cakes and crumbles in my fists as easily as my grandmother’s tea cakes.
I know all of this because my family has owned orange plantations for more generations than even my granddaddy, the town’s unofficial historian, can remember. And even though I’m only 15 years old, I am expected to do my fair share of work around here.
I’m in charge of picking up the overripe fruit that were overlooked during picking and now lay rotting on the ground covered in tiny black ants traveling in and out of the makeshift city they’ve created in the oranges’ flesh. I’m told I must clear one hundred yards a day and not touch any of the fresh oranges still swaying tauntingly on their branches; but, I may enjoy as many pieces that have fallen to the ground and are still edible.
On most days I will clear the rows for long enough time to bore my little sister who, against my wishes, tags along each and every morning. And once she wanders off to taunt the stray black tomcat who lives under our back porch, I will pluck off of one of the branches the most perfect orange I can find and then curl up against my favorite tree and lose myself in a book.