by Amber Quimby
I fetch a white plate and a sharp knife which I shouldn’t really use. I cut into the skin of the orange pretty well, but it’s tougher than I expect. I don’t know what Santa was thinking; he’s so out of touch. I tear crossly at the orange and wrench it in half. Get a quarter unpeeled. When I pull off the pith, the juice runs down my wrists. To stay in charge, I cram the whole piece into my mouth and sit with bulging cheeks, dribbling; at first I can’t close my lips. The orange fills my mouth with juicy flesh and tastes terrific - extremely orangey. I mop up with kitchen paper afterwards, so it’s all right.
I can see that I won’t get the skin off the other quarter: a glistening orange wedge, bright, solid, confident. I’m on a hockey pitch at half-time; misty breath in cold air. I’m spectacularly bad at hockey: partly due to short legs but mainly due to short sight. My
body is all wrong. The orange skin is stiff, unyielding; I can’t get at the fruit, though I’m gnawing at it like a chipmunk and the tip of my nose is damp. I hoover up the juice, but the flesh, though tattered, survives. My lips tingle and I feel defeated. But I’ll get
the skin off the remaining half-orange, no matter what. I’ll show this thing who’s boss.
I get a firm grip and go for an all-out attack, prising off the skin, which makes soft creaks as it detaches. A fine spray of juice squirts in my face. I scrunch my eyes and curse quietly. Oranges do that; I should have known. I did know; I should have expected it. I won’t give up. There’s a wet slurp as the final piece of skin comes away. I dismember the orange, ripping off the pith without mercy. The pieces are ragged and oozing, the kitchen paper a sodden ball.
Anyone who cared to look would see that I’d done well, been successful. I wash my hands. I expect it to be all downhill now, but I’ve underestimated this orange. There’s resistance: concealed pith is clinging on and fighting back. I chew with grim determination, but it takes time, a long time; it’s patient, grinding work.
The clock tells me I’m almost out of time. I didn’t realize it was so late. The doorbell rings; I abandon the last piece of orange.
Hours later and it’s quiet. The white plate with the debris rests on the blanket covering my knees. It contains no pips, I realize. My orange had no pips. I pick up the lone orange segment. I will eat it only to finish it, for it will be rough to the touch and like
cardboard in my mouth. It is not: it’s soft, moist and sharply sweet. Perfect.
Amber lives in the UK, belongs to an internet writing group and enjoys bridge and badminton. Contact Amber.