by Mary Kolesnikova
"I'm not built for this kind of thing anymore," my mother is wailing from the garden, mourning the death of her Meyer lemons in the frost, "I am not equipped to deal with this!"
Hard little carcasses lie heavy as cannonballs on the ground, paler and colder than you'd expect from fine, coddled California citrus. There are rubber gloves on her hands and she is wearing leggings. That's her new thing, and it comes in a myriad of colors and patterns.
She throws a blue tarp over the suffering bush and rips the gloves from her hands, the rubber squeaking in protest. I can hear her stomping back into the house, through the garage, down the hallway, into the breakfast nook and here she is, puffy-eyed and breathing heavy. She marches to the fridge. It is packed with lemons. Lemons in the egg cups on the door. Lemons crammed in the dual crispers.
Plucking a lemon from the butter compartment and a knife from the drawer, she plops down across from me. On the verge of tears she saws into the lemon with its thick, insular rind.
"My lemons are dead. All of them. Frozen solid," she saws and saws, the fat beneath her arm jiggling, hypnotic.
"You don't say."
"Nobody knows the hell I went through to get that tree up in these goddamn hills." She detaches the rind and sits, rubbing it with the messy pulp. This ritual hasn't changed in twenty-seven years.
"I know." In fact, I know the crane alone cost fifteen thousand dollars.
"I think I'm going to divorce him," she says, puckering her face.
"You say that every…"
"I'm going to divorce him, and then I'll plant a new tree," she nods. "And it will be just me and my lemons again."
The phone rings.
"I told you this already; I want you out of my life," she blurts, hanging up. The phone rings again so she turns the ringer off. She has orchestrated catastrophes all her life, and now nature has given her a masterpiece. She doesn't know just what to do about it yet.
"Nobody understands me," she moans. It is empty in these hills without the lemons, just her and I, alone for the first time.