How to Get Nine Free Peaches

In addition to heat capable of melting the Purple Passion polish right off a girl’s toes, July in the South brings some of the greatest gustatory blessings of the year – fresh blackberries, watermelons, and peaches.

Two weeks ago, I stopped at a little roadside stand a few miles from my grandmother’s home.   I had passed up several other stands in favor of this one because it’s special — the peaches at this particular stand come straight from the orchard and are never refrigerated.  Which means that if they had been the fruit hanging on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they themselves would have been the seduction, and snakes would never have been implicated in the crime.

But because they’re not refrigerated, their skin is as delicate as that of a shedding albino ball python.  And they must be eaten within two or three days of being picked.  Refrigerating them, of course, would zap the sweetness right out of them and turn them into the tasteless balls of mush sold in grocery stores.

I pulled my car into the gravel lot at the corner of two country highways and grabbed my wallet out of my purse.  One woman was in line ahead of me, and I could tell as I approached the stand that the lady selling the peaches was eager to be rid of her.  The woman was looking over every basket and complaining that they all had bruised fruit in them.  Then she demanded that the seller take the best fruit from several different baskets to satisfy her.

The baskets of 12-15 peaches are $8.  For that price, you take a few bruised ones.

The seller, exasperated, shifted a few peaches between different baskets and then said, “These were picked yesterday.  They’re not refrigerated, which means they’re very delicate and will have a few bruises.  This is the best I can offer.  Do you want them?”

The woman in front of me huffed and puffed and handed over her $8.  Then she stomped away, got in her Suburban and made sure to kick up some gravel as she left the lot.

The seller turned to me, asking which basket I preferred.  “They look so delicious.  I’ll take whichever one you think is best,” I said, smiling and sliding my money toward her.  She looked around, selected a basket, and began transferring the fruit to a paper bag.

“Oh, this one’s bruised.  Let me see if I can find you a nicer one,” she said, pushing a peach to the side and grabbing a firmer one from another basket.  This happened many times, so that by the time she had filled up my bag, there were nine bruised peaches off to the side.  She took my $8 and smiling, said, “I can’t sell you those bruised ones, but I can give them to you.  Would you like to HAVE them?”

Yes.  Yes, I would, I said.

The secret to getting nine free peaches, you see, is in simply being as sweet as those peaches are.

And after you procure peach heaven, you drive the bag straight to your grandmother, who, at 85 years old and facing serious medical issues, is just delicate as those precious pieces of fruit. And you enjoy every bit of both, because you know that neither is going to last very long.

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