A Harvest Mismatch

Harvest is time tracking, simple as flicking a switch.

‘Peel them!’ Mum will be stern. Girl will ignore Mum, fiddle with pleated saree, check her braid, pull her jasmine gajra from the back to the front, let it cascade over her ample breasts.

Mangoes are generally harvested at a physiologically mature stage and ripened for optimum quality.

Boy will look at her overripe-ness, glance at his parents, her parents, saffron-hued Alphonso arranged in a pretty cane basket, sweetmeats of nameless hues, snacks dripping oil, and silverware on the teapoy. Girl will arch towards the basket, pick the plumpest of the fruits. Curl fingers around its softness. Imagine a hardness. Boy will notice her, think of juices. She’ll return it to order.

Fruits are handpicked or plucked with a harvester.

Girl and Boy will listen to conversations about wedding dates, arrangements. Mum will begin to strip the fruits, inviting the prospective groom to have a bite. She’ll be tad upset — fruits are leaking. Girl knows it’s only Mum’s concealed rage, in thick pulpy flesh. Mum is privy to things even Dad isn’t. They’ll never approve of the web she’s spinning in the boughs in their backyard.

To harvest your mangoes, give the fruit a tug. If the stem doesn’t snap off easily, it's raw. The seed is small and thin and the firm flesh is crisp. The flavor is sharply sour and can be slightly bitter due to concentrations of oxalic, citric, and other types of acids.

Girl will gather the peels, recede to the kitchen, remain there until Boy is gone, still fiddling with her gajra, and looking out the window that opens into the cluster of mango trees.

Mango is an ancient fruit, as old as 4000 years.

Before Boy arrives, now, she places the basket of produce center stage, tiptoes out. Under the warm summer sun, and trees in their yard, she wraps her arms round Boy-next-door waiting for her, and squashes him to pulp.

MANDIRA PATTNAIK’s work has appeared most recently in Watershed Review, Passages North, Prime Number Magazine, Bending Genres, Citron Review, and Amsterdam Quarterly, among other places. Her work has received nominations for the 2021 Pushcart Prize, 2020 BotN, 2021 Best Small Fictions, and 2021 Best Microfiction. She lives in India and tweets at @MandiraPattnaik.