This post was originally Published April 3, 2006
I wrote this story in an e-mail for a co-worker back in December 2003.
Background on the story: During the summer of 2003, I was biding time waiting for a job in my field to open up and not wanting to get a “real” job only to have to leave it when my dream position opened.
I painted houses. Exterior. 34-foot ladders. 85 degree weather. Often by myself. One time, I was working by myself on the second story of a house in Merrimack. I’ll wrap up this preface by saying that the ladder came down on the wooden deck with me on it. The corner of a garden style window basically impaled my abdomen on the way down and I had to get 13 stitches. I now have a pretty scar on my belly. (But at least I got a friend out of the deal. Thanks, JD.) Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled to be getting back onto ladders for the rest of the summer. The story below took place a couple weeks after the accident.
I came across a line somewhere obscure (a horoscope, maybe?) that said “Life can get better, if only you let it.” It has stuck with me through a summer that has been difficult in more ways than one. I was hating going to work today. Thinking about how much painting sucks, how I haven’t been to the beach once this summer, and about how if I went to the beach I would have to put zinc on my lovely new scar to protect it from the sun. A scar I shouldn’t even have, mind you.
As the day progressed, the sun got a little brighter, as did my mood. I was thinking about the lovely drive on Route 3A into Litchfield, with all the farms and the smell of hay and dirt. I came down from the ladder to grab my lunch (leftover spaghetti, which I hate because the sauce dries up) and was quite annoyed when I found it was missing.
You see, the dog (who had not stopped barking since I got to the house) evidently possessed the talent of being able to eat someone else’s food and yammer at the same time. Truly gifted dog. Ate my lunch. Not only that, but the lady of the house had left and locked all her doors, leaving me with no way to use the bathroom. The sun went behind a very big, no good, terrible cloud. So I got back up on my ladder, hungry and grumpy, when an elderly man next store called over.
“Is Ginger home?”
“I think so,” I yelled back.
“How many of you girls are working?”
I thought, hmmm, that’s funny. I look over to check out the shuffling in the leaves. It’s the elderly man with a cane, a plastic grocery bag, and what looks like an orange softball in his hand. I get down from the ladder, delicately this time, as I have a can of oil paint (another thing I hate, even more than leftover spaghetti) and a dripping paintbrush in one hand. I approach the man.
“Actually, I don’t think she is home, because I went to use her bathroom and all the doors are locked.”
“Oh,” he said.
I look down to see he’s holding a bag overflowing with peaches.
“Do you want me to bring these up for you?” I said, looking at his cane.
“Sure. I don’t think I can make it up there. You can use my bathroom. And this is for you.”
I realize he’s holding not a softball, but the biggest peach I have ever seen in the flesh. And I have family in Georgia. It was a peach worthy of worship! I don’t know if I can express how happy I am to this old man. He has a peach for me. A beautiful peach from a farm. He doesn’t know that the dog ate my lunch and that I have nothing else to eat.
He doesn’t know that I hate getting dirty and bitten by bugs all day. He doesn’t know that I painted my bedroom a color called, “peach crush.” He certainly doesn’t know what the smell of peaches reminds me of . . . All he knows is how to share a simple gift, succulent and outstanding in its singularity. He picked the biggest one for a stranger to take. He went and got two more consummately ripe ones while the paint covered stranger used his bathroom.
“These are better than Georgia, I think,” he said.
And I think, “Life can get better, if only you let it.”