FULL STORY APPEARS IN THE JULY 2010 ISSUE!
The next day, playing swimsuit one-sided tennis against the backside of the house, I realized all of a sudden that I was alone.
I kicked off my last article of clothing. I even tiptoed to the kiwifruit orchard and found a fresh hen-egg-sized kiwi. I cupped it in my hands like a delicate hamster, not yet plucking it from its nest. It was no more than a silhouette thanks to the glare of the sun. With warmth parading in my eyes and baking my nude skin, I was in paradise and favorably blind to the impending adventure in my palms. I plucked it from its branch and bit into it like a forbidden apple, tore a morsel before I could get away.
Once I got past the fur and realized it wouldn’t wriggle, the experience was near thrilling, and I indulged.
It was then, upon opening my eyes, that I spotted the golden garden cage: opened. It was gaping at the middle with the whole cylinder bottom hanging like a hysterical jaw. I had never seen it opened before and the new shape of it was disruptively asymmetrical. Suddenly, I was not so alone. I was naked.
Before I could think, I leapt into the tree—
Though tree never seems to be the best word for a kiwi plant. The orchard was more of a vineyard: the first level was a confusion of poles and twisted wooden lightning bolt trunks, and the top level was an unbroken cloud of brush at head-height.
And I was wearing it. Sitting with my legs tangled and dangled among the vines, the leaves were my loin cloth and bubble bath, and I was Zeus looking down from above the world—or perhaps I was Odysseus and only rented my time among the gods.
My heart had begun a rapid cello-strum. I sensed the invading eyes upon me but scanning the yard, I found no trespasser. From my seat, however temporary—or precarious, as the wind and whining vines suggested, I saw many things and the last few minutes of my life flashed before my eyes: the lone tennis racket, my clothes heap, the mocking cage. I’d chuck the tennis ball into its teeth if I could find it.
Bonk! There it was against my head and into my hands, and I dropped the kiwi.
I looked to see who had thrown it and was surprised to find a creature perched atop my jungle cloud, not five yards from where I sat. It slouched tightly cross-kneed, raising and bobbing her chin like a pretty monkey fishing for a sweetie, chewing with an occasional underbite on something from an hour ago. She—I was sure it was a she—acted as though she hadn’t noticed me, but I knew she was the culprit launcher of my own tennis ball.
There’s a queer feeling you get when you realize there’s an animate being in your presence where you expected none. That’s when my heart and lungs mixed up and I became an amateur at breathing, but in the end, it was my heart that won out and I decided: I would fall in love with her. I wondered if she was kiwi-green beneath her brown hair. The more I watched, the more difficult seemed the task. I lolled back in my throne and attempted a few head bobs of my own. She glanced my way and offered an oxygen mask. I wasn’t sure where to go from there.
The vine gave at that moment anyway, and I rolled head over heels through the cloud into the dust.
On the way down, I saw that someone had stirred my clothes heap. I pushed my head up quickly and caught sight of him at last: white and bulky in astronaut garb and making a zero-gravity dash across the lawn at one-bound-per-three-seconds. With my shorts dangling from his boot ankle, he stabbed the planet with a flagpole. He made to salute—but saw me coming.
He stumbled slowly over swim trunks, but nothing serviced his escape. I caught up in less than a sprint and wrestled his floating body to the ground, taking full advantage of his otherworldly gravity. I loomed over him like a god, raised my fists, and bashed in his tinted visor ape-style. His eyes squinted under the unshielded sunlight—his face was green—green was envy—his mouth gasping like the cage. I crammed the tennis ball into his jaws. I cast him blinded and silenced into the sky, and he was lost.
I turned to pick up the flag, but the pretty creature was gone.