Monday, July 17, 2006
Careful. Stories that begin with strawberries end with trickery. This is a story about a benevolent, petty thief named Riva Djinn; she's an ancient woman who lives in an empty wine bottle in a city of fruit and dust. On this day in July, when the heat index was reported to reach 105 degrees, Riva received this knowledge from her trusted informant, Mister Whispers. “Psst. Inside a bowl are a dozen fresh strawberries; the bowl is inside a refrigerator; the refrigerator is in the kitchen of an abandoned home that has been taken over by a nomadic urban professional (a nuppie) who hadn’t fought in the war but who has benefited from being on the winning side.” All Riva needed to do was sneak through the window, open the refrigerator, grab the bowl, and run for it. The operation was a complete success. The drowsy man occupying the house didn’t even turn his head from the TV. With the bowl tucked in a hidden sleeve sewn to the inside of her gown, Riva walked to the busy intersection where a homeless man sat on a bench; he was nearly passed out from the heat. Riva knelt before him and fed him the strawberries one-by-one. The dirty man jerked and chewed and muttered incomprehensibly while berry juice burst on his tongue. He regained enough energy to lean over and pick up a wine bottle that had rolled up against his blistered feet. When he overturned the wine bottle and saw that it was empty, he wept. Riva gathered his tears into the bottle. She tasted one that had fallen on her index finger. Sweet. She put a cork on the bottle. She waited three weeks for fermentation. Then she added aniseed and waited another three months for the second distillation to be complete. At last, it was November, she retreated to the mountains of Lebanon and invited all the high-rolling nuppies to join the drinking party. All commented on the perfection of the wine. “This must be what God’s tears taste like,” said the man Riva had stolen the strawberries from four months ago. Riva rubbed his shoulder and thought she was drunk enough to repeat something wise, "The seasons change, and everything changes. Celebrate."