Somewhere near Eclectic. A small A-frame cabin in the chlorophyll-choked woods of Alabama on Lake Martin.
I awoke on America’s 246th birthday. I was lying in a single bed, nestled in an all-wood room with piney walls. The walls were adorned in fishing tackle, and a singular mounted bass about the size of the late Sonny Liston.
I could hear the coffeemaker in the kitchen, gurgling its sunrise anthem.
I staggered out of bed and glanced out my window to greet the day.
The lake outside was the color of a mirror, upturned toward the sky. The pre-sunrise clouds were pink and gray, waiting for dawn.
There was a squirrel outside my window, staring at me with its little shark eyes. Eyes that were saying to me, “If circumstances were different, and if I were a lot bigger, I would eat you.”
I went to the bathroom to see a man about a dog. I played Wordle. I got it in five because I’m an idiot.
I stumbled into the kitchen. I stood before the Mr. Coffee
machine, and my attention was diverted.
I saw them.
They were on the counter. Unassuming, little crimson tennis balls, stacked neatly in a pyramid. They looked supple and friendly. Because that’s how Peaches from Chilton County are supposed to look.
I picked one up. I held it in my hands and used my thumb to test its ripeness.
There’s a technique for checking a peach’s edibility. You use your thumb to apply the slightest amount of pressure. Like probing a fresh bruise.
You want the peach’s meat to give a little, but not too much. If your thumb makes a small dent, the peach is ready to eat. If you break your thumbnail, you might want to wait a few days to let it ripen.
This one was just right. Which is why I opted against coffee.
Since I was 9 years old,…