Orange Float

Ferdinand stood at in line, waiting.

Finally, he was at the front, and the person behind the counter said, “Next please.”

Ferdinand walked up. “Hi, could I get a root beer float, but made with, uh, orange soda?”

The person behind the counter frowned. “I don’t think I can do that.”

“Why not? Do you have orange?”

“Yes, but – ”

“Then why can’t you put ice cream in the orange, rather than in root beer?”

“Because it’s a root beer float. Not an orange float.”

“Okay, can I get an orange float?”

“Sorry, we don’t have those here.”

Ferdinand felt his frustration mounting. “Okay, can I order an orange soda, and add in a scoop of ice cream?”

The person behind the counter frowned again. “I’m going to have to check with my manager.”

“Please do.” Ferdinand waited while the employee went in back. A minute later, an older man came out.

“You the fellow who wanted orange and ice cream?” the man said.

“Yes, that’s me.”

“Sorry fellow, we don’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Just don’t. Please order something else, or let the next person in line through.”

Ferdinand stared for a second, unable to figure out why this was such an ordeal. He held a hand up, annoyance floating above it.

“Sir, step aside, if you’re not ordering anything. Next please!” The man turned and went in back, and the employee returned to the cash. The next person in line stood beside Ferdinand, ordering a root beer float. Ferdinand turned and walked out the door, confusion and frustration mingling in his head.

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Orange Blossoms

The opening of an orange blossom was Lacy’s favourite moment in the year.

Her orange tree was small, carefully cultured. Living on the northern end of a temperate climate – close to the 49th parallel – she couldn’t keep her orange tree outdoors all year. The snow would do it in in just a few days, so her orange tree lived in a bucket that was moved in and out, depending on the season.

The early summer, though, usually brought orange blossoms, and Lacy loved them. The little white petals that would later close up and create the fruit to eat in mid-November, after the careful move indoors. She always enjoyed her harvest.

The tree was small, and work excessive for the gains, but it was still a delight every year for her. But most of all, Lacy loved the scent of the orange blossoms in the air.

Orange Trees

Maggie waited every year for her orange trees to blossom.

She had started the tree when she was in university, saving the seeds from meal hall. She tried planting some, and putting others in the fridge. Some grew in the pot, others in the wet paper towel chilling for a few weeks. She kept both going.

Most eventually died, but two had survived. She wasn’t sure if they were the stratified, or the non-stratified. It didn’t matter. She kept them alive, and growing.

Finally, after years of care, the trees had blossomed one spring, and she had been delighted by the colour, the smell. Later they had born fruit: two tiny oranges, one on each tree.

The fruit wasn’t great, but the blossoms were delightful. She looked forward to it every year.

This year, though, only one tree had a blossom, a piddly little white thing, five petals barely worthy of being called such. The other tree kept its green leaves, but no buds appeared, no warm, rich-smelling blossoms. She worried about it, tried watering it to the point of drowning, then tried drying it until the leaves started to crisp. Nothing worked.

She accepted her one tree’s single blossom for the year, and tried to undo the stress the other had suffered. She went to the store and purchased orange essential oil, rubbing it on the leaves just so she could pretend, for now, that everything was fine. She hoped she hadn’t undone everything, wouldn’t have to start again.

The tree judged her from its sickly state.

Museum Orange

The orange in the cage was the most confusing aspect of Maury’s morning.

Maury’s had no idea why the orange in the cage so befuddled him. In his tour of the Museum Of The Obscure And Disturbed (or MOTOAD, for short), he had seen many things that didn’t jive with his world view. A piano, suspended from a ceiling, with a red-faced pianist hanging with his knees wrapped over a bar and playing the works of C.P.E. Bach chronologically. An elderly baboon in a perfectly crisp suit, tied to a cross in mock crucifixion, without the asphyxiation. A dog restrained and forced to watch a video of a young child peeling the skin off of a cat, then reversed to reattach that skin, on constant repeat.

But the single orange, sitting on the floor in the center of a large blue cage, was the most disturbing thing. It sat, doing nothing. The orange was made brighter by the contrasting blue. The bars were spaced wide enough that the orange could have slipped through easily. But it sat, a victim of its own indifference. Maury was sad for the orange. It could be so much more.

A Hungry Baboon Deserves To Eat

Even a hungry baboon deserves to eat; this is why Stephen felt sorry for him. The baboon stood behind the bars of his cage, looking forlorn, staring at the man’s bag of nuts. But the sign said “Please do not feed the Animals; they are on a Special Diet, and may not take well to the food.”

Stephen felt sad, and looked around for evidence of the special diet. There was a small piece of orange peel sitting next to a plate that had been licked clean. So Stephen left, vowing to return the next day with proper food.

He brought three oranges with him the next morning, and, when he was sure no one was looking, tossed one through the bars. The baboon caught it in mid air, and tore it apart hungrily. The man watched, fascinated. When the baboon had finished, and there were only a few pieces of peel on the ground, he tossed the second one in, and the baboon did the same. The man withheld the third orange while he toured the rest of the zoo. He eventually circled back to the baboon’s cage after a few hours, and the baboon, recognizing him, stood up and came toward the edge of his enclosure. The man took the third orange, and held it out to the baboon. The animal’s fingers gently plucked it from Stephen’s weathered old hand, and their fingers touched. Stephen smiled, and he thought the baboon did, too. The baboon then tore in to the orange with glee, juice spraying flying everywhere.

Three days later, Stephen brought four more oranges, and an apple. He spent the day sneaking these to the baboon, who took them gently from his hand each time.

After several months of Stephen intermittently sneaking food in, the zoo announced it would be closing. The animals were being sold off to other zoos, and Stephen, dressed in a crisp suit, approached the zookeeper about adopting the baboon, who appeared rather aged himself. The zookeeper said that would be impossible, to which Stephen offered a sum of money the zookeeper could not refuse. The baboon went home with Stephen that day, though the record said he had been sold to the North Korean Zoo.

At Stephen’s home, the baboon received all the food he needed, and though he never became obese, he was well fed, and happy. And as he was given a proper diet, the baboon started to explore. Eventually he found the music room, and, finding the piano, he started pressing keys, delighted by the sound. Stephen heard him, and came in. Sitting beside him, he taught the baboon how to play three blind mice. The baboon, entranced, played it over and over again, until Stephen later taught him Au Claire de la Lune. Each day, he taught the baboon a new piece of music, getting progressively harder, until the baboon was working on Chopin preludes.

It was then that Stephen entered the baboon in a music festival. The rest, of course, is history.

Green Coat

It was a bright, neon green, flaring out around the other black and purple clothes, a bold statement, a call to be different; at least, that’s what Diane saw.

Frankie saw a gaudy green jacket with orange sequins, putrid and revolting; he nearly vomited in the mall at the thought of it on his girlfriend. She squealed and ran in.

Throwing it over her shoulders, she modeled it to Frankie. It was blessedly short, so when she turned around he could focus on her ass, but even then the disgusting thing was too distracting.

“I don’t really like it” he said, hoping a political response would dissuade her.

Diane pouted, then said, “What do you mean? It’s amazing!”

“It looks like an oompa loompa was butchered and skinned, and turned in to a jacket.”

“You’re just grouchy and tired!”

“Yes, but it’s still horrid.”

“Well, I love it.”

“I don’t. And I won’t have sex with you when you wear it.”

“That’s fine.”

“Dammit! Why does that work for you?”

“Because you always want sex! I can turn that part of my brain off.”

“Well, if you don’t buy this, I’ll pay for that really cute dress you saw at the other store.”

“No way! This is much better!”

“It’s really not! Please, Diane, don’t buy it.”

“Too late, I’m going to pay for it!” She slipped it off and headed for the cash register.

“But there’s a rip! Right there!” He leapt on the slight flaw in the seam attaching the arm, pointing it out with gusto.

“Oh! Oh no, that’s too bad…I could always fix it though…”

“You said that about the jeans, and you still haven’t.”

“True…oh, well, I suppose it will save some money.”

Frankie inwardly cheered, but just replied, “There there hon…maybe there’s another in another store you’ll see somewhere.”

“Oh! Good idea! Let’s go to the South Side Mall! Yay! Mall crawl!”

“…Damn.”

Betty’s Mom’s Wedding

Betty’s Mom walked in to the café, sat down, and said, “Okay, I have a few ideas to make this an even better wedding. I know you’re the planner with all the experience, but I thought we could spice it up a bit.”

“Oh…kay…” Sarah replied, sitting a bit straighter and running a hand through her red hair.

“And don’t give me that questionable look. Just tell me what you think, good or bad. I’m a big girl, I can take it.”

“Sure, but – ”

“Good.” Betty’s Mom flipped open her notepad. “Now, first of all, the flowers. Betty only mentioned wanting red, but that’s all she really had in mind. I think chrysanthemums. They have lots of colour, and they’re gorgeous. A little more expensive, perhaps, but just beautiful. So we’ll go with those, mostly red, with a few white. And maybe some pink. Can you do orange? Do they make orange?”

“Oh, that sounds lovely, but -”

“No buts, let me finish. Now, for the ceremony itself, I think we can try to keep it under 30 minutes. No one likes long speeches and stuff, so let the preacher know to keep it quick and easy. In and out, so we can get to the pictures, then the real fun of the dancing. Oh, and make sure he makes it nice, very loving and such. Reinforce the good marriage ideals. But short.”

“Sounds wise, but Miss -”

“I said no buts. Now, the reception, the big events, we want the salmon rather than the chicken. If anyone’s allergic to seafood, they can have the vegetarian option. Then we’ll get the dancing going; the big band is hired for the first two hours, then one of them will actually take over as DJ, which should be good. We have the place booked until 1am; after that, everyone’s free to go where they like, but they can’t stay there. And I think maybe some lovely little gift bags, with those mini bottles of champagne or something. Sound good?” Betty’s Mom finally looked up at Sarah, expectation of agreement written on her face.

“Of course, but…can’t I voice my but now?”

“Yes, please, I want your opinion I said!”

“Well, then, that all sounds quite lovely…but I’m not your wedding planner. I’m a wedding planner, but not your wedding planner.”

“What do you mean?”

The next table over, a blond woman smiled, and said, “I’m your wedding planner, ma’am. And they sound like decent ideas, so let’s roll with it.”

Ending

She stood by the boat, on the pier. She waited, hoping Louise would come, that she had forgiven her, or that Jean-Marc would call, begging her not to leave. Either way, she sat; she waited. There was no movement but for that caused by the wind. The boat stayed moored to the pier, small waves causing it to rock and knock gently against the wood. The evening sun shone orange-red, casting a deep glow on the sky, and she felt warm and, if not significant, not irrelevent, either. Untying the line, she hopped in and started the engine, heading for the small island just beyond sight.

Farming Poetry

A farmer with an unusual mustache,

Cutting an orange.

The smell fills the room

Like the shadow of an airborne pterodactyl.

His farm lives through the winter,

The animals indoors,

Not that they ever get to leave anyway.

The lampshade,

Made of cow skin:

“Leather”.

The scars from the prod, zap.

A tearing,

Like a nail file run across

And so rendered unsellable.

The man, struggling, eats the orange.

Amazed at his luxurious breakfast.

Cookoff

Two women. Standing off. A husband between them. Uncertain. Disturbed. The smell of burning pine heavy in the dim light of the Christmas tree. Children sitting on the old sofa. Softly, in a hoarse whisper:

“I’m taking you down, Peggy.”

“Bring it, Noreen.”

The challenge; gross-out the husband (of Jamie, in the other room) standing between them.

They each began the cook off. Peggy moving like a mad woman, throwing things into a bowl, chopping, slicing, whipping. Noreen calmly putting together a small mix, melting them until the smell of old shoes filled the room, seeping out to the rest of the house.

Jamie’s husband sat. Noreen’s plate was presented. It looked like a chocolate log. Or a turd. No, definitely a turd. He cut it open; it steamed. He took a bite. It was awful. Not shit. Shoes, and mildewy towels, and cayenne pepper and lemon and heavy wasabi filled his mouth. He gagged, and spit it out. Noreen smiled.

Then Peggy set her dish down. It was beautifully presented. A live octopus sat wriggling slightly atop a mountain of merengue, with shreds of raw cabbage and an orange barbecue sauce drizzled over top. The sight was enough to make him retch slightly, but he knew he had to do this. He cut a piece of a tentacle and the octopus recoiled. He added some merengue and cabbage, and a bit of glaze. He placed it in his mouth. The tentacle was still moving on its own. He vomited. As per the rules, Peggy won.