by Jurgen Fauth
April, my uncle's cherry orchard is an amazing sight. I used to score
girls by taking them on a ride past Frauenstein, up on a hill where
you could see the trees, the whole lot of them sparkling white and pink
in the breeze. Then we'd go for a walk through the orchard to my special
tree, where I had a ladder set up so you could get to one of the branches
in the crown. We'd smoke a joint and then climb up higher to where you
could stick your head out on top. It felt like coming up from a dive
in an ocean of cherry blossoms, like taking a swim in cherry blossom
seas. Girls loved it, and to be honest, I loved it too. The girls were
just an added bonus.
At night, I'd often drink whiskey with my uncle and we'd take walks
through the moonlit orchard, talking about the old days when I was a
boy and my parents were still alive. He's a good man, my uncle, and
a great cherry farmer.
Recently, though, things have been different. First of all, I'm older
and I've been growing a bit of a paunch. My good looks and boyish charms
are getting away from me. I can tell. Convincing girls - women, really
- to take a ride with me is more of a challenge than it used to be.
And the orchard's facing worse problems: my uncle says that every year,
summer has been coming earlier and the cherries are rotting on the trees.
He's lost money for three years running. One year, half his harvest
had worms, and many trees are dying from a bark disease related to the
weather. Uncle tried to explain it to me, how the health of the trees
hangs in a precarious balance, the way the weather, the worms, the water
in the soil, and the fertilizer have to come together. "Like a hammock
strung up on ten different poles," he said. "If one is missing or hanging
too high or too low, you're going to roll out of the hammock and bump
A cherry orchard with dead trees is a sorry sight. Cherries with worms
in them are an awful thing. It can scar you for life, biting into a
worm, spitting it out and then checking the remaining half of the cherry
to find a wiggling mealy-white maggot. This happened to a redhead I
picked up in a Frankfurt biergarten last summer, and I doubt she'll
ever eat another cherry again in her life. She gagged for several minutes,
didn't want to come for dinner afterwards, and hasn't called me since.
Uncle definitely had to do something about his orchard, or pack it in
He really didn't have much of a choice, then, when the man from Monsanto
came with his suitcase full of studies and sample seeds, and made his
proposition. Genetically modified cherry fertilizer had been used to
great success in Japan, home of the most amazing cherry blossoms in
the world, and even Washington, D.C. was considering Monsanto products
for its famous trees at the Jefferson Memorial. The first year was free,
the case studies were more than promising, the research nothing short
of amazing. Uncle signed, and soon began to spread the fertilizer that
subtly altered the DNA of his trees and made them resistant to worms,
bark rot, and the onslaught of the seasons.
I could never get a satisfying answer out of him about the side effects,
whether or not the man from Monsanto had told him about that. I first
noticed it in early April, when I took a girl named Sue I picked up
at an orphanage in Wuppertal to the orchard. We were sitting on the
top branch of my special tree, high as kites, sticking our heads through
the canopy of blossoms, when Sue asked me why all the tiny leaves had
tiny corporate logos on them. We'd smoked some powerful Amsterdam weed,
and so I giggled for a bit before I realized she was serious and investigated
a blossom myself. She was right: every little petal showed a company
logo: the Nike swoosh, the Yahoo "y" with exclamation point, a tiny
Coca-Cola mark, the McDonald's golden arches, and so forth. Sue and
I laughed and laughed, but later that night, with a glass of Scotch
in my hand, I asked Uncle about it, and he just shrugged.
"Remember how I told you about the hammock? Now my orchard is propped
up like a Formica counter - the weather and the worms, none of it really
matters any more."
And he was right. In the summer, none of the trees got sick, and not
a single cherry had worms. Instead, they showed the logos on their ripe
red skins. People didn't seem to mind, and bought cherries like they
did in the old days. I never took another girl there again, but Uncle
thought it was a small price to pay for a healthy orchard and a booming
has appeared recently in Berkeley Fiction Review, Eclectica,
Chiron Review, Drunken
Boat, Vestal Review,
and Pig Iron Malt. He
received his doctorate from the Center for Writers at The University of
Southern Mississippi, where he also was an associate fiction editor at
The Mississippi Review Web.
He lives in New York City, where he is working on a novel.