The Prune Eaters

29 May

The ones with the bad suits, the young ones that had yellow teeth and hastily-arranged hairdos with sticky saliva, were informers. They were caretakers with small notebooks in their breast pockets. They stood in front of buildings, in piazzas, in parks, in train stations, in front of university student housing. Their suits were ill fitting; some hung loose and low and were wrinkled by weather and yellowed by the acrid odor of the summer underarm. Others were tight, exploding on them like thin scarves wrapped around bulbous melons and held together feebly with string. Within every territory or section that these men watched they knew where the prune trees were. They were young men with old faces. They were all peasants with notebooks arrived from the countryside on trains. In sour-smelling compartments. They were trained to spot people that looked like philosophers or writers. Or that looked like they were deep in thought. Or that were capable of thought. They were trained to write down descriptions and routes; mannerisms and intentions. And at the end of their shifts, the informers went out of their way to walk by the prune trees. The branches hung low. Supervisors stuffed their attaches with green, unripe prunes. They worked quickly. They stuffed their pockets. Their satchels. Sacks. They picked only once and hoped to eat many times from the bounty. Anything more would have looked suspicious. When the pockets stretched out, bulbous with green fruit, they would walk away quickly. Because prune eater was synonymous with shit eater. Because a prune eater was the lowest, most unscrupulous animal and deserved to be sent to the salt mines or labour camps just for that alone. But the green prunes drove them insane. They took them away from their duties. They brought back their old habits, in the villages, of stealing from neighbors’ trees. They weren’t hungry for green prunes. They were hungry for the sour taste of poverty that took them back to their childhood beds. I watched them stuff their satchels, the froth on their teeth giving away their transgressions. They ate quickly while walking and to myself I said: you are not allowed to eat the green fruit. The pit is still soft. You are eating pieces of Death.


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