by Sarah Cirillo
This piece was awarded first place in the 2022 Swinburne Sudden Writing Competition.
The lemon tree stretches its arms out wide, boughs heaving with fruit. Underneath, there is a graveyard of rotting lemons, sickly sweet and buzzing with flies, and I gag as I reach under her. All the ripest lemons are there, but all the thorns are there too. They await my bare arms, ready to tear at my skin. I think it’s her revenge for taking her fruit. She works so hard and then she gets pissed on by Dad and Nonno. It’s good for the lemons, they both say. Men and their bloody dicks, Mum says.
Lemons are my favourite. People hate them because they’re bitter, but if you dip them in sugar they taste like lollies. Nonno taught me that. We cut them into small wedges, drenching them in the tiny granules. We grin as we eat them, and sticky lemon juice drips down my chin and onto the floor.
Nonno’s house has a huge lemon tree. We always climb up to the highest lemons, fighting to get the best ones. We play for hours, sometimes hopping over to the fig tree. She’s even bigger than the lemon tree, with twisted limbs bearing budding, milky fruit. I wonder if she gets pissed on, too.
It’s summertime and lemons hang like a lady’s jewels. Knobbed branches are marred with wrinkles, grotesque knots twisting this way and that, just like Nonno’s hands. Dad is the same, leather on bone, stubbled like the pricks on the lemon tree. They work hard, Mum says as we watch Dad and Nonno pruning the lemon tree. To the bone. Her branches fall to the ground uselessly, decorating the graveyard beneath her. I wonder if she knows she’s treated like nothing. She bears her fruit like she bears her soul, and all she gets back are broken limbs and piss.
Mum calls me over to help her make dinner. Salt dribbles onto my lips and I lick it away, turning to Mum as she sets out the cotoletta. She stands over the bench, back bent, like the trunk of my lemon tree, only Mum doesn’t get pissed on – we just take fruit, leaving her bare.
Today, Nonno taught my cousin to piss on the lemon tree. Men and their dicks, I think. He’s thirteen, and at lunchtime his friends play scopa and yell about the girls they want to fuck. They probably piss on their lemon trees too.
Photo by Angélica Echeverry on Unsplash.