July 17, 2015

As with so many words in the English language, “bluff” has multiple meanings. I live on top of a limestone bluff, a miles-long tower of exposed river rock, the stones studded with 300,000,000 year old Devonian fossils: trilobites and crinoids and sea worms and shells. And I bluff my way through life—an actor’s trick.

It is quite hot here; we’ve had several days with heat indexes near 110 degrees. So I’m walking early in the morning at the base of the bluffs, when it’s a cool 86. This am, after bathing in Mississippi River steam and climbing Stroke Hill, I saw Mike and Kathy of Mike and Kathy’s Fruit Stand on Delmar and Clifton Terrace, and Kathy advised me to walk over about five pm and she’d hold some Calhoun County peaches for me.

For you unfortunates who live in other states and hold to your myths of Georgia peaches and California peaches, Calhoun County, Illinois, peaches are better than any favorite thing you can name.

So I walked to the fruit stand at five and talked with Kathy and Mike, and the Calhoun Peach guy drove up with tomorrow’s swag, and I helped carry the peach boxes to waiting tables. The smell was sensual, fecund, maturescent.

Two substantial women in summer dresses were talking to Kathy about buying a bunch of watermelons. I walked by, my arms laden with peaches, and I said, “If I ever meet a woman who smells like this, game on.”

The women exploded with laughter, then of them said to Kathy, without missing a beat, “Quick—sell me enough peaches that I can rub them all over my body.”

Kathy fell against a wall and laughed like a crazy person. The bold woman’s friend laughed and sneezed. I laughed—to cover my embarrassment and the fact that my bluff was being called in spectacular fashion—and sat in a lawn chair and hoped my speech would return to my mouth.

Meanwhile, Mike came over and Kathy told her version of it, and Mike roared and started walking up to customers’ cars and carrying the story forward and pointing to me, the shriveling guy in the lawn chair. The bold substantial lady smiled sweetly and, sans peaches, walked to her car. Kathy headed for Farmer Orville’s place across the road, to tell the story with which Orville will torture me for months to come.

I am a man of superabundant words and few actions. I live in my imagination—not a bad place to be—where fantasy women indeed, rub Calhoun County peaches on their peaches. Ba-dum-bum! (Thank you, Quest Love!)

In real life, I am the caterpillar not the butterfly. If Jennifer Lawrence had showed up to the fruit stand and said, “Sell me enough peaches that I can rub them all over my body for  . . . you, Gene.” You-Gene: Eugene, get it?

I would have run for my life.




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