by Zach Kincaid
It began in the orange grove. They were too young to realize that their curiosity had blind-alley eyes. The earth tone pickup truck melted into the turns and weaves of squatty trees that dripped its fruit. Michael’s adolescent senses naturally hunted for a solace space to take his girl. He was a hound sniffing out the chase.
Citrus oils sting the eyes and make bitter the first bite of an unpeeled orange. He didn’t think about that. Jodie sat next to him in the cab, a little restless from the ragged path that brought them to the middle of the grove. If film can modify your perspective, think zoom out and up. There sits a small truck, its naked bay stuck out, an odd duck in a neighborhood of a thousand trees. You can see the crooked spine of Michael’s path inward. It probably won’t be his getaway. Creativity precedes lust; it never follows it. There’s a straight shot back and right of screen. Jodie didn’t know it. She would have run it down, scared, if she had. The orchard hemmed her in and quickly ate up the outside world.
The sun grew tired of the whole affair and said good night as Michael rigged makeshift quarters in the back of his truck. Blankets, pillows, a few candles soon to be lit. He knew what he wanted. He planned it out. Jodie was not limp in the exchange though they hadn’t talked about it; that would have shamed the event for sure. She put on delicate attire, and giddy, asked, "Where are we going? Where are you taking me tonight?"
Neither one knew the details of how it would play out; two teenage Baptist virgins wanting to embrace the forbidden.
First times happen once; hunger follows then routine sets in. The spaces between are anxious or boring.
Michael went over and opened Jodie’s door. He spent some time organizing the props just right. Jodie strolled down the path that brought them here, hands in her pockets.
She reached up and picked an orange. It was just right.
“All ready now,” Michael said with a motion for Jodie to come.
Jodie walked back. She felt herself moving in slow motion caught between the now and then, the lost and found.
They climbed onto the truck's back and looked up at the stars.
“Mike, you see the big dipper?” Jodie asked, pointing. “It’s right there.”
“Yeah, I see it.”
“Did you know that it points to the North Star? That’s what the slaves used to make sure they were heading the right direction.”
Paying little attention, Michael jerked up and lit some candles. He had balanced them on each side of the cabin roof. “Forgot that part,” he said.
“Follow the northern star; follow the northern star. That was their song,” she said.
“Who put all those up there anyway?” Michael asked. “And why?”
“You know the answer to both those questions,” said Jodie. “Maybe they’re not stars at all, just holes people poked out in the floor of heaven to see out.”
“Why would they want to see down here?”
“To remember, perhaps.”
Michael paused and looked over at Jodie. “Come here.”
Jodie scooted closer, putting her head on his chest.
Michael didn’t waste any time in reaching down and slipping his hand inside Jodie’s shirt. Jodie obliged, Michael thought, because she didn’t resist him. And besides, that’s what they came out to the orchard to do. Even though they never voiced it, they both knew it.
Jodie turned and kissed him. It was a signal to start their exploration. They unpeeled each other of their clothes and ducked under the blankets as if they were a cave overhead - as if they believed there really were voyeurs behind the stars.
The moment was too sensual for Michael. He forced himself inside Jodie and within seconds he had released all those inhibitions and haunts.
He felt free; Jodie just hurt. She was a exposed and sticky. She sat up and looked down at her body.
“Blood!” she burst out. “Look at this blood.”
“Let me help you,” Michael said with little triumph, but more embarrassment than anything else. He took the pillow out from under her and tossed it out of the truck.
Jodie lay back down and pulled the blankets up over her head. From underneath them she said, “I hope I’m not pregnant.”
“You’re not. It’ll be OK.”
“Yeah, you’re not bleeding.”
“I love you, Jodie.”
After a minute, Michael picked an orange. “Want one?”
He bit into it and cooly began to peel it open.
“I hope I’m not pregnant,” she said again.
“You're not, Jodie. It'll be okay. I love you.”
Jodie struggled to sit up. She fell into Michael’s lap which was full of orange peels. Love seemed to be exchanged between them though she never said anything. Her thoughts were on the northern star.