Contest #29 shortlist ⭐️

The Burning Avocado Tree

Submitted into Contest #29 in response to: Write a story about someone dealing with family conflict.... view prompt


Latinx Sad Kids

As Kiwi grew up we took her to her granpadre’s place more often. We lived so far away that at the beginning, when she was younger, we only went there at Michaelmas time. Before we moved to the America we drove hours and hours home to Guadalajara, and now it takes too many hours and aeroplane rides.

Kiwi loved her grandfather and hated Guadalajara. We lived in el Ciudad de Mexico in a tiny narrow street house in a building with thirty others. Granpadre was in his huge empty house full of silence and green waving plants.

When Kiwi was ten we took her all the way down to Guadalajara for the summer. She brought her camera and her shorts, and told us the entire drive that she would never forgive us from taking her away from her friends this summer. She was not used to the emptiness and the quiet of a still country morning with the birds singing in the lemon trees.

“Good evening, dearest granddaughter,” granpadre greeted Kiwi as she flounced in.

I have never understood my daughter, small and thin and strong-willed as she is. I am a big woman and strong. I have thick bones and can kill a cerdo in the morning from the pen in the courtyard at home in Mexico and have the meat inside by afternoon—I can best Banja, the hardest worker in the building we lived in. And meanwhile I have been making the arepas and the mole for dinner that night. I am not quick-witted like she and her father. Tomas is a city photographer. I am not beautiful but I am hardworking and do not care that my daughter is prettier and smarter than I am.

Kiwi hates to work.

Granpadre took her out to his fields, big and green and cactus-studded and empty. He showed her his avocado trees on the edge of his fields and the lemon tree inside his courtyard. He told her how horticulture and splicing works. He showed her how to take her camera apart and put it all back together again with a flash built in.

Now she spent more time outdoors.

I worried she was too pale. With granpadre telling her about bumblebees and grass cider and cumulus clouds and making lemon cake from the lemon tree Kiwi spent much more time outdoors and now I worried she was too sunburned.

Only for that summer did I worry she was too tanned.

Kiwi loved to climb trees. She and granpadre walk outside the house and the courtyard and across the wet green fields with Ladrando the dog yapping at their heels. They stop and stare up at the largest avocado tree on the property and he gives her a leg up and she pulls at his arm to help him and then it is a race to see who can get highest first.

She always won.

The Tuesday before we left for Ciudad de Mexico they went to climb a new avocado tree they had found. Kiwi said it was laden with pregnant avocados, fat and squishy and perfect for guacamole. Kiwi said that the branches were thick and burly and might hold a cow, they were that strong.

She was so happy, that summer. She used to be so happy. Laughing and smiling and telling jokes with Granpadre and eating so many sopapillas it was only a miracle from Dios that she wasn't fat as a pig. And now she has to take medicine for her depression. She is terribly sad nowadays. I pray and I pray, but nothing changes.

I was hanging the linens up in the courtyard with my back to Tomas in the kitchen and my eye through the doorway watching the ridge where Kiwi and granpadre had disappeared.

I saw a little black speck come hurtling over the hill, and I say to myself that it is Kiwi. What has happened.

She comes crying into the courtyard with a skinned knee and tears exploding from her eyes. Her mouth is open and painful and screaming. Her eyes are panicked, like a cerdo about to be slaughtered always looks at me with his wet scared eyes.

“Granpadre!” she screams and tears at her hair. “Granpadre, mamá come quick!”

I drop the linens and shake her by her thin shoulders, “What has happened?”

She takes me by the hand and we tear across the field and up the hill and down it. She pulls me through the brush and bracken that lives in the fields that granpadre does not own, and I hear her quick breath ahead of me, like an animal about to be killed.

I am almost in tears.

She brings me up short, crying, to the biggest avocado tree I have ever seen. Its branches are huge, its avocados bigger than a mango and twice as beautiful. For a tiny second I think that one avocado would make guacamole to feed three families. That I must pluck all of these avocados before they rot and I must take them home to Ciudad de Mexico because the avocados in the market there are worse than swill.

Then I see granpadre, lying there on the ground, his head cushioned by a crushed avocado splattered on the ground, his hat still high up in the trees, his legs twisted and stained by greeny brown avocados, his thick mustache that I used to kiss as a baby soaked with red.

Kiwi is near fainting. She is paler than the moon on a full night. She has not stopped crying and she is not going to be any help. I send her back to the house to fetch Tomas.

I lift my father up high onto my shoulder and I take him gently back to his home.

Kiwi will come home soon. She is overseas somewhere in England. She got into Oxford for free. But I still think she is too pale.

Kiwi will sit with me in the kitchen as I make tortillas as I have for three decades. She will sit on the worn wood table as she used to and she will tell me how she hates Professor Munchley and how Professor Smith is an angel sent from God, how her philosophy teacher is a donkey and how her literature teacher is amazing. She will tell me she loves me, me and my tortilla-smell, me in my enormous apron and my thin stringy grey hair that I can never tame.

She will get quiet suddenly as she does often, and she will ask me why I am what I am, why I went back to Guadalajara even after granpadre was injured and paralyzed. Why I still like avocados. How I could still like avocados. How I could think back on Guadalajara and avocado trees without thinking of granpadre and his bloody moustache and the huge avocado tree that stands branded in her memory as unbent and angry and aflame with horror and terror and pain and death.

The avocado tree that tried to kill her granpadre.

She will tell me these things, ask me these things. She has told me that she cannot think of avocados or Guadalajara without thinking of that Tuesday and the blazing avocado tree that tried to kill her granpadre.

I will look at her with pity not sadness in my eye as she says that she knows it is her fault her granpadre fell from the tree and broke his back forever and ever. Because she asked him to climb with her when he told her, he told her that he was too old, that he’d get hurt. Because she kept asking until he relented and climbed and fell.

I will touch her cheek with my floury hands and she will shake her head out of my grasp and ask again.

Kiwi will not move from her chair in the kitchen; she will not move a muscle; and her eyes will fill with tears and with anger and she won’t look at me.

I have told her it was not her fault. That she could have done nothing, that her granpadre held nothing against her, that he loves her still as he has always loved her. That her memories should not dampen what she thinks about Tuesdays and Guadalajara and avocado trees. And moustaches. That her granpadre, if he were here, would tell her she is silly to think he fell because of her, that he will always love her, love her and love her until he is dead.

I will tell Kiwi these things as gently as I can.

But she will not believe me.

February 14, 2020 20:31

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Kelly Sagert
00:43 Feb 28, 2020

I appreciate how the mother character could make contrasts between herself and Kiwi, and the food imagery can be quite lovely. This may be my favorite line: With granpadre telling her about bumblebees and grass cider and cumulus clouds and making lemon cake from the lemon tree Kiwi spent much more time outdoors and now I worried she was too sunburned.


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Emily Sperber
00:38 Feb 27, 2020

Beautiful! I loved the parts where she worried Kiwi was too pale and then too sunburned, great writing!


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Pamela Saunders
08:06 Feb 25, 2020

This writing is great, and I truly felt sad for Kiwi.


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