I took the train without pausing to think. I travelled alone because that’s how they taught me to travel, needing to make it back alive, strong enough to bend and pick up the fruit, to screw down the platen with all my ancestral strength; to arouse, somehow, what has been till now dormant.
I guess it’s worth noting that I know what a PlayStation is. And an iPad. And David Foster Wallace. I know there’s a famous strip club in Mieres, and that people in Oviedo and Gijón don’t go out in their slippers to buy bread; but I’m back here to help, to catch the smell of my father (go on, call me bucolic, but I have a father), and to stand looking at this farm that no longer has its orchard but only four useless trees around a dirty swimming pool.
What are they waiting for?
I’m here for that eternal instant: forcing my memory and holding tight to the chill that comes through the door where the dog with the pricked-up ears stands watch.
Look, he’s like Cerberus
, I say. My father stares at me in silence and I know, right, I’m not here to give lectures: I’m here to make sweet cider; I’m here for guesswork.
We set to work, and the first demand of our work is that we crouch down. I see him forcing himself, as though he still had energy, still had a reason to be working. He puts the apples down on the sack. I bend down too, embarrassed, and gather as many as will fit in my hand. I look at how he works. Do I take these ones as well?
I ask. Of course
, he says. I like to touch the grass with my knuckles; it is still wet from the night-frost, the night-frost that frightens the animals away and makes this place a northern desert, the kind that fits over life from above instead of lying beneath its feet.
Today the orchard called for me.