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Three Ways to Eat Quince by Michelle Ross | Word Riot
Flash Fiction

January 15, 2016      

Three Ways to Eat Quince by Michelle Ross

Ripe, quince is knobby and hard, like bone. You could break a window with it. You could break your teeth. That’s what Liza’s boss at the market told her about the strange yellow fruits in the red crate the farmer’s youngest boy had just delivered, along with every sort of gourd.
      The previous Sunday the boy had put his spongy tongue in Liza’s mouth beside the dumpster out back and squeezed her breasts like they were stress-relief balls. She’d ached for days after.
      Still, she would’ve let him do it again.
      But the boy hadn’t acknowledged Liza except to say “Excuse me” as he pushed the dolly past the pumpkins. Like she was a customer—one of the crones who inspect every onion in the bin.
      She didn’t know what precisely the storeowner had seen, but as he jiggled one of the quince as though to guess what was inside, he watched Liza, as though to guess what was inside her too.
      “When fruits bruise,” he said—his name was Mark or Mr. Sibley, but Liza was uncomfortable choosing, so she didn’t call him anything, just waited until he noticed her before speaking—“they don’t heal. Not like you and me. We can take all sorts of tumbles and be just fine given time. Fruit rots.”
      Liza blushed.
      The storeowner looked away.
      “The interesting thing about quince is that rotting sweetens them. It’s called bletting.”
      Bletting sounded like shorthand for bloodletting.
      As the storeowner pulled a box cutter out of his pocket and broke the fruit’s skin, carving out two wedges, Liza half-expected him to cut himself. Maybe she wanted him to, for his blood to stain the fruit’s white flesh pink.
      His calloused fingers scraped her skin as he deposited a wedge of the woody fruit into her palm. It was hard as a stone.
      “Smells sweet to me,” Liza said.
      The storeowner laughed. “Don’t let the fragrance fool you. Ripe quinces are full of acids and tannins. Another way to eat them is to cook them down with tons of sugar. Membrillo. Had it?”
      Liza shook her head.
      “It’s like candy. Still, some people do eat them raw. The farmer sucks on them. Dries his mouth out, he says. Should we try it?”
      Liza thought about how the storeowner’s fingers had been all over the quince. Sucking on it would be like admitting his fingers into her mouth.
      He smiled good-naturedly, the way the farmer’s boy had when he’d led her out to the dumpster.
      Years later, she read that quince may have been what Adam and Eve ate, from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and she recalled that Sunday morning—how the storeowner had hardly put the quince to his lips before he spit it out. “No, thank you. Give me membrillo.”
      Not Liza. She’d let the quince sink its teeth into her. She didn’t even make a face.

michelleross2About the author:

Michelle Ross’s writing has won prizes from Gulf Coast, Main Street Rag, and Sixfold and has been twice nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Arroyo Literary Review, The Common, cream city review, gravel, Necessary Fiction, and other journals. She lives in Tucson, Arizona, and is Fiction Editor of Atticus Review.

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