Kelly Ana Morey
Because none of us wore a watch we never knew what time it was once we disappeared into the rows. So Jolene bought a clock and wedged it in a grapefruit tree right in the middle of the orchard. Every so often we would send one of the kids to find the clock, and that’s how we marked the passage of the day.
We worked six days a week in whatever conditions August threw at us. For a few days there after a run of balmy weather, we had snow showers driven in by a persistent southerly. Our fingers and lips turned blue and on we picked. But there was good stuff too. The sharp sweet smell of the crushed leaves which left your skin smelling like oranges. The quiet, I liked that, how peaceful it was, because although we worked in teams of three or four, often all you could hear apart from the wind beating against the shelter belts was the continuous dull thud of the fruit hitting the tarpaulins we set up under the trees. There were no machines, not really, just people, picking bin after bin of pale golden grapefruit.
And then there was Cy.
Cy was the orchard manager. Married. With kids. But never mind. I wasn’t the only one. We all loved him. Alice used to say how lucky I was to be living in the sleep-out in the garden at Cy and his wife’s house, and would make up these long involved stories, usually containing murder, massacre or just plain bad luck, to get rid of the wife, who was actually very nice. I always said that I was more than happy to share, but Alice said there was no fun in that. Alice and the other girls would flirt with Cy, wolf-whistling when he took his shirt off on hot days as he picked alongside us. The only time I ever really looked at him was through the viewfinder of my camera, in case he could somehow see what was true, for me anyway. I took lots of photos that long month when mum exiled me to the orchard for the entire school holidays because she’d had enough.
Then one night Cy kissed me. We were tired after a long week of harvesting by day and juicing by night. It was almost 3am and we were sitting side by side outside the factory, laughing at something lame-arse that had happened that day, when it happened. Just for the briefest of moments our lips touched, then it was over and he was standing up, apologising, walking away.
Three days later all the trees were bare and school was due to start again, so I went home where mum was just as stressed out as when I ‘d left. I had made a bit over $3,000 and when school finished at the end of the year I moved out.
I had the films from the orchard developed and some of the photographs were even quite good, so that was the start of my career with a camera really. The negatives have disappeared and any prints I made have vanished into the ether of lost photographs. All except one. A black and white of Cy standing between the fruit laden trees holding his three year-old son Marco upside down by his legs and the two of them laughing and laughing.
I keep it tucked inside an old notebook, a reminder of winter fruit and something I cannot name but know is good.
|© Copyright 2012 Kelly Ana Morey & Trout.