Author : David Zhou
It started, as many such things start, with a plum.
The fruitseller first noticed the plum eater when he came by the same stall not once, not twice, not thrice, but fifteen times in the same cycle. He would always pick the juiciest plums; freshly cloned from the best Terran stock, hundred credits for a bunch.
The fruitseller didn’t know what to make of it. No one likes plums that much. Fifteen in a cycle!
And so he talked.
It was here that the groundskeeper of the Skylaunch heard from his friend the gardener of the Genetic Granaries who heard from his uncle the proprietor of Smithee’s Singular Singularities that the fruiterseller down the corridor, over in in the Eastern Dome, had a customer who ate fifteen plums in a cycle.
The groundskeeper told his wife who told her friend who told her husband who told his son who told his friends and pretty soon, the entire colony was in a buzz about the man who ate the plums. They peeked from behind auto-dimming transparencies. They followed him in secret, watching him eat.
And always at the same place.
The goundskeeper of the Skylaunch viewed it as his personal luck that the renowned plum eater would choose his grounds to eat his plums. Everyday, at precisely the midstrike of the demi-cycle, the plum eater would bring his plums, sit down on the grass knoll facing South, look towards the heavens and eat his plum.
“It must be a woman!” cried the goundskeeper’s wife. “Only a woman could make a man eat so many plums, and stare so forlornly into the sky!”
“How the hell would you make a man eat plums,” muttered the goundskeeper. “And he didn’t look so sad to me. He looked like he was pondering.”
And so they told each of their friends the story. The wife told the other wives that the plum eater was eating plums for his long lost love, who left him in the colony when she journeyed to the stars. The husband thought that was silly and childish.
“He’s doing some deep thinking,” the groundskeeper told his friends. “Earth is that way, you know, our home so long ago. And he must be thinking of Earth, and eating plums.”
The stories spread. Wives quarreled with husbands. Husbands quarreled with daughters. Daughters quarreled with boyfriends. And boyfriends glared sullenly back.
One day, it all came to a head.
By this time, the plum eater had gained a grand procession on his cyclical trips to the Skylaunch. The fruitseller made a fortune, as all sought to imitate the plum eater, and bought plums by the tens and dozens. Some even bought fifteen. In a cycle!
And so the procession followed him, to the Skylaunch. And the procession watched, as he sat down on the grassy knoll, plum in hand, eyes upwards.
Behind him, the crowed argued.
“It’s his love he’s looking at, in the stars!”
“No, it’s Earth, that pale blue dot in the lavender sky!”
But, quietly, without notice, a small child walked up to the plum eater.
“Mister,” the child said. “Mister, why are you eating plums?”
“Because I like them,” said the plum eater.
“But why are you sitting here?”
“Because it’s cool, with a fresh breeze from the Southern Ventilator. The grass comforts my back, and the heavens calm my mind.”
“Are you thinking about a girl?”
“No, I’m afraid not.”
The wives sighed in unison behind him.
“Are you thinking about Earth?” said the child.
“No, I don’t think I ever thought about the Earth.”
The husbands behind him cursed under their breaths.
“Then what are you doing?” asked the child.
“I like eating plums. And I like looking at the sky. The grass is soft. The air is fresh. And the sky is so open and wide. The universe is a marvelous thing, don’t you think?”
And so, the crowd left the plum eater to his ways. They went back to their lives, caring for the cloned cattle, cleaning the atmosphere ventilators.
They learned a lesson that day, one not quickly forgotten. For when you see a man walking down a corridor, and he has plum in hand, it doesn’t mean he’s thinking about love, nor that he’s thinking about Earth. It doesn’t mean anything.
He was just a man who ate his plums while being fascinated with the universe. And there’s nothing wrong with eating plums.