I nurtured them, marveling at their numbers as I watched them change from flowers to fruit. Last year, the two trees produced a total of five pomegranates. This year, I counted seventy-five. It was hard to see them all. Some bunched together in fours, their bottoms mashed flat against each other. I had to prop branches up on chairs to keep them from breaking under the weight of so many fruits and to keep the low-hanging ones from rotting in the bed of succulents below during the rainy season.
This bumper crop happened by accident. One day in the spring, I forgot to turn off the hose. It ran for over twenty-four hours, exactly when the flowers were about to emerge. The trees got excited and flowered like mad. These are not my trees. They live behind some friends’ Airbnb. I water the plants, since the owners reside in Las Cruces. I was proud of the pomegranates, if apologetic about the water bill.
But no one wanted them. Their owners have pomegranate trees at home in Las Cruces. I ate part of one fruit, but I don’t like the taste or texture. I offered them to neighbors and yoga students. No takers. One neighbor did accept one but then confided he was afraid of getting appendicitis from eating seeds. Another friend told me, “No one really likes pomegranates. They just grow them.”
I feel guilty when I throw the perfect ripe fruits away. If I don’t, though, they attract insects. One day, I was heading for the dumpster in the alley with an armful of pomegranates when I noticed a young man walking from the grocery store carrying one small bag. I’d never seen him before in the neighborhood, and guessed he was one of the many the creatives and remote workers who have moved here lately. A Black man of about thirty wearing an old fedora and sporting a goatee, he reminded me of one of my series characters, Jamie. I asked him if he liked pomegranates. He said yes. I gave him some. We made small talk. His accent was Southern, not Australian. Jamie hadn’t come to life off the page. But someone finally wanted some pomegranates.
I’ve discarded more into the dumpster than I’ve ever found homes for. The process reminds me of writing a first draft and then cutting. I nurture the book, but it grows too many subplots and loose ends. Much as I like the look of the glorious full tree, I have to pluck pomegranates and toss them with regret, after gazing at the gleaming red seeds in fruit that cracked itself open in the sun. Such a beautiful achievement for those hard-working trees, those trees I so lovingly cared for. Such unwanted excess. My darlings. The portions of a first draft that I keep are like the fruits I gave to “Jamie.” Not many, but they’re the parts I finally share.