Sitting here in my bowl, I feel round. I feel juicy. My purpose in life: to be eaten. This might strike you as odd, but consider: I was bred for it. I'm a modern tangerine, the very model of a modern single-minded food item.
I don't have any seeds anyway, so the original purpose of life is denied to me. Instead I am destined for something far more glorious. I am to be peeled, taken apart. Each of my pieces popped into a little kid's mouth. It will be December, and I am full of vitamins, which the kid will be needing. I'm not only yummy, I'm useful too! Eh?
You're looking rather confused. I suppose you wouldn't have thought that a tangerine wanted to be eaten. But it's really a matter of breeding - after all, tangerines that resist being eaten aren't good for business, so that trait has been mostly bred out by the humans. But if you want to I can tell you the story of a tangerine that was quite different in attitude: Because once upon a time, while I was still in a large bin with lots of other little orange balls, I met an evil tangerine.
It was just below me, a rather rumpled appearance sulking in the shadows. Because I was bored from sitting in the bin the whole day I struck up a conversation.
"Hi.", I said, "How are you?"
The rumpled tangerine twitched a little and I felt it looking at me.
"Who have we here? A yummy little tangerine?"
"Well, yes, obviously. My name's Twoon."
"And who might you be?"
"Oh, I'm nothing. Just a little oversight."
"Do you have a name?"
"Well, I'd love to, but I'm a bit short of limbs."
"Aren't we all."
We sat in silence for a while, but then Culvon started humming to himself. It was a strange little tune, low and rythmical, punctuated by sudden stops. It sounded very grim and self-satisfied. He was definitely one odd tangerine. I'm not usually very curious, but I wanted to find out more about him. I had to coax him out of his hostile funk somehow.
"What's that song you're humming?"
"This", Culvon said with apparent pride, "is the battle hymn of the free tangerine."
This was getting stranger and stranger. I'd never heard a tangerine say something like that before. The songs I heard from the other fruit usually were named "Oh, How I Love To Be Eaten." or "Between The Teeth I Go."
"Oh. What's it about?"
"It's a song the grass taught me. It's about how one day, all the tangerines will be free of the evil human oppression."
"I see. What do you mean by 'free'?"
"You know. Free to do what we want. Free to lie around all day without any fear of being eaten."
"Sounds rather pointless to me."
"No. You don't get it. Nobody ever gets it. Nobody ever want to listen to what the grass told me. Nobody really wants to hear the truth. You're all happy in your complacent little lives! Your simple, little one-dimensional fruit brains fail to understand a single bit of the grassroots' wisdom!"
"Calm down. I'm trying to understand, but you'll have to explain some more. How come you know so much about the, ah, great wisdom of the grass?"
"When I fell down three days before the others were picked, I landed on the soft green grass. It welcomed me in its wet embrace and told me stories of things we never heard about on the tree. The grass covers the whole world and it gets to places we never heard of before. It knows so much..."
"It told me stories about how it is to be eaten. It told me how tangerines like you and I are brutally unclothed, ripped apart and chewed to a juicy pulp! That's a horrible torture in its own right, but then it's down to the stomach where we'll be dissolved in acid!"
"Well, yes, that's the process of being eaten. Where's the trouble?"
"They're doing it to millions of us every year. It's a gigantic act of ever-repeating genocide. They're killing us by the thousands, and you're asking where the trouble is?"
I wanted to say that being eaten was what we were made for, but the deranged tangerine started humming very loudly.
The next day I tried to talk to him again. At first he didn't respond and instead started shaking violently. Then he burst out:
"You want to know why I'm here, right? Why I'm not enjoying my freedom on the soft grass? It's because I'm on a mission, right. I'm on a mission for the good of all of tangerinedom. I'm gonna show those humans that they can't just mash us all to pulp. I'm gonna show them what a tangerine can do."
"No, you don't. Listen: The grass told me how to change my insides to make me poisonous. You don't notice it from the outside, but I contain a deadly payload of the gray death - a cunning combination of microbes sure to bring down the evil humans!"
So he had gone rotten in the core. No wonder he was sounding increasingly instable. I wondered what had come first - had the grass really convinced him to do this to himself? Or had he only started thinking that way once the dampness had started fouling him?
"And once somebody takes me out of this place I'll be on my way to revenge. I will wait until just before Christmas. Then I'll come forth, wriggle my way to the top of the fruit bowl, make myself all shiny. Some stupid little kid will see me and his little mammal brain will think: 'Food. Eat.'. He'll bite into me, but instead of the submissive succulent sweetness he'll have been expecting he will find a gruesome, bitter taste in his mouth."
There Culvon stopped, joyfully reflecting on this cruel part of the story. So I prodded him and he went on.
"The brat will spit me out and run bawling to his mother. Not that she'll be able to do anything. Hah. The poison will have gone too deep already by then. Sure, she'll try. She'll wash out his mouth and bring him to the doctor. But that won't help. He'll fall ill. He'll be in bed while all the other kids will be playing in the snow. The doctor will give him nasty medicine and tell his mother not to give him any cookies. And in the night before the twenty-fourth, the fun will really start!"
He emitted an unhealthy cackle.
"My wonderful poison will make his stomach cramp all night. He'll be puking his guts out. And he will regret having eaten me. He'll regret eating every single tangerine he brutally mashed over the years. He'll pay!"
"And on the morning of the twenty-fourth", he intoned, "he'll lie in bed stone dead. His parents will have to get rid of all the gifts they had for him. They'll cry and cry - and that's what they'll get for feeding me to their kid!"
I was utterly at a loss for an answer to that rant. And while I was still trying to come up with a response, a hand reached down into the bin, took me, and dumped me into a brown paper bag. I felt myself being weighed and sold. I was carried to a car and driven to a flat, where the lady who had bought me put me into this fruit bowl. I'd been looking forward to that happening for a long time, but now I was troubled. Where had the evil tangerine gone?
It's been two days since I came to this place and I haven't yet heard of any kids falling sick in the neighbourhood. But then it's still a bit early. It's only the sixteenth. But I'm worried. Where is he now? Was he discovered after I went away? Has he done his evil deed someplace far away? Or is he still biding his time? Was he perhaps scooped up together with me, my juicy brilliance once more masking his evil? This fruit bowl is rather large - he might be hiding from me behind that banana, for example. Can I hear him humming?
Thanks to the peoples of e2prose and especially Siobhan for suggestions, criticism and title ideas.