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The Plum Orchard

The Plum Orchard

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Published by Jonah
First couple chapters.

Writing sample based on a dream I had:

A man inherits a tiny plot of land in Guatemala. As he learns more about the culture around him and grows closer to the people, he learns that his land was a burial ground for dissidents during the fascist Rito regime.
First couple chapters.

Writing sample based on a dream I had:

A man inherits a tiny plot of land in Guatemala. As he learns more about the culture around him and grows closer to the people, he learns that his land was a burial ground for dissidents during the fascist Rito regime.

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Published by: Jonah on May 09, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/09/2013

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The Plum Orchard
 by Jonah Gruber 
1.The Nurse
Moran worked as a night nurse for twenty years. He had enjoyed the work immensely, sitting by the side of the old and listening to the their stories retold in their waning breathes. His life was full of meaning. When someone is dying, they findsomeone to trust, anyone, to sit with them and hear their stories, because they want their lives to be remembered.At first these stories are glorified dramatizations of the eras in which they lived.As they grow closer to death, as their mind weakens and they become ever more aware of their crumbling bodies, the stories take the form of confessions.They pour out their regrets in life, the ones they hurt, the ones they feel betrayed by, the moments that changed them for better or worse, the reduction of their familiesinto singular emotions and feelings. Regrets, promises, and love. Moran would listen tothese men and women, their stories would envelope him and eclipse his own modest life.One man, his favorite, was a sickly doctor who had wished throughout his life thathe had become a writer. His attic was filled with scribblings, notebooks overflowing withobservations and poems, obscure doodles and manifestos. Early on in their friendship herelated his love of opera, and Moran would bring in vinyl records of the doctor’s favoriteopera singers from the 1940’s and 50’s. The opera worked on Moran like incense in acathedral, its crackling hiss lofting into the dark halls and into the vegetable garden andthe cafeteria, where the Dominican janitor would take it as a cue to look out the windowand think of his wife. One spring week Moran kept the windows and the drapes open sothat breeze and moonlight could fill the room while Tito Gobbi’s baritone trickled intotheir bones. This living poetry made Moran’s life meaningful, so that he never took awife or found the need for children.The doctor left in his will thirty acres of fallow land near the eastern border of Guatemala and Honduras, somewhere near Poptún, “to be tended by Hugo Moran untilhe leaves this world.” It was a strange bequest that angered the doctor’s estrangedchildren. However, when they realized the land was remote and practically worthless,they found themselves blessed with charitable temperament, and so let the night nurse flyto Guatemala to set up claim. The doctor also left a generous trust to Moran, to be paid infive-hundred dollar monthly checks from a bank in Cleveland. There was enough to lasthim almost three years, and his life would be quite easy in Guatemala if he lived simply.
 
On his fortieth year, Moran arrived at Guatemala City airport and caught a seriesof buses headed toward the sleepy tropical town of Poptún, a rainforest enclave supported by little more than a military base and a collection of isolated farms, tourist traps andlogging camps. It was during the storm season, but what did he know of tropical storms?For one, they did not deter the local bus drivers. The
 jefe
drove at dangerous speeds,across unpaved and muddy roads, through sporadically gathered crowds of cigarettehawks, gum peddlers who would latch onto the side of the bus yelling “Wrigley!,” mangomerchants, glue urchins, hungry stubbled men and prostitutes with sad smiles. Everynow and then, as he got further from the city, he would see people on the sides of the roadthat he imagined to be real Mayans. Seeing them struggle through the rain, their oxeneyes looking terminally before them with their belongings hitched to their backs, he felthe had lived a wealthy life. He was poor for an American, but he was never very sick andalways had food, so the twenty-dollar bill he had in his pocket filled him with shame.When he arrived in Poptún, in an act of compassionate spontaneity, he gave the money toa pregnant woman selling roasted corn to the passengers. She looked at him in whatappeared to be shock. He realized later that she probably thought he was looking for atrick, and so he felt even more ashamed.(Photo of Poptún outskirts by
alphaknbrown
) 
 
The land was clearly being used by vagrants, and was now the commons for village waste, trash fires and wandering livestock. The dirt path cut right into the center of the property where there was a one-room shack, for living in, and a smaller dilapidatedshack across a yard of fattened weeds, presumably for relieving oneself in. It suddenlyoccurred to Moran that he had not bothered to bring any of the trappings of a common jungle villager, and that before he could live here he would need to buy a machete. Thiswas always Moran’s problem. He lived life in a dream and so was able to live freelyfrom the constrictions of status and wealth, in a state that many might consider poverty.An unfortunate side effect of this was a lack of focus and determination, or the perpetualneed for machetes.
2.Tito
Moran hitched a ride in a sidecar with a motorcyclist into Poptún proper, whichconsisted of a row of bars, a motel and some brothels, with a singular general storeadvertising the wares of civilization in bright, hand-made signs. The town obviouslyexisted impurely as a result of the army base, which grew like gangrene from anaggregate of warehouses and fortifications into a patchwork of shacks and shantycollectives. The
 gringos
were not supposed to be here, but at places like the IxtobelHotel where they could look at wildlife and go tubing in a river. Still, they could be seenwith their eyes either worried or glazed over completely, strolling along the dirty street,and always followed after by emaciated Mayan children looking for centavos and piecesof chocolate.Once inside Tito’s Tienda General, he saw a man who could only be the bearer of the store’s name. A cross between a mobster and a saint or your own father, dependingon what he wanted to get across. Tito looked Moran over, pressing a fat finger into hischin while he did this. Moran’s clean denims must have closed the deal, because Tito’sface lit up with the first genuine Guatemalan smile he could remember.“Hello sir, welcome.” Tito waved. He spoke to Moran in an oily English whichmade him think that he stored meat in his cheeks or beneath his tongue. Moran decided itwas best to use English with him. He was aware that if he spoke in his second language,Tito might pick up his Mexican Spanish and choose to bestow a mysterious stereotypeupon him, one that might command even less respect than his lingua Americano would.“Bad rain here huh? You still wet.” Tito said.“Yeah the rain got me pretty good.” Moran replied, genuinely happy that someonewas finally engaging him.“Ohhhhhhh.” Tito sighed. This was an expression Tito would use a lotthroughout the conversation to suggest a deep concern for Moran’s general well-being.Machetes are big business in Poptún, bigger than tobacco and rifles, and almost as big as prostitution. Rows of military issue machetes hung from the walls and filled buckets around the store. One thing that stood: Nothing was in the open, as if to suggestthat everything was worth stealing, even the cans of Goya that colored the walls. Having

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