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“The Orange”, by Benjamin Rosenbaum

July 29, 2010 1 comment

“The Orange” is probably the shortest story I will ever include here.  The whole thing fits neatly on one page.  As a matter of fact, it would take you longer to assess my review of the work than it would just to read it, so why not short-circuit the decision and just read it?  I’ll even make it easy:

 

The Orange, by Benjamin Rosenbaum

An orange ruled the world.

It was an unexpected thing, the temporary abdication of Heavenly Providence, entrusting the whole matter to a simple orange.

The orange, in a grove in Florida, humbly accepted the honor. The other oranges, the birds, and the men in their tractors wept with joy; the tractors’ motors rumbled hymns of praise.

Airplane pilots passing over would circle the grove and tell their passengers, “Below us is the grove where the orange who rules the world grows on a simple branch.” And the passengers would be silent with awe.

The governor of Florida declared every day a holiday. On summer afternoons the Dalai Lama would come to the grove and sit with the orange, and talk about life.

When the time came for the orange to be picked, none of the migrant workers would do it: they went on strike. The foremen wept. The other oranges swore they would turn sour. But the orange who ruled the world said, “No, my friends; it is time.”

Finally a man from Chicago, with a heart as windy and cold as Lake Michigan in wintertime, was brought in. He put down his briefcase, climbed up on a ladder, and picked the orange. The birds were silent and the clouds had gone away. The orange thanked the man from Chicago.

They say that when the orange went through the national produce processing and distribution system, certain machines turned to gold, truck drivers had epiphanies, aging rural store managers called their estranged lesbian daughters on Wall Street and all was forgiven.

I bought the orange who ruled the world for 39 cents at Safeway three days ago, and for three days he sat in my fruit basket and was my teacher. Today, he told me, “it is time,” and I ate him.

Now we are on our own again.

 

There?  Back now?  Good.
This is exactly the kind of surrealistic story that I adore when done well, and that Rosenbaum has done it well at least one other time, in “The Ant King: A California Fable”.  I also like it just for how in-and-out it is–he knows what he wants to do, and gets it done in under two minutes.
I’m not the only one who’s been captured by this: unique among stories I’ve got on the agenda to describe here, it’s been made into a short film.  Hey, why don’t you watch it, too?
Awards: honorably mentioned in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 15, and the short film won Best Animated Short, SXSW 2010
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