Memories of Green
by Jesse Darland
The first to go were the tangerine trees. That broke papa's heart; citrus fruits, he had always told us, were the kings of all fruits. Despite all our efforts to brush the ash from the leaves, the tangerines died, and then the grapefruit, and the limes and lemons, and at last the mangoes, too.
Papa hated growing mangoes, but they were something the tourists always lingered over when they stopped at our stall by the side of the road. He thought they tasted awful, and anyway they were too much trouble to eat. But if they brought in money -- well, even he couldn't argue with that. But once they started to succumb at last, something changed inside him. He quit coming outside in the mornings with my brothers and I to pile dead branches and try half-heartedly to run through our chores without looking up at the sky. Instead, papa stayed inside the house and drank one beer after another. Mama told us not to worry. He'll be back together again soon, she told us. Everyone will be back together again soon.
I couldn't even pronounce the name of the volcano back then. Eyjafjallajökull: everyone can remember it now. It's all we have left to remember, since after all the trees weren't the only plants that died under the thick blanket of ash and clouds. The grasses all withered, too, along with the shrubs and cacti and vegetables and perennials and wildflowers and everything else. All we have now are lichens and mosses, and blurry photos of the vast underground greenhouses that grow what could be salvaged from the Svalbard Vault -- but of course the Army won't let us close to those. National security, and all that.
So all I have to remember now is the morning that papa finally roused himself, and took the axe out to the row of mango trees and hacked them down one by one. Then, with my brothers and I watching, he dragged their ruins together and lit them on fire. The trees' bodies burned bright orange against the black sky, while my father wept.