In Their Proper Place
by Rebecca O'Brien Read author interview June 25, 2012
The first time she encountered an itinerant banana, Rachel was home alone. Her parents were at counseling, and her younger brother, Warren, was at some undisclosed location with friends. Rachel was at the table doing homework when she noticed that the carpet hadn’t been cleaned in weeks. Usually she kept on top of such things, but the pizza crumbs and cigarette ash dusting the floor revealed that she had been negligent.
With a sigh, Rachel got up and pulled the vacuum out of the cleaning closet. She plugged it in, turned it on, and immediately turned it back off. Coming from inside the dust compartment was a loud thumping sound that died as the vacuum’s motor slowed to a stop. Opening the compartment, she discovered that the source of the sound was a long, yellow, banana. God damn it, Warren, this isn’t funny.
She intended to berate Warren for the banana when he got home, but he spent the entire next week at his friend’s house avoiding their parents. As Rachel continued to find bananas in unusual places, she was forced to acknowledge that it wasn’t his doing. Her parents were the only other possibility, and one night she hesitantly asked her father about it. “Dad, have you noticed that there have been bananas sort of…scattered around the house lately?”
“Yeah, I keep finding them in weird places, like in the fireplace and stuff.”
Her father’s face flushed, and she immediately regretted mentioning it. “That goddamn Warren and his goddamn pranks. It’s bad enough that he’s always gone and not helping around the house, but when he is home he makes a mess and expects us to clean up after him. The next time I see that boy…” and he was off, immersed in a tirade that continued on into her mother’s arrival home and ultimately manifested itself as a loud argument between the two of them. Rachel didn’t bring it up again.
Meanwhile, Rachel continued to find bananas tucked inside her bicycle helmet, or sitting on the windowsill, or balanced on the washing machine’s agitator. Sometimes she wouldn’t notice a particular banana for days, and by the time she found it, slipped behind the water heater or hiding beneath the bathroom sink, it would be brown and stinking of rot. Her parents never seemed to find them, and Warren, when he stopped by the house to pick up some clean clothes or get her parents’ signatures on a school form, didn’t seem to care. Rachel, however, was growing desperate. Following the scent of rot to find a banana moldering between her brother’s sheets was the final straw. Something had to be done.
In desperation she bought a bird cage, with fine wire mesh and a latching door, and she locked the entire fruit bowl inside like a great tropical bird. She hung it in the corner where a potted plant had once been and stood back to admire it. The apples gleamed in the sunlight, and beside them, the rotund pears and dimpled oranges were bright and fecund. Even the bananas looked comfortable, nestled into the fruit beneath them. Suddenly, Rachel felt better. She could make things work. She could keep things together. Someone had come into the house while Rachel was working in the kitchen, so she walked out into the hallway to see who it had been. There, sitting beside the door was her brother’s backpack, and tucked into its side pocket was a long, yellow banana.
About the Author:
Originally from Missouri, Rebecca O'Brien currently lives in Colorado Springs, where she works as a rock climbing guide.
About the Artist:
Andrew Henderson is a student at the University of Central Florida where he is majoring in art history. His photography appeared in Cypress Dome Magazine and his poetry was included in a collection by MOPE Designs. When he is not taking pictures or writing, Andrew is either making or studying art in his native town of Orlando, Florida.
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