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April 2004

Putrid Rotting Fruit

Let me tell you a story about Harvey the Bug, and of Rotting Fruit.

In 1995 or so my mom gave me a little balancing bird thing she brought back from one of her trips to Africa. I put it on my mantle. It was made of wood. A little later, I noticed a hole in the base. A few days later I saw what was making it! A little bug, shaped and sized sort of like a firefly but a wood eater. We named it Harvey.

When it came time for me to move to the Washington DC area from Pittsburgh, I carefully put the piece of wood (along with Harvey) in an old Ritz cracker metal box. And then took him to DC in Marilyn’s car. Marilyn did not like having a bug in the car. In DC, I kept the box open, and then moved it to Virginia. But unlike when I had been in Pittsburgh before the move, I never saw the bug.

After a couple months of no signs of life, I closed up and sealed the box, feeling sad.

Then, almost a year later, it was time to move again, this time to New Jersey, I had a bunch of friends over to pack and help me move. Rebecca picks up the Ritz box, starts to say “What is in here?” but before I can answer she opens the box. It opens suddenly, and a cloud of white powder explodes out onto her face. It was sawdust! Harvey had been alive, and had eaten away much more of the wood! Poor Harvey had been locked inside the sealed box, and ate and ate like crazy, but couldn’t escape, and ran out of air! Poor Harvey, I had killed Harvey! I felt aweful!

But Rebecca did not feel concerned about Harvey at all. She was all upset because she had just inhaled a cloudfull of sawdust, bug droppings and perhaps bug parts and bug eggs. Which I suppose I could understand… but HARVEY WAS DEAD! And I had killed Harvey! It was sad.

I went ahead and reshut the box and took it to New Jersey. I was hoping for some signs of life. Perhaps Harvey was still in there, or maybe Harvey had babies. I watched for a couple of months. No sign of life at all. I bought a fishbowl so I could see better, and carefully moved Harvey’s piece of wood into the fishbowl. I think I may have seen Harvey’s body. Once again, it was sad.

But a few months later of no life, and I had given up. Someone suggested feeding Harvey though. Well, Harvey had eaten wood, but I had some apples and a banana. I put them in the jar.

Several months later the fruit had started to rot. The banana was showing a hard woody core. I thought that was neat. I put some more fruit in. A year later the fruit was just a big puddle of dark brown liquid. Except the wood from the banana that was sticking up.

So I put more fruit in. Every year or so I’d add a little more fruit.

Oh, I’d moved it to my balcony, and had it sealed with saran wrap and a plate. Whenever I added more fruit, the smell would almost kill me. It was horrid.

Last year when I moved, I carefully moved the fish bowl with the rotting fruit to my new house, and put it in the basement. The seal came lose during the drive and I almost couldn’t keep my lunch with the smell, but I made it.

Ron had a party over the summer. It was a BBQ. I couldn’t make it. He promised to save me a hamburger though. Several months later in September I got a package from Ron for my birthday. I opened it up. Along with some videos and such, there was a wrapped up wad of aluminum foil. Shaped like a cookie. I opened it up. Chocolate Chip Cookies! Cool! Then a couple of flies flew up from it. Then I noticed it was fuzzy. Then I noticed it was not cookies. It was a hamburger. From Ron’s barbeque. Four months earlier. Then I smelled it. Then I saw more bugs moving in it.

My stomach was not liking me.

But I had some presence of mind! I ran to the basement and added it to the bowl of rotting fruit! At this point, almost 7 years since I had begun the jar, and almost 9 nice I had gotten Harvey, the fish bowl was about half full of a thick goey liquid the color of cola, but with thick gooey stuff floating in it, sometimes with shapes suggestive of the original fruit, sometimes not. I opened it up, I added the hamburger, I closed it back up… I ran to the bathroom to dry heave for a few minutes. I felt sick for days later.

In any case, more time goes by. I start dating Brandy. I get a job in Florida. I put the house on the market. Showings are due to start soon. I want to hide the rotting fruit. Brandy wants it gone.

A few days before the first showings I am cleaning out the basement, and with a heavy heart, I “took care of” the bowl of rotting fruit, with Harvey still somewhere at the bottom.

When I sent out invites to my house warming / cooling party, Jon from work, who had heard about the bowl, was all excited about seeing the bowl. He thought it could entertain his kids. In email, Jon asked about it. Brandy responded that it was gone. Jon expressed shock and surprise and was very disapointed. I said that it had been a very very sad day.

Brandy responded with:

Okay um, let’s think about this for a moment:

Warm body next to you at night.
Rotting fruit.
Warm body. Snuggles.
Putrid rotting fruit.
Warm body. Cookies.

You decide.

I miss Harvey. I miss the rotting fruit. It was a very Sam thing to have in my basement. On the other hand, I think Brandy summarized the situation nicely.