Coconut hairs in my mouth

If my father saw a blind man stranded at the curb of a busy intersection, he would stop his car in the middle of traffic and, unconcerned by honking horns and screaming motorists, get out and lead the blind man across the street.

If the season and the urge were upon him, a simple apple, grape or orange was never thrilling enough. Once, to my mother’s everlasting consternation, he brought home an entire banana tree, spiders inclusive.

On other happy occasions, we were inundated with coconuts! With pomegranates!

There are arts to eating fruits of this pedigree that are not taught in Home Economics. Like stubborn, angry children, coconuts only surrendered to our ministrations reluctantly. First my father drilled a hole in one end and drained out the coconut milk. Then he attacked it with a hammer on the kitchen floor. Only after the coconut had cracked open could we finally consume the white meat. We did this avidly. Not because it tasted all that great (I always got coconut hairs in my mouth), but because getting to it had been such an adventure.

Pomegranates, unlike ugly, bristly coconuts, are bright red, sweet, complicated, and beautiful. Before eating one, my father taught us to roll the exterior between the palms of both hands until the interior felt sufficiently crunchy. Then we pierced the surface of the skin, held the pomegranates over our heads, and dripped the juice into our mouths, down our chins, and all over our faces and hands, not knowing which we enjoyed more, the taste of the pomegranate or the delicious mess of eating one.

Every childhood memory, each event in, around, over or under it, was made more colorful, more comical, more erudite and more dear by the presence of Samuel Reuben. Being his offspring was a joy, a song, a passage of poetry, an enriching, pistol-packing, polychromatic preview of that on-going process waiting for us out there called: L * I * F * E.

Shelly Reuben is an Edgar-nominated author, private detective, and fire investigator. For more about her books, visit

Copyright © 2009, Shelly Reuben

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