The Natatorium

An emporium of oddities from around the world, complete with somewhat informative plaques that almost never match the item they are meant to be describing.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Installment #15: Succulence

Hades had piled his plate high with breads and fruits and cuts of meat, and began to eat politely but voraciously, as if he had a mortal’s hunger. I, however, had simply been picking at the pomegranate I’d cracked open on my plate. I had been drawn to it when I’d first sat down; its earthy redness stood out against the darker and duller colors of the smoked meats and hearty breads. Its skin was wonderfully rough to the touch, and it seemed so real and alive and imperfect compared to the gleaming black marble I was surrounded with. I took my time slitting its pithy husk open with my fingernail and pulling back the layers of fiber that cushioned the succulent, blood-red seeds within. They were arranged perfectly inside in a beautiful pattern, each snugly flush with her voluptuous sisters, gleaming there beneath the dull outer skin like so many sumptuous rubies, full to bursting and just waiting for a touch to release them. I plucked one gently from her place among the others, careful not to pierce her fragile skin, and slipped her into my mouth.

I pressed the seed against the roof of my mouth with my tongue and it burst open, releasing an intoxicating flood of juices. There were so many different colors to the taste that at first I could not focus on one at a time. There was an initial brightness, a tartness that seemed to pierce me, then a strong sweetness, and finally a darker, more mysterious taste that ran deeper and lingered longer. I was overwhelmed with pleasure and decided to simply enjoy this one, then try to discern the subtleties of flavor in the next seed. I let the juices of the first seed wash over me and away before I ate another. By the time I placed a fourth in my mouth, Hades was wiping his lips with a black napkin, having made short work of his mountain of food.

“Why aren’t you eating?” he asked, “Is the food too strange for you? Does it taste stale compared to the foods on earth?”

“Not at all,” I replied, “it tastes deep and rich, just as you described it. That’s why I’m eating slowly. I could spend all night on just one of these seeds… their flavor is similar to the pomegranates of earth, but there is something mysterious about it; the juices seem to take on different tones as they flow around my mouth.”

Hades smiled, obviously pleased that I was enjoying the things he could introduce to me. “Just wait until you try the chocolate,” he said. “If a pomegranate seed is that interesting to you, I wonder how long you’ll sit letting the chocolate dissolve on your tongue.”

“It dissolves?” I asked, perplexed. I had assumed that chocolate was some kind of fruit, but I’d never eaten a fruit that completely dissolved.

“Yes, it is made in the form of soft bricks, and when you put it in your mouth it dissolves.”

“Perhaps later,” I said, “I want to savor this pomegranate.”

“I hope you don’t mean the whole thing,” he chuckled, “At the rate you’re going we’ll be sitting at this table for the better part of the next few centuries.”

“Very funny,” I said, “But one does not have to eat a large quantity to truly enjoy the food. I will only eat two more of these. That should be enough to give me a true idea of its essence.”

“Are you always able to figure out everything so quickly? Does it only take a taste for Peresphone to know all of ones’ secrets?”

I cast him a coy look and did not respond for a few moments, taking a moment to drink from my goblet and swallow down the hard center of the seed. “Fruits are generally easier to decipher than people,” I said simply. “Though that rule has its exceptions.”

“Is that rule more often broken by an extremely complex fruit or a very simple person?” he asked playfully.

“Both,” I answered, looking at him pointedly before breaking into a grin.

“Well, I should hope I’m more complicated than a pomegranate,” he exclaimed in mock distress.

“We shall see,” I said blithely, popping another seed in my mouth. I giggled as he cast me a playfully reprimanding look.

“Are you finished yet?” he asked, “I would like to show you around my world.”

“One more,” I said, not quite ready to part with the intriguing red seeds, “this is a very complex fruit.” I placed the last seed on my tongue, letting it rest there inside my mouth for a moment, feeling its slippery surface, before crushing it between my teeth. I closed my eyes as the juices permeated every crevice of my mouth, delivering their strange tastes and staining my flesh blood-red. I ground the hard center of the seed with my teeth and then swallowed it, knowing I would not unravel all of its mysteries tonight.

“Very well,” I said, standing. “Show me your world.”

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