It was Wednesday afternoon, and having half an hour or so to myself between one driving lesson and another (I was working as a driving instructor – it was not my habit to receive motoring tuition), I decided to take the opportunity of walking to the bank and back, hopefully remembering to pause briefly at the altar of capitalist enslavement to deposit some cheques. I had for breakfast (and, I confess, also for elevenses) eaten a mince pie (one on each occasion). It was only mid-October, and while usually I was wont to reject utterly any intrusion of Christmas into my life until early or even mid-December, mince pies and gig offers were (and remain) notable exceptions. And since no-one called to offer me a seasonal gig while I was waiting for the kettle to boil, then it had to be a mince pie. Both times. To placate my conscience and hopefully appease my digestive system it was now, being the middle of the afternoon, time for some fruit.

I had purchased five Granny Smiths two days previously, and now felt like a perfect moment to tuck into one of them. I actually harboured a secret dislike for this brand of apples, as they were often a little too sharp; but the namesake instilled in me an unreasonable sense of extended-family pride, so I persisted stubbornly in making the elderly ladies my apples of choice. Presumably in order to protect myself from the blazing sun and the unusually temperate autumn day, I donned my black, full-length leather trench coat, plus Fedora, and set out. So that I might advertise to passers-by the brief but righteous dietary direction in which I was headed en route to the Broadway (and also because my Grandad used to do it, so I thought it looked cool) I conspicuously polished the apple by rubbing it vigorously against my trousers most of the way up the hill from my flat.

I was fewer than five minutes into my brisk, fruity stroll when my every instinct for ingestion, developed as they had been over thirty-some years, rose up in revolt and collaboratively ensured that I not swallowed but instead inhaled a sizeable piece of peel. I coughed – but without obtaining the desired result. Life had taught me to be patient, however, in the face of such insolence. So, with a mild itching in my throat and my ability to breathe regularly becoming all the while more impaired, I pretended to wait patiently. I should mention that as well as the issue of what I imagined to be the obscuring of about three quarters of one lung by an audacious piece of apple-skin, there was more to trouble my heightened consciousness. For the last year or so, every time I’d eaten an apple my mouth and lips and occasionally my throat had swollen up and annoyingly itched, sometimes for up to an hour. Consequently, I had avoided eating a great many apples, but every now and again I would be overcome by a raging desire to take on my fruitiest of foes and prove just who who was the furthest up the food chain – I would not, I vowed repeatedly, be defeated by an apple. Or by any number of them. In this matter I was determined, I was to be master of my own destiny; after all, Day of the Triffids, while frightening, had not been real. On this particular Wednesday afternoon, though, I found pricking away at the back of my consciousness (not to mention throat) a burgeoning uneasiness in this regard, even as the matter of most pressing urgency remained how to sustain the ability to breathe without sounding like an asthmatic in seizure or drawing any undesired attention to my frankly ridiculous and ostentatious attire, and, now, at-least-as-noisy predicament.

I continued with the soft-touch, lightly coughing approach to the alien presence in my respiratory system until I had reached the bank, whereupon I swiftly and with uncharacteristic efficiency deposited all of the monies which I had brought. Upon leaving the bank, however, the fruit was firmly staking out what it apparently and quite mistakenly believed to be its territory, and I was getting cross. I would yet win the day, and I would do so this before Clarrissa’s driving lesson. I had twenty minutes.

Exiting the bank I again tried to clear my throat, hoping that the change in direction (we were now heading north) and the release of my monetary burden might also have a combined appeasing effect upon the apply aggravation. But my hopes were in vain; the fruit remained malevolently in situ. I coughed a few times until a couple of people on the Broadway noticed, and I returned their stares with a look that I hoped would strongly convey my incredulity at their apparent surprise over the dark weirdo in a trench coat hacking away in a syphilitic frenzy. Indignantly I crossed the road, heading directly and uncomfortably home, and began in earnest to cough harder and harder in order to dislodge my oppressor. This technique, it soon became clear, was doomed to fail, so I contrived to surprise the apple with a random selection of coughs, splutters, and various other odd but hopefully eventually-effective noises.

By the time I was half-way home, I no longer cared. Clarissa’s lesson was almost upon me, I still could not easily breathe, and I was beginning to crack under the paranoia that perhaps I would fail in my determination no to lose out in this life to an apple. My mouth and lips were still blissfully and miraculously free from irritation, but this was hardly the point. I shouted. I sang. I sang loud and with abandon. I sang all three verses and a triple final chorus of “The Fields of Athenry” and bellowed “Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer”. I made noises like Darth Vader in heat, like a demented human chain-saw, like a hardened phlegmatic smoker. I recalled and in my mind resembled Rajesh, my chain-smoking Cardiff ex-housemate, and his routine of disgorging daily what sounded like half his innards; and I spotted a lady across the road from me shielding her three children from the looming terror in Hammer Horror regalia scaring them out of their wits. O boy.

I met my Clarissa at her front door for the driving lesson, greeting her with a Miles Davis-esque, throaty “hello”. Another cough-like-a-toilet-bowl-full of Rajesh’s innards, and I sounded more like me, but by now my chest was utterly shagged from the energy expenditure and could not possibly recover that day. I could not tell apple skin from lung, or whence derived the grating sensation overtaking my torso. Throughout the lesson I apologised, coughed, soliloquised, ranted and rasped on account of that perfidious piece of fruit. Eventually it must have gone. But it left behind the mere shell of a man.




2 Responses to “Choking on Fruit”

  1. shirley smith said

    Excellent. Made me laugh.

  2. Darren Fribbins said

    I read this listening to Post-Rock and it suddenly became the most intense story ever!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: