The pineapple sat on the counter, contemplating suicide.
Wait! Don’t go! I know what you’re thinking: This is ridiculous—pineapples don’t contemplate.
I agree wholeheartedly. Why do you think I’m considering ending it all? As far as I can tell, I am the only sentient pineapple in the world. Possibly the entire cosmos. But how would I know? I’ve never been any further than this blue countertop.
Across from where I sit, there’s a window that looks out over a tidy garden and a less-than-tidy fence. From this vantage point, I’ve watched the changing of the sky and the changing of the guard. I catch snippets of news as people walk or ride or drive past my window. I’ve observed it all, but I’ve never participated in the raucous circus that is life.
The list of things I haven’t done is long, longer than this pineapple cares to admit. But what the hell, what else have I got to do?
It’s not like I have to run to the store for a carton of milk. (I’m lactose intolerant, as you might imagine, so that wouldn’t be an option anyway.)
No more excuses, I’m putting it all out there. Humiliation, thy name is TMI.
Here’s the list of things I’ve never done:
Talked back to a teacher, and had my knuckles rapped.
Argued with my mother, and had to listen to her sigh over all the sacrifices she’s made for me, only to be treated so cruelly by her offspring, the fruit of her loins, the light of her life.
I do have sex in my dreams. Panting, multiple-orgasm sex. In my fantasies, there is sand, and warm, tropical air. (I am a pineapple, after all—it isn’t likely I’d fantasize about orgies in an igloo). It’s always nighttime, with the pale light of an interesting moon looking down. Sometimes my partner is male, sometimes female. It shouldn’t surprise you that I am a hermaphrodite. If push comes to shove (slightly prurient pun intended), I’d have to say I subscribe to the Platonic theory of love. We’re all looking for the original other half, and for some of us the missing part is feminine, for others, masculine, and still others once belonged to a tripartite form. Lacking genitalia, I’m free to imagine love and lust in any configuration.
Which leads me to another thing I’ve never done: I’ve never been in love.
I can’t recall when I realized I was sentient, or when I realized I was alone. But I can recall when I decided death might be preferable to life or, Nietzsche-like, decided there was very little difference between the two.
In my long and lonely existence, there has been a seemingly-endless parade of Buffoons in Chief, who strut and puff but have no Magic Dragon about them. There was the German menace, of course, and the Cambodian with a name like a children’s story, and the Ugandan dictator who was accused of cannibalism—say what you will about pineapples, at least we don’t eat each other. I have endured everything without losing my natural optimism (it’s hard to be cynical when you smell like paradise). And as we emerged into the twenty-first century I really thought we were on the upward trajectory of that long moral arc your Dr. King talked about.
But then, one by one, democracies began to fail. Don’t misunderstand me, democracy isn’t perfect, and every society is doomed to fail, eventually, just like every living body is doomed to die. But seeing so many people stepping backward, out of the light of knowledge and compassion, re-crawling, if you will, into the shadows of ignorance and bigotry and selfishness . . . . Honestly, it’s made me doubt that humanity is something to be aspired to.
That’s the impetus on my loftier days.
On other days, it’s more mundane. Like the moment I had to come to terms with the fact that I am really good at telling jokes, but I have no one to share them with. (Correction: I have no one with whom to share them. Even in these, my last moments, I must endeavor to be correct.)
Here, let me try this one on you:
Last night, a Chinese guy came to my favorite pub, and sat right next to me at the bar, and started drinking a beer. I asked him if he knew Kung Fu.
(Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a racist joke, I promise.)
Suspicious (I mean, of course, he’s suspicious—how does he know this isn’t heading toward something offensive, you know?), the guy says, “Why the hell would you ask me if I know Kung Fu? Is it because I’m Chinese?”
(Yeah, that’s what I would have thought, too.)
And I said, “No, but you better hope you know some kind of martial arts, because you’re drinking my beer!”
It’s a crying shame, it is. I could have been on SNL. But here I sit, on this godawful blue countertop, looking out over bedraggled petunias and marigolds. Even my garden is bourgeois. Why don’t I have blood lilies, a flower that sounds like a monument to massacre but appears to have been invented by Dr. Seuss? Or sophronitis, a flower that looks like a crimson angel holding its intimates open for business?
No opposable thumbs, for one thing.
And anyway, who’s to say I’d be happy—or at least willing to forgo suicide—if I had exotic flowers to brighten the view outside my window, or an audience to roar with appreciative laughter at my stand-up routine? (Made you think, didn’t I? You pictured me in front of a microphone, and wondered oh-so-briefly whether I’d have prosthetic legs, toothpicks, maybe, or whether I’d sit in an armchair, like a prime minister giving a fireside chat, the marquee out front reading Tonight Only Pineapple Puns, Ananas Antics, Comosus Comedy!)
I am aware that many throughout the ages have survived horrors. Some are fighting fascism as we speak, battling for freedom on their very doorsteps. You may well ask: what right have I to whine that death is preferable to the political vagaries of the day?
Nietzsche said, “Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter.” Maybe that’s the real reason I’m ready to chuck it all, and go quietly into that good night: I’ve never suffered. I sit here, day after day, year after year, watching a world ravaged by disease, war, arrogance, murder, extremism, and apathy. Coronavirus and climate change, wildfires and hurricanes, earthquakes and locusts—apocalypse, anyone? I see children abused and neglected, and I weep for them. I see opportunities missed and lost forever, and ache for what might have been. But no rot has ever touched my prickly exterior, no one has ever taken a knife to my sweet flesh.
What’s that you say? I ought to count my lucky stars, and quit threatening to end it all because my journey thus far has been too.
. . nice? I hear you loud and clear, in spite of the lack of ears. Since when has a pleasant existence been a valid basis for despair, for rejecting the gift of life? “Joy is the business of heaven,” C. S. Lewis said. (That’s right, I read both nihilists and Christian apologists). We mere mortals (of the bromeliaceae family as well as homo sapiens) must be content to be, at most, content; the loftier emotions are not ours to seek or to have.
Perhaps the real problem is boredom. Did you know there are at least twenty-seven synonyms for boredom in the English language, but only twelve words that truly approximate joy? Ennui, taedium vitae, lassitude. Attractive, interesting words, they roll off the tongue more easily than “rapture” and “ecstasy.” (Thesaurus.com, you disappoint me. “Festivity,” “amusement,” and “merriment” are not alternative words for joy.)
But I don’t think that’s it. In reality, I am rarely bored. The world is vivid and ever-changing. Entropy alone ensures no moment will ever be exactly like any moment that came before, and according to the theory of relativity there are an infinitude of universes with unidentical moments all occurring simultaneously, though you and I must slog through only one at a time.
The puniness of it all does get to me, sometimes, but a good joke can usually cheer me up.
Speaking of which, what do you think of this one?
A rabbi and a priest are eating breakfast at a diner. (It’s a greasy spoon, the kind that serves margarine and calls it butter, where the waitress has a beehive hairdo as if she’s living in the fifties, and wears coral-colored lipstick and calls you “Hun.”)
The priest orders six slices of bacon, a couple of fried eggs, and a whole lot of coffee. (And because the current Pope is an environmentalist and egalitarian, we’ll say it’s shade-grown, fair trade coffee—yes?)
The rabbi orders oatmeal with raisins. (Like many men of the cloth, he’s constantly being fed, and he’s put on a few more pounds than is good for him, so he’s on a diet. As I picture the scene, the oatmeal is instant, which he hates, and he pushes it away after a few desultory bites.)
The priest (we’ll call him Mark), says to the rabbi (we’ll call him Simon), “Do you ever resent the strictures of your religious life?”
Simon purses his lips, thinking about whether to confess his true feelings, but finally decides why not, they’re old friends, if you can’t be honest with your friends what’s the point of friendship? “Yes,” he says. “How about you?”
“Oh yes,” Mark says. (He stabs at his eggs viciously, as if to take revenge on all the sacrifices he’s made), “And while we’re on the subject, did you ever cheat on your vows, even a little?”
(I don’t know why cheating a little would be less sinful, and anyway, if you’re going to transgress for the sake of pleasure, why not do it properly, go whole hog, so to speak? Pun intended, as you’ll see momentarily.)
“Ah, yes,” Simon says. “When I was a teenager, I was visiting some of my friends who aren’t Jewish. They were having bacon for breakfast, and good lord it smelled delicious. I decided maybe we’d been mistaken all that time about pork. I had one bite, and then another, and I think by the time I was done I’d eaten a half dozen slices. I felt sick to my stomach and guilt-ridden, but it was worth it.” He sighs, reminiscing, and then he turns back to his friend. “How about you?” he says.
“Ah yes,” Mark says. “When I was a younger man, a lovely parishioner came to me and said she had naughty dreams all the time, and she couldn’t rid herself of them.” (She was of age, of course, and unmarried. We’re not talking pedophile here, or marriage-wrecker. I read the news, even if I am a pineapple.) “I wrestled with myself for a while, and then told her perhaps if she played out the dreams, they would go away. She seemed quite willing to give it a try, and we made love right there in the confessional.”
“And how was it?” the rabbi says, curious.
“Well,” Mark says (and here I’d pause for dramatic effect), “it beat the hell out of bacon.”
Which leads me to another grievance: I’ve never had bacon. I can live without avocado, chocolate mousse, Chablis. I’m not sure I want to live another day without bacon.
And so we come to it.
Thank you for listening, for sharing this moment with me. But now it’s time to go.
I have a final favor to ask: would you kindly give me a little shove? I’m roundish, as I’m sure you can see. If you’ll just push me over onto my side, I’m fairly certain I’ll roll off the counter and onto the floor, where I will shatter into a thousand pieces, and that will be that. I don’t know if it will hurt. Pain might be a welcome sensation, come to think of it. Or perhaps in pineapple heaven there are sensations for which you and I don’t even have words.
Just a little push is all it will take. Oomph. That’s it. Merci. Grazie mille. Danke.
Here I am.
On my side.
This is a bit of a pickle.
I can still see the garden through the kitchen window. From this angle, the petunias look a little—a very little, mind you—like sophronitis. A pornographic flower if ever there was one.
Hey baby, want to get it on? You, me, and a tub of margarine?
A pineapple can dream.
Shari Lane has degrees in comparative literature and classics, as well as a juris doctor. Until recently, she was a lawyer by day, and a writer of fiction the rest of the time. Her writing has been published, or received honorable mention/shortlisting or awards from: Amplify Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Phare, Fish Publishing, Glimmer Train, and Oregon Writers Colony. She is also a guest fiction editor and social media coordinator for SHARK REEF Literary Magazine (sharkreef.org).