The tree stood alone in the yard behind the 500 year old apartment. There were other trees nearby, a fig tree, peach tree and another smaller olive tree, but this particular tree in all of it’s abundance clearly was superior to the rest. Deep purple olives littered the branches. There were more olives than leaves and each one was spectacular.
I pulled one from the branch with my index finger and thumb.. It was plump and sturdy. There were no blemishes to be found. I was tempted to bite into it, but I remembered the last time I did so. The bitterness overwhelmed me. I consumed a gallon of water to wash out my mouth, but the nasty taste lingered and spoiled all my meals for the rest of the day.
I had a baby blue bucket by my feet. I reached up into the branches and using two fingers I ripped the olives into the bucket beneath my hand. They dropped heavily into the bucket and a distinct sound ricocheted off the massive stone walls of the village. I scurried around the tree working diligently. The olives fell. They filled the bucket rapidly. My arms tired a bit from the over extension so I stopped and stood back to admire the tree some more. I had not made even a perceptible dent in the tree. It was still as abundant as when I had arrived and I now had a three quarter full bucket of olives.
I climbed back in and finished up. The bucket was overflowing with purple olives. They looked like oval marbles the kids used to play with before the great invention of video games. Some of them still had green by the stem which reflected in the pale light.
I reached down and wrapped my calloused hand arround the metal handle. It was cold to the touch. I yanked on it. The bucket was much heavier than I had imagined, but I got it up and stood as straight as I could and began my walk. To the other apartment.
It was a short walk on the cobblestone path. The sky was grey. People passed me. Some said buona sera. Others just looked in the bucket and smiled. A few older gents nodded and pretended to reach their hands into the bucket thinking they were being funny.
When I reached the apartment aptly named 9 square meter because of it’s massive size I placed the bucket in the alcove by the stairs. I was damn content. I had a full bucket of my own bloody olives that would be cured and smoked by my friend Stefano.
Fifteen months later when I returned, Stefano presented me with a large plastic bag full of my shriveled black olives. They were half the size of the olives I harvested. They looked like raisins, black as coal, but with a substantial pit beneath the skin. I wrapped the bag in a dishtowel and tucked them in my suitcase for the return trip to America.