Mango Madness

Our mango tree gave birth in the middle of the night. I heard the thunk as it fell on our deck, and I rolled over, pleased.

In the morning I went out to see the new baby. It was rather green, somewhat hard, but I cradled it gently, patting its soft spot where it had fallen. I looked up into the branches of the mother tree where countless other baby mangoes hung out of reach, suspended like upside-down lime lollipops on their elongated stems.

Days passed, and the other mango tree, the smaller one in back, gave birth in multiples. Thunk, thunk, thunk, I heard in the dead of night and plotted mangoes for breakfast. These mangoes were better done than the premature firstborn from the front tree. I cut one open, the ripest of the lot. Its skin had turned a buttery yellow in an aureole around the soft bruise; the rest was a faint chartreuse.

I performed surgery at the sink, carefully separating a perfect crescent from the aureole. I speared it with the point of my knife and placed it carefully on my tongue. It was as smooth as flan, firm and sweet, and smelled like Carmen Miranda on a hot day.

Taste this, I said to my husband, who doesn’t like mangoes. Come on, try it, I insisted. There wasn’t a serpent in sight.

I’m allergic, he said. Which is true—he’s allergic to the skin and its sap. I’ll just pop a slice in your mouth, I said, and I did. He chewed and pronounced it not bad for a mango, but declined a second bite.

The mangoes were all mine.

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk thunk.

The mangoes began dropping steadily. Each morning I went out and scooped up the night’s catch. I ate mangoes for breakfast, cut up on cereal or just plain. I ate mangoes for lunch, sliced into yogurt or cottage cheese. I ate mangoes after dinner, bent over the sink, deftly incising the fleshy outer skin, placing each golden sliver in my mouth with the point of the knife.

Mmmm, I would say to my husband, holding out a particularly tempting piece. Taste. Think of it  as a blend of peach and banana and kiwi. But he declined. And the mangoes kept coming.

I made mango bread, many loaves of mango bread. Some I froze. Some I gave away. Some I ate alone.

I found a recipe for mango chutney, but I couldn’t find green ginger root or yellow chili peppers and I didn’t have eight pint Ball jars and I didn’t feel like sterilizing them even if I had them, so I didn’t make mango chutney.

I sliced and froze bags full of mangoes. They’ll be mush when they’re thawed but I tried.

Now my voice cracks with desperation when I offer mangoes to friends. I don’t offer. I plead. No one comes to my house without leaving with a mango or two or a plastic sack full, depending on their mango tolerance. Take my mangoes, please. They’re Kent mangoes. They’re the best, sweet and juicy and golden. Please please please take some mangoes.

I have become ruthless in my selection. I only want the perfect ones. In the abundance of my harvest, I can ignore the flattened-out, the too-green, the black-speckled, the badly bruised. I pick one up, heft it and poke it for signs of decay, and if it fails to meet my standards, I shot-put it into the bushes, a snack for the raccoons.

And still the mangoes fall, achieving perfection in their maturity, their only fault the blistered thunk spot, not bad enough to toss without guilt. The basket in my kitchen is filled with perfect mangoes. My refrigerator is pregnant with their ripeness. It is time to make more mango bread.

And still the trees are heavy, green mangoes ripening into tiny suns of yellow, fat and heavy with juice, bloated with summer. Hundreds of mangoes. Thousands of mangoes. Millions and billions and trillions of mangoes.

The mangoes on the front tree are too high to nab, even with a picker. So they plummet in their terrible fecundity, ending their fall in a liquid splat. Their pungent innards are splashed over the deck in a yellow pudding that congeals in the heat like the yolk of an egg dropped by some prehistoric bird.

I lie in bed listening to their thunder as they drop, not with a thunk but a splat. And I wait for winter to end this storm of mangoes, to halt these hailstones from hell.


Tropic Magazine, Miami Herald