I grew up in a typical American family, second of four children and the oldest of three girls. I had a brother, two years my senior…we were pals! He was, of course, smarter than me, being older, and also already in school. Whatever he told me, I knew was gospel.
We would visit our grandparent’s home often. In their yard, they had many fruit trees and we were welcome to pick from them and eat all we wanted. My grandfather’s favorites were the figs.
They had two fig trees in the yard. One tree was a purple fig the other was a white fig. I would watch in amazement, as my grandpa would peel back the skin in four little strips starting from the top, exposing the pink and white, sticky, seedy pulp. He would hold his mouth “funny” lips kind of pursed, as he would eat it, almost like he was straining the pulp through his teeth. If “my grandpa” loved figs so much, then I was going to love figs too.
I started eating figs often, in honor of my grandpa. I actually thought that they were quite good. Sweet, jammy and crunchy, what a great treat these figs were! That was before I learned the truth about them.
My brother came outside one morning as I had just picked a nice, soft, ripe fig from the tree. I had peeled it back, just like grandpa had taught me and had taken the first, sweet bite. Then my brother started in.
“You shouldn’t eat those, they are fly pods.”
“Huh?” I asked.
“Yes, you know those crunchy things in them?”
“Uh-huh, they’re seeds.”
“Nope, fly eyes!”
“Yep, and that squishy, sweet stuff, that’s fly guts.”
I spit out that fig as fast as I could. Now, I knew why grandpa strained them through his teeth, he was trying to sort out the fly eyes!
My brother continued. “Yep, the first thing that grows on flies is their eyes.” When the pods get real ripe, they fall on the ground and all the flies get out.”
I knew my brother was telling the truth because, I had seen lots of flies on the fallen squashed figs. I had also seen fly guts before, soft, pink and sticky. Yep he was right, it really was fly guts and fly eyes. Those were not fruits at all they were “FLY PODS” “ARAGHHHH!!”
Hmmm, I wonder if my grandpa knows about this? I ran inside and told grandpa what I had learned about the figs, but he denied it all.
“Those are fig seeds, NOT FLY EYES!”
Grandpa was fibbing to me, I just knew it. I knew my brother was telling the truth. I mean, I had seen all those flies with my own two eyes, crawling out of that figgy mess on the ground. “Oh my gawd, I have been eating flies.” I felt somehow sick and dizzy.
So goes the Fable of Figs. I still love the taste of figs, and I think of my grandpa every time I see one, but as soon as I taste one and I crunch a single seed, I cannot finish eating it. There is something about that crunchy, hollow in the middle seed; I just know I am eating a fly eye.
Sherry Gail Heim
January 5, 2003
Copyright © Sherry Gail Heim 2003