I remember well my life at Citrus Orchards.My Californian home was lovely. There was always plenty of water and fertilizer; the view of the hills was amazing. The sight of the sun rising above the silhouetted grove every morning had a calming effect on me, at dusk the chameleon sky turned deep indigo with violet hues as the sun sank back to let the moon have his turn. Those who grow and sell us roughly put my home as a fragrant “grove of oranges”.
My name is Ausberger Valencia, family to Miss Cornelia Valencia, daughter-in-law to Queen Blossom Valencia. The Valencia clan is the most dignified and well-known variety of “orange”. The other groups of families are the Hamlin and the Bahia. The Hamlin are acceptable company at a Valecia ball or dinner party, but the Bahia are terribly rude and drink more than they should.The members of this family, obviously, are not on the Valencia guest list.
Other than these unruly folks across the dirt road from us, up the road was a large, strange house. Stories of what happened in there were not often talked about by the adults, but on dark, foggy nights with only a sliver of moonlight peeking through the mist, the younger Valencias would coax uncle Harold into telling them stories about Valencias that would be taken in for juicing, stories about what they did to you in there. Once in a while a rumor would circulate its course among the adults, hushed conversations would take place behind glossy leaves-
“Have you heard from Charles lately?” inquired Mrs. Laussane Valencia. The (now late) Ariana Valencia looked up from the knitting she was doing and thought.
“No, I haven’t, actually. I hear no one has seen him around for a while now.” Mrs. Laussane took a breath and started, “Well, I overheard Abigail talking to Elise this morning and she said he went in with a tour group…”
The conversation went on but I had other things to do. Gossip like this would go on about the residence every once in a while. I do have a short tale to tell myself, though. I remember once, a truckload of Hamlins and Valencias went by, with one of them screaming near the back. I recognised him as Beroulli Valencia, fondly known as Bert. I couldn’t make out what he was shouting, but he jumped off and rolled down the dirt road in the opposite direction of the truck. I never saw him again, but I suppose somewhere he met up with “Butch” Bahia and his four toadies, all runaway rebels that had fallen off their trees too early. I can only imagine what they did to him. Beaten to a pulp.
My treetop parties ended one day when I saw a humongous hand reach up, up and surround me, then practically tear my head off (if I had a head, of course). Soon afterward he threw me in a basket on top of my relatives! I was outraged and started shouting at him, to no avail. Before I knew it, I was knocked unconcious by an incoming Valencia.
When I finally came to my senses, I was moving forward on a conveyor belt. “What is this?” I thought as I looked up ahead, my worst fears realized. Before me the conveyor belt forked into two different chutes, the left one labeled “MARKET” and the right labeled “JUICE”. I rolled in vain towards the left, trying not to look too conspicuous. I then saw that the “MARKET” chute was completely barred off. I made a final attempt to cling to the bar, but I had no hands! I went to the juicer trying to outrun (or rather, outroll) the conveyor belt, never giving up.