Scent of well-aged umeboshi 2016.03.23


What about that package of umeboshi plums on my desk here at work?

I have to admit that the plums were not visible when I wrote that sentence above. I just happened to know their location.

When the condition of my desk starts to make me uncomfortable, I know the situation is reaching an extreme state. Yes, it’s bothering me. It’s like I’m sucking on an umeboshi plum, and that’s not good.

Morenci teacher Deb Hojnacki walked into the Observer office two or three years ago, perhaps, and presented me with a small package of a dozen umeboshis. I’m not sure why she thought that I would enjoy them. Nor am I sure why I never opened the package. Perhaps it was the memory of the previous time an umeboshi entered my mouth.

They’re also known as salt plums. They’re pickled and the resulting taste is both extremely sour and extremely salty. It’s an interesting assault on the mouth and I should have tried one when they were still fresh.

I quickly located the plums on my desk; they had been hidden from sight by a photo of my father and seven of his high school buddies taken in 1940. 

Plus there’s a sticky note with the words “1 pkg – Call when done” with the phone number. That job is completed and I will reduce my mess by one small square of paper. There was also a business card from a man who visited the elementary school with his dog last year. In some ways that visit was a disaster and I will pitch that card, too.

There goes a note from the post office about an address out of order. Corrected long ago and now pitched, along with a list of the Morenci kids who graduated 10 years ago with Rex Riley Scholarships. Oh, wait a minute, that’s the 2014 list.

There’s another sticky with a check list of coaches to call. The winter season is such a tough one for me. I wish it were still going/I’m glad it’s over. I’m probably not allowed to say that.

I’m actually somewhat horrified by the umeboshi package. When I looked up through the bottom to count them, I noticed what looks like the legs of an insect or spider. Does every package come with a cockroach? Did a spider emerge from a plum and live a sour, salty life before perishing?

I’m finding a lot of paper clips on my desk. I’m finding short, stubby “pocket pencils” that are now too short to easily locate in a pocket. I have Derek Bode’s phone number. I wonder how long ago he was Firefighter of the Year.

Another note from the post office. Another note from the post office. I still have the spine of a book that I cut off in the big paper cutter so I could punch holes and hold it together with rings. There’s a stack of linotype slugs for the geocache in front of the Observer office. They can’t be thrown away.

And there’s the pair of googly-eyed glasses that I sometimes wear when certain people are approaching the office. I see a little booklet about acupuncture for an unwritten story. Now I’ve moved into the junk that must be kept.

I’m certainly not going to throw away the turtle shell that I found along the railroad tracks in North Morenci. I still occasionally dip a finger into the little can of Cloverine Salve that Dave Blesing dropped off once for those little finger splits that develop in the winter.

I’m moving in the wrong direction. I need to go back toward the act of throwing away.

I just disposed of an envelope soaked with coconut oil from a leaking container. I disposed of a sticky note with the words “Divad Carlson.” He will read this and be glad.

I’ve taken a stack of newsstand receipts and placed them where they belong. That almost got me back down to the wooded surface in that one small area, but there’s more. 

I think I found a fruit from one of the hackberry trees on Cawley Road where I lived as a child. Hold on. One more removal is going to show desktop.

A letter from a reader questioning our mental state; mystery phone numbers and e-mail addresses; a letter addressed to Santa Claus.

I’m running out of time, but before I go, I  want you to know that I very carefully opened the umeboshi package. I hope what came out isn’t toxic. The scent lingers; the legs never moved.