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Into Each Life a Little Rain Must Fall . . . But Plums, Too?

June 11, 1987|JONI WINN HILTON | Hilton is a free-lance writer in Woodland Hills. and

My friends from Texas tell me that it can rain cats and dogs down there, but I am no longer impressed. I live where it rains plums. Bushels of them, all day and all night, like a plum machine stuck in high gear.

You've heard that hail the size of golf balls can dent a car, right? Well plums the size of plums can do a number on the roof of your house, too. And there's nowhere you can hide.

It all began in the early fall, when I bought a house whose major selling point was "a fabulous plum tree out back." Maybe 20 feet tall, the tree didn't seem to be setting any records and I figured I'd get half a bushel or so.

Winter came and went and the tree was still minding its own business (gearing up for the attack is more like it), and then spring came.

In the night I was awakened by loud banging on the roof. Bam, bam-bam-bam. I must be having a World War II dream, I thought, and rolled over. The pounding continued. Somebody's breaking into my house, using a pogo stick as the getaway vehicle. I shook myself and looked out the window. Ka-blam, bonk-bonk-bonk. Something round and hard had landed on my roof and was now bouncing down to the rain gutter, then hitting the ground with the force of a small meteor.

Suddenly I recalled kiddie cartoons of woodpeckers and leaky faucets that drive people and bears from their houses and caves by the sheer repetition of their percussion.

I put on a robe and walked out into the yard. All was quiet as I stared up onto my roof. Were some kids throwing rocks from the front yard? I don't have a pool (though I have an excellent memory of being a kid) so I couldn't see why this might happen.

Then suddenly the artillery sounds began again and dark orbs of high speed began bounding down my roof, gaining momentum as they sprang toward my head. "Duck--everybody duck!" I screamed and curled into a ball on the grass. The enemy fire pummeled the ground around me and I ran through the cross fire with my head down, taking cover behind a chaise lounge.

A light went on in my neighbor's house and I heard the "oof" of a shin hitting a ladder by mistake. (When you've done this enough times yourself, you get to know the sound.) "What's going on out there?" a man shouted between expletives.

It's war, I thought of saying. We're being invaded. My shingles were shattered and another round of fire was falling even as we speak. "The plums are falling," I called, feebly.

A door slammed and another neighborhood nut--me--was indelibly established. So I sounded like Chicken Little; at least I was giving an accurate report.

I crept back to bed and hid under the blankets until morning. Then I peered out the window to survey the damage.

My grass was completely purple. Crows and blue jays were gorging beside the squirrels, and sticky amber fruit meat was squished all over my walkway.

It's a plum slide, I thought. A person could be knocked cold and suffocated if they stood under that tree at the wrong moment.

I borrowed a hard hat from my neighbor's kid (a neighbor on the next block) and went out to harvest what was left. The plums filled every grocery bag and basket I could find. They filled my freezer and refrigerator. They filled my neighbors' freezers and refrigerators. "See? Did I tell you the plums were falling?" I asked, grinning my friendliest smile to the neighbor with the ladder.

"Yeah, you told me. At 3 in the morning you told me."

I bought mason jars and put up countless jars of jam. I made plum pudding six months before the Christmas season. I made plum cobbler, plum ice cream, plum brownies, plum bread and plum cookies.

It Was the Pits

I gave trunk loads of plums to the local rest home. I asked the Girl Scouts to come and pick up whatever plums they wanted. I tried to give them to the supermarket, but found they have a contract with a produce company. I lost two gardeners whose lawn mowers bit the dust when they bit the plum pits.

I applied for a job and wrote plums under hobbies and interests. I dreamed about plums, talked endlessly about plums and saw plums before me whenever I blinked, like a slot machine with nothing but plums in its windows.

I even tried to make prunes out of them, but found that, unlike neighbors, not every plum can be made into a prune.

And naturally I lost hours and hours of sleep, listening to my tree hurl its fruit at the roof below. If you remember the scene in the "Wizard of Oz," when the angry apple trees begin pitching fast apples at Dorothy, you get the idea.

"Just pick all the fruit," a friend suggested. But most of it is up too high. Even an adventurous child would hesitate to climb out onto some of these limbs. And even if you could pick all the fruit today, the tree would bring in reinforcements by tomorrow.

"Cut it down," someone said. But who would dare go close enough? And what if the trunk sprouted two new trees, thinking it had only been pruned for a bigger crop? What if the tree crashed through my window?

Too-Good Soil

I asked the local nursery's tree expert what to do if your soil is too good, and he just stared at me.

I went to the bank to apply for disaster aid and was asked to appear at a local nightclub as a comedian.

Finally I decided to wait out the season and consider marketing a new plum-flavored salad dressing. Maybe I could paint the pits and string them as the latest line of chunky jewelry. As for a purple roof, I'm hoping it will fade to lavender and start a new trend in exterior design.

In the meantime, if someone tells you life is just a bowl of plums, remind them that any more than one bowlful is entirely too much.

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