My uncle was buried as his banana fields burned. We left his house empty and sat shiva in the city. It was cramped in the apartment, visitors squeezing in on couches that could barely hold their weight, but none of us suggested we should have stayed in his house and watch his life’s work go up in flames.
When I was a child, my uncle used to take me to conferences. His scientist friends would invite him, the ones that used his banana fields to do experiments. They didn’t really have a choice in the matter, as my uncle and his neighbor Joseph were the only two banana farmers around. My uncle would go in an unbuttoned checkered shirt and drink cup after cup of free coffee and tell everyone they didn’t know shit, that the fungus would get here, eventually, that it would mutate, that it would kill his bananas and then he’d die of grief. I asked him once how he thought the fungus should be stopped, and he gave me a withering look and told me it was the scientists’ job to figure it out, not his. The scientists liked telling me things when my uncle was distracted. Maybe they thought I had potential.
My uncle knew his wife would leave for the city after he died. He told her that wouldn’t save her, that if the fungus didn’t get her, he would haunt her for the rest of her days. The fungus fascinated him. He kept close tabs on any plant disease that could possibly be a mutated version, he printed out articles and studies and read them in bed at night. The fungus hadn’t gotten anybody’s crops but his. It didn’t even get into his neighbor’s, Joseph, a man my uncle hated. He used to drive in his tractor to where his field ended and Joseph’s began and spit right over the line.
The day after the shiva ended, I returned to my uncle’s house with some gasoline in the trunk. I went to the shed and found the keys to the tractor. I drove until I reached the end of the field, where Joseph’s field began. I dumped the gasoline. I lit a match.
Joseph’s bananas were surprisingly flammable. They shriveled up in the heat and dropped to the ground. I wondered what the scientists would do, now that all the local banana fields had been burnt up. I decided I didn’t care. They didn’t know anything, didn’t even know to tell me how flammable bananas were, how easily whole lives could be consumed.
Noa Covo’s work has been published in Jellyfish Review, Okay Donkey, Hayden’s Ferry Review online, and trampset. Her micro-chapbook, Bouquet of Fears, was published by Nightingale and Sparrow Press.