They Knew Not
By Laura McHale Holland

She pulled her keys from her jacket pocket as she shuffled up the drive. She’d had a long day cashiering at a nearby convenience store and was picturing the wilting veggies in the fridge she’d have to use right away or toss. She didn’t notice the package by the front door until the toe of her sneaker bumped it.

About the size of a shoebox, the package was wrapped in brown paper. Her name and address were printed clearly in black ink in lettering she didn’t recognize. There was no return address. She took the package inside, unwrapped it. It was just a plain cardboard box. She lifted the lid. Nothing was inside.

She tried to squish the box so it wouldn’t take up too much room in her recycling bin, but it was surprisingly sturdy. It wouldn’t even smash when she jumped up and slammed down on it with both feet, nor could she cut it with scissors or a box cutter. So she threw it whole into the bin. It was carted away a few days later.

The next week, she arrived home, and there was a package wrapped in brown paper. It was the same, empty box, or one exactly like it. She buried it that night in the middle of her backyard.

The next morning a tree had sprouted where she’d buried the box. Over the next several months it grew and flowered and bore an exotic fruit: blue pears. She thought the pears might be poisonous, but she couldn’t resist tasting one. It was delicious, sweet, juicy, intoxicating.

She took a wheel barrow of the pears to the local farmers market, where word of their delectable taste spread quickly. Every week thereafter the tree produced more exquisite, azure pears. And every week she went to the market and sold them all.

People couldn’t get enough of them. Children cried for the taste of their juice; judges on the bench fantasized about biting into their cerulean flesh instead of paying attention to courtroom proceedings; restaurants clamored for them; artists drew murals of sparkling blue pears in the town square. The local newspaper wrote a feature article about her pears. She said the tree had grown in her yard on its own. She didn’t mention the empty box. Who would have believed her anyway if she’d told the truth?

She quit her job and developed a booming cottage industry. She made all manner of products from her prized pears: pies, cobblers, jams, jellies, soaps, lotions, balms, perfumes, incense, even blue pear charms and other trinkets. She and the town prospered for decades until one day, old, gray and feeble, she took to her bed.

She left her home, business and considerable savings to her nephew and his wife. But the precious pear tree died the day they moved in. A couple months later, an empty box appeared at their door. They were having guests over for a barbeque that night to celebrate a state-of-the-art outdoor kitchen they’d put in right where the pear tree used to flower. They used the box as kindling for their fire pit. The flames were deep blue and mesmerizing.

Nothing grew from the ashes; no more empty boxes appeared at their door. But they didn’t suffer, for they knew not what they’d burned.

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