“Drupe?” Marica said, proffering a bowl of cherries to her husband, Ronald.
Ronald sighed. “It’s the pits.”
“Oh, come now, a couple of little stones can’t cause so much trouble.”
“Not so much the stones as the stem, of course…” Ronald mumbled.
“But who doesn’t like a cherry?” Marica insisted.
“Cherry!” Ronald snorted. “It’s been years since…” He looked up and focused on the bowl. “Wait. What are we talking about?”
Marica looked at him over the rim of her glasses. “Fruit.”
“I’m not sure how to take that,” Ronald said.
Marica thrust the bowl into his hands, then took one cherry from it and dropped it in her mouth. Two brief chews and she spat the pit expertly into a garbage can with a “ping”; a bit more closed-mouth action and she stuck out her tongue with a knotted stem. She took it off her tongue and tucked it into Ronald’s shirt pocket. “Knots to you,” she said. She turned and went over to the bar, leaving Ronald in his usual state of disjuncture, looking like a dupe.
Having observed at a distance, I came over to Ronald. “Marshalling the drupes?” I said. His face started to muster an outraged and confused look, so I pointed at the bowl. “Cherries are drupes. D-r-u-p-e. A fruit with a single hard stone in the middle. The exocarp, or skin, encloses a mesocarp, the flesh that we eat, in the middle of which is an endocarp, which is the actual seed. Apricots, cherries, peaches, plums, mangoes, all are drupes.”
“Oh,” Ronald said. “I’m not sure I got all of that…”
“You got olive,” I said. “That’s for sure. Overripe olive, to be precise. That’s what the Latin term druppa originally meant; it was taken from a Greek word for ‘olive’, which may have been formed from roots meaning ‘tree’ and ‘ripe’.”
Pause. “You know,” Ronald said, beginning to droop visibly, “I just come to these word tasting things because of Marica.” He looked around for a table and saw none nearby, so he held the bowl out to me. “Mind if I drop these on you? I think I want to go get stoned.” Pause. “Ha ha,” he added drily, and walked off towards Marica.
Maury happened by just then. I held out the bowl. “Drupe?”
“Don’t start,” Maury said. “I don’t mean to be a prude, but I’m not feeling very cherry. I mean cheery.”