It was only ever the blood plums. Every year she had to check all of them carefully because, as she didn’t know what caused those two neat holes in the fruit, she didn’t dare use it for anything but the worm farm. It wasn’t even that much fruit but there was some every night while the blood plums were ripe from mid-January to mid February and then again for the late ripening ones in March. It was vaguely annoying for years and she tried everything. However, netting, rat traps and possum collars on the trees made no difference at all.
Finally, fuelled by Moscato and buoyed by fine, warm weather on a moonlit night she decided to sit up and keep watch. She turned her lights off as usual and waited.
The night is a different place. Cars passed by on the road. Unrestrained domestic cats and dogs made their nightly rounds. Possums, denied the orchard fruit, climbed the gum tree out the front to drop onto the house’s tin roof before running over its ridge and jumping to the small tree at the back corner, all to get to the fruit on the monstera deliciosa her mother had planted.
The truck that pulled up to the orchard gate all dark and quiet an hour after her lights went off was interesting. Three people, probably men, climbed out of the truck and opened the gate. They got buckets or baskets out of the back of the truck and went into her orchard. She was about to call the police when there was a flurry of action in the orchard, then another and then a third. Nothing she could see clearly until a tall figure carried three bodies and their buckets out of the orchard, dumped them in the truck and drove away.
She saw the body-remover return over an hour later, jumping one-handed over the orchard fence as if it was nothing. Someone, it seemed, was protecting her orchard. Someone she could see down there now, biting some of her fruit. She considered the sheer athleticism of what she’d seen, her own lack of prowess in that direction, and took herself off to the safety of her bed.