Jedediah Smith

The Quality of Mercy

Mercy fruit only grows on the sides of slow-moving trains. Its vines wind over boxcars and along the ground leaving sprouts which latch onto other trains. To blossom, it must pass through a Sierra snow cloud, and the perfume of its bloom will draw buffalo herds out from hollow hills to follow the train and beat the prairie drum. When the fruit ripens, the skin is mottled and the flesh red, and each moans a little when sliced. Mrs. Mercy bakes the fruits into hobo pies she leaves on her windowsills for cats and lost husbands to find. Many a man has found the strength to walk out of history’s embrace in Mrs. Mercy’s pies.

Jedediah Smith is a former teacher of literature, mythology, and history at City College of San Francisco. He has been published in California Quarterly, Ekphrastic Review, Mojave River Review, and Chiron Review. His chapbook, The Gunslinger in Technicolor, was published in 2020.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao


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