Sunday 7 June 2020

GREEN STORIES: ‘Fruits of Labour’ by Holly Schofield

This piece is part of our Green Stories series, showcasing the winners of Green Stories' first flash fiction competition in which writers are challenged to envision what a sustainable future might look like. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series.

Highly Commended, 2020 Green Stories Competition

Fruits of Labour
by Holly Schofield

The customer pressed his thumb firmly on Hannah's tablet, adding a one-merit tip to the cost of the apples.

"Thanks." She slumped back on the stool as the man placed the fruit in his carry bag.

 "You look glum." He squinted at her from beneath his hemp straw hat.

 "Uh, I just had some bad news. Well, an absence of news, really." She poured herself some sun tea from the glass jar. Her bioplastic cup would be composted when it wore out, a pleasing example of the circularity of things. Hannah, on the other hand, was doomed to spend her life stuck in this market stall, selling fruits and vegetables she hadn't actually grown.

"Turned down from university?"

She glanced up, startled.

The man chuckled. "Just a guess. Notifications went out to the applicants last week, right?"

"Yeah, if you must know. My best friend got into upcycling at Harnley, my other friend got into oceanography, but I never heard back at all. They don't notify the unsuccessful applicants. I guess I shouldn't have aimed so high."

"High? You wanted to be a medical doctor? A scientist?"

Hannah mumbled her answer. "A farmer." All her friends thought she was dreaming to even try-thousands applied and only a handful ever got in. She'd poured her heart out in the entrance essay but, clearly, that hadn't been good enough.

The man laughed outright. "Every child's dream. If you can learn all the soil science, robotics, and genetics that's needed, you can certainly make a fine living from it."

 "I don't care about accumulating merits! I mean, I do want to stay on the plus side of my sustainscore but that's all." Hannah frowned, trying to get her phrasing right. It might not matter to this jerk but it mattered to her. "I want to make something from the soil, create good food for people, fill a market stall as splendidly this one."

 "Might as well get rich, too, Hannah."

"How do you know my name?"

 He winked at her. "I'm with Total Spray Corp. You agree to use KillMax on your crops for five years after you graduate, and I can pull some strings to get you into the Agriculture faculty."

 It wasn't even worth a moment's consideration. "No way! KillMax is a neonicotinoid!" She could never condone the slaughter of bees. She thumped down her cup. "No one would ever agree to that!"

The man grimaced. "You'd be surprised. That's why we screen all our applicants. Let me introduce myself for real this time. I'm Francis Malk, head of admissions for Harnley Agricultural College."

"I don't understand--"

 "Congratulations, Hannah, you passed our admission's test." He leaned over the heap of tomatoes and held out a hand. "Welcome to our program."

Stunned and ecstatic, Hannah shook his hand, then shook it twice more, knocking tomatoes everywhere.

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