Below is the first draft of my short story oranges. It is adapted from a play I wrote. I plan to make edits soon and would be happy to hear any feedback


It happened over time, in an instant. 

The world was dying, of course we knew that. Whether or not we’d planned to do anything to change it was a different story. Higher temperatures, shorter days, clogged oceans…eventually a quick swim in the Pacific meant a tour of our nation’s finest plastics. If we hadn’t cared about the turtles trapped in soda trash, I’m not sure why anyone thought we’d care about the surfers locked in the plastic mesh under the sea. 

Eventually, the answer was to run, to start over. We, the innovative human race, could learn from our mistakes and try again. We could adapt to a new atmosphere, learn how to be gentle to a planet that didnt’ particularly seem to want to host us. But what other choice did we have? Earth was dying and Mars was already making so much progress towards habitability. 

They told us we should be thankful that the billionaires and scientist alike had already started planning for our planet’s inevitable ruin. That all of our jokes about space travel and whoever was the punching bag of the day were in poor taste now that we had no other option. The only thing to save us now was their genius. Statues went up of men whose names I no longer know on a planet that will cease to exist. Funny how even in our demise we just can’t help an erection of power, polished in metal. 

My dad sent me the tickets. As there wasn’t enough room for everyone in the space crafts to fly comfortably, the bidding war of surivival was all encompassing. He claimed he got them at a discount at $500,000. He had to take out a loan to afford it. A loan he’d like have to immediately start paying back on Mars. 

So much for changing things

When I showed Jacks the tickets, they thought I was kidding. To them, it was die on the way there or die here. They’d rather die at home than be cut in half by loose shrapnel. I couldn’t understand why it mattered how you died; you were dead either way. 

This was easily the sort of dilemna I would’ve loved as a teenager with a suicidal lean. A way to die that wouldn’t be my fault? A way to escape the endless weight of always knowing my perpetual imperfections? Sign me the hell up.

And now at 35, the very sight of the tickets just made sick which is probably why I’d been staring at them now for three hours. 

The door slightly opened asnd Jacks slid across our wooden floors that probably were once very beautiful trees before…shit I can’t keep thinking like this.

“So, not to disturb your, well, whatever it is that’s happening here but have you made up for mind yet?”

I think they thought they were asking without pressure but all I could feel was the words piercing into my chest, death by a million questions. Even it only started with one. 

“Becca, the flight leaves tonight,” Jacks continued slowly making their way to the floor

next to me.

“I know.”

“So…what are we doing?”

“There’s only one ticket.”

“Okay. What’re you doing?”

“I need more time.”

“I was hoping you’d say that.”

And just like that, my panic morphed into curiosity, a special skill of Jacks that was probably a testament to how they’d gotten me, a tragic commitment phobe, to marry them five years ago.

“What’re you talking about?” I asked, not quite sure the answer would satisfy my much larger desire to drown myself in the boiling seas. 

“Well, it’s going to sound a bit nuts.”

“I wouldn’t expect any different with you.”

From their pocket, Jacks pulled out a broken watch. It wasn’t quite like anything I’d seen before. The straps were made of ribbon but the face of the watch looked ancient, expensive. Small diamonds circle the surface, all with perfect clarity. The cracked glass had somehow formed an infinity symbol and the watch smelled of peppermint. 

“What if I could give us more time?” 

“I get the joke but I’m not really in the mood.”

Jacks turned the watch in their hand, focused on it. Sure, a broken watch at any other time might’ve helped to resolve a fight but we weren’t fighting. We were dying.

“This is all going to sound insane but remember that witch I used to go to, when I wanted like cold medicine.”

“You mean the very eccentric woman you went to instead of going to a hospital?”

“She left this to me.”

Normally, I’d ask what they meant by “left” but anyone alive in 2053 knew exactly what that meant. The climate crisis had changed our way of speaking. You didn’t just leave to go to a party or leave the house. When you left, you expired. 

“I don’t see how this helps us.”

“Well, and I realize you’re going to think I’m absolutely desperate and maybe I am, but this watch, it can stop time. Here, look.”

From their pocket, Jacks pulled out a piece of paper. The handwriting was barely legible but there it was: a spell to stop time. The ingredients were simple enough: poisoned water, a favorite candy, and the watch. To perform the spell, you simply dipped the watch and your favorite piece of candy into the water. And so long as the watch stayed submerged, time would stop. 


“You can’t actually believe this.”

Jacks hesitated. It wasn’t like them to pause. They were always the first at gate, said whatever popped into their mind. Their impulsive recklessness was what drew to them but it was their determination and bravery that kept me. 

Wait. Peppermint.

“You’ve tried it already,” I said, barely even hearing my own voice.

“I have.”

“And it worked? Where did you even find poisoned water?”

“I mean, what water isn’t poisoned?” 

I considered the watch again. A bit cliche to have a watch that stops time but hardly useless. This was the kind of thing people would probably literally kill for and it was in our living room, a three metaphorical atomic bomb, waiting to be dropped in water. 

“What are the downsides?”

Jacks smiled at me. Even getting me to consider this gambit was a win and they knew it.


“It can’t be none,” I shot back, with more bite than I intended.

Jacks handed me the watch and shrugged. My verbal stab hardly even breaking hte surface. 

“Becca, I don’t think there are any. Unless I’ve turned green or something and don’t know it yet.”

“There’s always a downside, a consequence.”

“Yeah but do you think that because you were raised Catholic and were taught magic came from the Devil? We’re not selling our souls here, we’re just literally stopping time.”

“Tell me exactly what happened when you used it.”

And so they did. They’d woken up, gone to the reading of Madam Mayhem’s will (a name to which I appropriately rolled my eyes every time I heard it), and then received a watch and a lighter. A watch to stop time and a lighter that was just a lighter. Apparently, Jacks complimented a lot so Madam Mayhem left it to them. As soon as they left the will reading, they read the instructions that came with the watch and then tried it outside a grocery store. 

Why a grocery store? If you’re always going to expect reason from Jacks, then I can’t help you. 

Outside of the grocery store, they filled up a plastic cup from the closest trash can with the water in disgusting puddle right by the entrance. Gross, I know. They then tossed a peppermint from their pocket and then watch into the water. 

And everything and everyone paused. Jacks had to force the door open into the grocery store, which means they probably broke it, and then had to unstop time to get out. Nothing but Jacks was in motion. The whole world finally still. 

It would sound beautiful if it wasn’t terrifying. 

“And then that was it?” I asked when the story was over.

“Yeah. Then I came home.” 

Stopping time didn’t really solve our problem. We would have to return to this exact moment in time with the same problem of I had exactly one ticket to Mars on a space ship that was leaving tonight. 

“Could we stop it forever?”

On some level, Jacks knew I’d ask that and even still seeing the color leave their face I knew on some level they hoped I hadn’t. 

“Becca, this is just something to delay. We can’t–”

But they cut themselves off, knowing the only response to “we can’t” is “why not” and they didn’t have a good answer. Because there wasn’t one. We’d finally been given an actual solution that was death, abandonment, or a fucked mix of both. 

Without saying another word, Jacks stood up, almost drunk with fear and excitement. I could hear the tap running from the living room. Looking back now, I see the cruelty of our decision but it felt as though there was no choice. I couldn’t leave and I couldn’t stay but I could wait, forever.

Jacks returned with my favorite coffee mug filled with brown water from the tap. They held the watch and a piece of peppermint in one hand and a Skittle in the other.

“You really sure about this?”

“I am.”

“But, forever, Becca?”


And without letting Jacks fill me with any more doubt, I dropped the Skittle into the water and waited for them to drop the watch and peppermint. 

I assumed Jacks had left out major details when they said the world ceased. I assumed the sky would be filled with bright pastels, that birds would be floating mid air, that we’d be overwhelmed by the smell of peppermint and whatever toxins are in Skittles. That maybe my skin would be tighter or even as Jacks had joked, we change colors. 

But it was as if nothing happened. I almost didn’t believe it had worked until I walked over to the window and noticed the stillness. It wasn’t the sort of stillness that was loud, the kind you see in movies whenever a character stops time. The blur of life that was. Instead, this stillness was quiet. If I hadn’t known better and I’m not really sure that I did, I would’ve assumed we’d teleported to a different earth. A planet that was just ours but the remnants of humanity’s destruction still laid out around us. 

The very first thing I did was check to see if the fridge still worked. Again, looking back now, I see how absurd that is but if life was still and time was stopped, was I expected to hunt? It’s not like I could go to the grocery store.

It wasn’t until after I opened the fridge, had a breath of relief that the light was on, and then closed it, that panic settled in. Yes, the fridge still worked but plants wouldn’t still grow. And hunt what exactly? Frozen animals? How would we cook even? Did fire count a living thing? 

I leaned back agains the fridge and slid to the floor. It would be nice to say worry overcame but this felt much heavier. I thought of immediately going and knocking over the mug, restarting time, and returning to my general angsting as I stared at the tickets. 

Jacks walked into the kitchen and sat at a dining chair across from me. They know better than to disrupt my angst even if they weren’t the best at it waiting it out. 


“Becca, you don’t have to announce that you have a question. I’m sure you have many.”

‘Do you remember when you asked Madam Mayhem to do a money spell when we short on rent that one time and she gave you some pennies and some cinnamon?”

Jacks laughed at the memory. We were about $500 short on rent and, a feeling that has become way too common in our time, desperate. Jacks assured me that they could figure it out. We’d tried selling everything but unfortunately poverty kind of warrants that nothing you have is valuable. We’d tried offering up our services. Jacks could do carpentry work at a discounted price. I could teach dance lessons to whoever wanted to feel alive in their bodies again. And after hours and hours of additional work, we were still $500 short.

Almost as a joke but not really, Jacks said they’d go to “their witch friend” who would do a money spell for them. And then Jacks came back with five pennies, one for each hundred we needed and cinnamon. 

I ended up borrowing the money from my father.

“Isn’t there some part of you that’s kind of pissed that she had a watch that could stop time and when we needed her help, she gave you some pennies?” 

“Maybe I was supposed to dump the pennies in water too.” 

Our laughter continued through the night. I eventually got up off the floor and made us dinner using the food we had. After dinner, we re-read our favorite books and played board games. The sun didn’t rise or set. It sat in the middle of the sky like a halo, a crown really, anointing us as final authority  of our royally bad decisions. 

In the morning, Jacks asked me if I wanted to go on a walk. When I asked where, they smiled and said “anywhere.” My first thought was to walk on water. If Jesus could do it, why can’t I? When we got to the ocean though, it made us too sad to see the trash infested waves suspended mid air and wondered what would happen if the cup accidentally tipped while we were in the middle of the Pacific.

We instead choose to walk from our small house in Venice to New York City since neither of us had ever been. I think it took us about a week but who’s counting days when time is asleep? 

Next, we danced in the middle of the street, singing our own music. It was a moment in which we both felt incredibly free and incredibly trapped at the same time. Knowing that soon enough we would need running water and food, both things we could not have access to as the world stood still. 

As we walked back to California, we stopped by Florida where a beautiful orange tree was somehow still blooming. We should’ve questioned then how it was possible but we were so excited to se growth we didn’t bother. We both ate one as a snack and I stashed one away in my pocket. 

It wasn’t until we were walking over Texas that Jacks asked me:

“Would you have left? On the spaceship I mean.”

The question lingered in the air and floated down, a sign of forward movement at a time of inaction. We’d enjoyed a momentary lapse, an intermission to the worries that still lived in our hands and feet.

“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. 

“I would’ve wanted you to.”

The answer surprised me. Had the situation been flipped, I would’ve torn up the tickets if it meant Jacks would stay with me. The idea of living, no matter how short that living was, without them was torture enough…although I suppose that’s not exactly true. If that were true, my answer to Jacks’s earlier question would’ve been an immediate “No. I wouldn’t leave you.”

“I killed Pumpkin. On accident,” Jacks whispered as their toes beat down on Houston. 


“She got out somehow and I, uh, vacuumed her.”

“You vacuumed our guinea pig?”


“Did you kill Peanut too?”

“No, Peanut died of loneliness.”

A few years back, after my cat, Buttons, died, I fell into a dark, treacherous depression. Jacks had attempted to get me a new cat and I told them to send it back. Immediately. I couldn’t stand the idea of having another pet so soon after my cat died. But Jacks was insistent. After taking back the cat, Jacks returned with two guinea pigs. I told them I didn’t want any pets but Jacks insisted the pigs were for them not me. And I couldn’t exactly tell Jacks they weren’t allowed to have a pet.

Well, I did but it didn’t work. Since I’d have to live with them, Jacks asked me to name one of them. I’m deathly allergic to peanuts so as a show of defiance I decided to name the black and white guinea pig Peanut. The name made no sense but Jacks knew what I was up to and didn’t back down. They named the orange one Pumpkin, which made sense since the guinea pig did look a bit like a fuzzy gourd. 

To the surprise of no one, I fell in love with both Guinea pigs in a matter of hours. It didn’t even take a full day. We hand trained them quickly and by the end of the year, I transformed my office into their own playroom. 

The story before had been that they both escaped. I am not sure how Jacks got me to believe that but now it was embarrassing clear that I was too gullible, especially when it came to Jacks.

I knew this confession was part of a larger wind up that I wasn’t ready for. I knew, at the end of the world, this is where we lay our truths bare. Even with time stopped, the ticking end of forever loomed over us. 

“I cheated on you. Only once. But I did.”

Jacks looked at me, without a single hint of surprise. Did they know?

“Do you want to know who with and how?” 

“Do you want to tell me?” 

“Not really.”

“Then I don’t need to know. You’re here with me now. That’s all that really matters. No one to cheat with at the end of the world.”

Even if everyone could exist in this frozen pause with us, I’d choose you every time. It hung on the tip of my tongue but I knew I didn’t need to say it. Jacks already knew it.

We walked in silence from Phoenix to San Diego. By then, our feet had started to hurt and we decided to try another day at the beach. I ran my hands over the sand, wondering what sort of wind storm it would take to blow all of it away, to see what lay beneath. The orange in my pocket pressed awkwardly against thigh so I took it out of my pocket so it could enjoy the view of the ocean as well. 

Jacks sniffed it and then set it back down.

“Bizarre we saw that orange tree.”

“Because we stopped time or because they told us due to climate changes there was no more fruit.”

“Both really.”

One of the first things to go was oranges. Everyone thought it would be avocados but the wealthy bought up the seeds and kept them on their secret farms. No one thought to do the same with apples and oranges. I guess no one thought we’d ever run out, or maybe they weren’t luxurious enough to hoard. 

“I’ve got a plot of dirt out back. Maybe I could try growing a tree,” Jacks grinned, something uncertain hiding beneath the smile. 

I knew the question that still hovered over us. What happens when we restart time? What happens when I leave them behind?

Looking over the orange, I thought about all the ways I’d assumed our marriage would end. That I would have reckless affairs that would ultimately drive Jacks away. That Jacks would grow bored with my anxiety and pack up their things overnight to join a traveling commune filled with artsy queers who wrote poems and built pantries. That I would one day decide that I wasn’t worthy of love and go on a bender in Vegas until I died on the street, drunk in a gutter. That Jacks would come to see me as a pathetic mess and spend their talents elsewhere. 

In a million years, which at the current moment felt possible to achieve, I would never guessed “we ruined the world and now whoever can afford to go is fleeing.” 

Plus what were we fleeing to? My father was leaving one kind of debt to enter into another one. The “solution” to our problems seemed to be pay to play and no one had yet considered how capitalism might the rotten seed that led us here. What could we possibly do differently on Mars with all our current societal systems coming with us? Were we headed towards change or just buying time? 

And I’d come to learn even with all of time on your side, the cuts and bruises of our indecision still burn. 

“I’m not going,” I breathed out, feeling that I’d exhaled for the first time in months.

Jacks turned me, incredulous. Would they try to convince me to go anyway? Would they thank me for staying? Before they could do either, I continued.

“What if we’re leaving too soon? What if we could start over for real? With everyone gone, maybe we could make it better?”

“You don’t think that’s a bit naive?”

I held the orange up, considered the seeds inside it. Maybe it was naive, maybe I hadn’t thought through every possibility. But maybe, maybe we could build something. And maybe it could be gorgeous. 

“I promised you forever, didn’t I?”

“You did.”

“Then forever it is. You, me, and this orange.”

We got back home and gently poured the water out from our cursed cup. It must’ve been at least a year that we’d paused time but we returned the exact moment we left. I used the lighter to burn the tickets, only to learn the fire burned purple. So much for being ordinary. Jack and I decided we’d had enough of Madam Mayhem’s artifacts, at least for now, and stored the lighter and the watch in a kitchen drawer that locked. Maybe we’d come back to it but for now, we’d gotten the answers we needed.  

The next day floated in like a piece of paper descending from a rooftop. Half the planet left and were taking their chances in their skies. Only time would tell who’d made the better choice. Those who left or those who stayed. Heavy philosophical questions about the value of life and destruction danced around us but we moved right past it.

We had an orange tree to plant.