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orange you sad this isn't a knock-knock joke?

My in-laws have a lime tree. Only, when you let the limes grow for long enough, they magically transform from limes into oranges—a fact none of us realized until a couple of “limes” were left on the branch long enough to mature. So it turns out it isn’t so much producing limes as it is producing very under-ripe oranges. Either way, they’re delicious in a gin and tonic. You can see how we'd make the mistake, right? Perfectly round limes, just like God invented.

I have to admit that I’ve always been a little jealous of my in-laws for their lime tree. Largely because I figure that if there’s an apocalypse, they will have the advantage of having a steady source of vitamin C, thus keeping them from developing scurvy, and keeping them alive far longer than me. And they will have better gin and tonics than me, and that’s a crime right there.

This is a secret sort of resentment, and I’ve spoken of it to no one until now, but it has always been in the back of mind as I’ve gone about my daily life. 

And so it was lingering there as I was using the push reel mower I mentioned last time (again, I swear this is not a gardening or lawn maintenance blog). I had already finely chopped the majority of my yard into nice, easily biodegradable future fertilizer bits when I came to that wild and wooly corner of my yard that I like to call “the stuff I let grow big and bushy because it hides the cable junction box.” This is a nice looking batch of uncultivated land in the corner of my backyard—and I kind of like it that way for more than just the fact that it hides the unsightly blemish that is the city’s ugly metal phallic symbol of a cable box. There’s also a sort of “back to nature” vibe there, a “living land” kind of thing. Plus it’s about 12 square feet of lawn I don’t have to mow.

I was focused on the push reel mower, because it’s something for me to obsess about. And I was ducking under some of the errant branches of my yard-corner forest, distractedly thinking that maybe I should trim those bushes a little, when I was bonked in the head.

This isn’t unusual. When you have a head that looks like it belongs on Easter Island or in some Mayan ruins, it tends to be a natural target for bonking. Luckily, I have lots of head meat (which is totally real) and it manages to cushion my enormous brain (which is apparently not smart enough to either keep a lookout for low-hanging objects or direct me to buy a helmet).

I was surprised by the head bonking, and looked up to see if maybe an unsuspecting bird or small jetliner had fallen victim to the gravitational force of my cranium, when I was suddenly confronted by limes. Limes of the in-law variety.

I blinked, and the caveman part of my brain reacted before the other, more word-usey bits. “Not right see lime there. Strange sight. Must kill!” Luckily, toward the end of the caveman spiel the rest of my brain starts kicking in, and rather than lift the push reel mower above my head and plow screaming into the bushes to vanquish the strange and unusual fruit, I stood back, wiped my considerable brow with a cloth diaper (this will be explained some day … don’t you worry), and said, “Huh.”

I own an orange tree.

Who knew? I did not. And the revelation was kind of thrilling to me, because after the initial “huh” I kind of smiled and did a little jig that would have made my Celtic ancestors proud, had I not been wiping my brow with a cloth diaper and celebrating the fact that I have underripe oranges growing in the wild undergrowth of my yard. 

So who’s going to survive scurvy during the apocalypse now, in-laws? We all are, that’s who.

Kara was also impressed by my discovery, I could tell. Though she refused to come out into the backyard and see it (mosquitos, heat, normal, average, human levels of excitement about such things as opposed to Kevin levels). She also kept insisting that “it must have been planted a long time ago and is just now growing in,” to which I was all, “Duh, Kara, this is clearly a magic lime tree, brought to us by the neighborhood birds who consider our yard to be Mecca.”

Which, come to think of it, probably isn’t that far from the truth, because soon after I realized that about block from my house I had earlier spotted an orange tree in someone’s yard, which I had secretly decided I would come back to after dark and rob of its oranges, because hey, free oranges. And I figure that birds probably did eat some of the orange seeds and then fly here to Bird Mecca, where they were deposited into the soil through a completely natural and not at all disgusting processes. A gift from the universe. Good thing I didn’t ruin it with bad karma by stealing my neighbor’s oranges in the middle of the night.

So surprise, folks, I will survive the apocalypse. Because I have limeoranges. And because birds see me as a religious figure. You would be wise to follow their feathered example, if you wish to be granted limeoranges after the collapse of society.

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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at


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