Stefani Allison, one of our core writers…

… has plucked this tale of autumn to tempt you into entering our contest tribute to Peggy Dobbs, in our first annual Peggy Dobbs Write-of-Passage contest. All entries must include the phrase “I swear, it’s not too late.”  The winner can buy a whole lot of mom and apple pie with $500, which is our …

… has plucked this tale of autumn to tempt you into entering our contest tribute to Peggy Dobbs, in our first annual Peggy Dobbs Write-of-Passage contest. All entries must include the phrase “I swear, it’s not too late.”  The winner can buy a whole lot of mom and apple pie with $500, which is our prize.

Here is

 Harvest

by Stefani Allison

 

On our first day of autumn, I went to the backyard, relishing the now cooling air and gentle sunshine, abating the long hours of intense summer heat. My purple Bohemian skirt swayed in the breeze and the grass tickled my bare ankles as I came to the part of fall I long for most: our very own homegrown apple tree. The tree doesn’t look too much bigger than it did when I was younger, but looking up at it, I felt joy seeing the abundance of apples growing, waiting to be picked.

For most of my life, this tree rarely, if ever, yielded any fruit. For years, I wondered how anyone knew it was an apple tree. I also thought we had some obscure kind of tree, because when it finally began growing apples, it didn’t really remind me of any of the fruit I found at the store. The apples were green, leading me to at first believe they were Granny Smith, but my father was quick to correct me. When we were finally able to pick any apples, at first, I disliked them; they tasted too sour for my liking (but, then again, when I was younger, I avoided foods that weren’t processed or picked up from a drive-thru). For whatever reason or miracle, as I grew older, the tree branches became heavier with more fruit for us to survive a few good weeks if we had to. As I grew into a woman, I also grew appreciative and proud of the tree in our backyard. The crisp skin breaking under my teeth, the flow of the fresh juice, and the grainy texture of the flesh has become one of my most cherished memories of early adulthood.

My sister and her girlfriend were visiting that day, and while I was talking to her girlfriend, she noticed that my parents and sister were still outside, even though I already told them the coffee was ready. We went outside and my father and sister were cutting through the netting we draped over the tree to prevent birds from eating all our apples, as my mother stood in the safety of the shade of the garage.

“What are you guys doing?” I asked. My father yanked on the netting, leaves cascading to the grass.

“I just talked to the neighbors,” my father told me. “Squirrels are getting in, eating the apples, and leaving the cores on their lawn. They want us to get rid of the apples.”

“Wait, ALL of the apples?” I asked. “But some of them aren’t ready yet!” I stole a glance at an apple smaller than the diameter of my thumb.

“Dad’s really upset, just do it,” my sister said, pulling some apples down.

I was alright with picking apples and with the thought that they would eventually be barren again—just not on the first day of autumn. Bitterly cold guilt mounted like inches of early snow for every apple I pulled off the tree.

All five of us had to suppress more than a little anger and resentment that we were being ordered to pick our own apples before they were ready. Later, I learned that none of the apples I ever ate from the tree were actually ripe; birds, as well as squirrels, always ate the apples before they had a chance to turn yellow and develop any sweetness. Also, not knowing what kind of apples grew or what they were supposed to look like, I willingly, through the years, ate the underdeveloped apples. I want to believe if I knew, I would have given them a chance to be everything they were meant to be.

We saved what we could. The apples that were edible were put into a box on the grass. The apples that had been pecked or damaged from the fall to the ground were thrown into a compost bin. My mother told me to take the box into the house, and I cradled the box in my arms, the apples seemingly asking me what they had done to deserve being torn from their branches before they were ready. I held the box to my bosom and patted it, hopefully conveying some sort of sense of comfort, before laying the box to rest peacefully on our kitchen counter.

My father continued to pull the rest of the netting from the tree, feeling that we had done enough for the day, and leaving the remaining apples to the mercy of the birds and squirrels—not that I felt they were any safer in the palms of our hands anymore. I hated what we had done. I hated that we sank to the inconvenience of man instead of bowing down to generosity of God’s creation in Mother Nature.

But before I could condemn this day to infamy, I glanced to the left side of the tree. As I came closer, I realized my plea for forgiveness had been waiting for me before I even woke up that morning.

On one branch, two late-blooming blossoms were getting ready to bring forth new apples.

I swear, it’s not too late.

 

 

29 comments

  1. FJDagg says:

    Love the arc of this, Stefani–idyllic mood of childhood, transition to young maturity, then the sudden pivot to conflict and bitterness. Then adaptation leading to recapitulation: the discovery of hope borne of renewal. It’s like a well-balanced musical composition. I raise my mug of Sumatra to you!

  2. Stephanie, it reads like poetry. Detail to image. Image to icon. Icon to story. Love it. It made me begin to taste all the different apples I’d eaten in life, trying to capture the one that belonged to this mythos-tree. I know something of unriped fruit plucked before its time, and I know something of the late bloomers and the persevering hangers-on. This grouping of words put me in touch with all of them. Awesomely done. And with the harvest and George Winston playing this Autumn day, I could easily say that your story was just as welcome as my cup of coffee. Thank you for writing it so beautifully

    • Stars Fall On My Heart
      Stars Fall On My Heart says:

      Logically, that tree is just a tree. But to me, on that day…it sort of did feel like it came from Eden itself. And hopefully when the time comes for me to move to Oceanside, I can take a seed from that tree and plant it in my new home <3 Thank you Tiffany <3

  3. Diane Cresswell says:

    Ahhh Stef you did it again and Peggy is smiling with tears at the beauty that you portrayed here. From me personally,,,I remember days like that when I was young – nothing tasted so sweet as apples from your own tree – after they ripened of course. When I lived in Minneapolis my neighbor had an apple tree and the branches hung over the fence. Yes there were many on the ground but when I got permission to pick – I was in there like a hawk zooming through the branches picking fastidiously – looking for ones that were infiltrated by worms. My gift to myself was making apple sauce that I could put away and eat in the cold bitterness of winter – tasting again the sweetness of picking day. So I associated with this story on a first person basis. Your writing is such a wonder to behold.

    • Stars Fall On My Heart
      Stars Fall On My Heart says:

      I have a slight feeling, however fleeting and possibly delusional, that maybe she was in spirit with me both the day this happened and as I wrote it. I hope I’m making her proud <3

  4. This no nonsense tale of how nature gives and we humans recieve, is a jaunt down memory lane for me except the fruit was pears–in the neighbor’s yard. I ate them so new I unhinged my jaw. So worth it! Great writing, Stef. Strong POV, and lovely at the same time.

  5. Kristy Webster says:

    Gorgeous, gorgeous story. The last two lines, how and where you chose to use the prompt, is genius. For such a short story, the plot, tone and even the voice of the narrator is clear and developed. Great work.

  6. Miryam says:

    Loved the family & neighborhood dynamic you portrayed. Sweet story. Great description of the fall season. Thanks for submitting… You are a blessing!

  7. Parisianne Modert says:

    I love the sense of family and neighborhood and being connected to nature. Your story brought a connection to life.

  8. Sheri Strobaugh says:

    This is such a beautiful story. So heart warming, loving and tight hold of a close family. I wanted to help by picking up the apples cores at the neighbors…loved it!

  9. Ken Weene says:

    I thought this an interesting parable about the foolishness of education, be it in the regular schools or home-schooling. The child learns either to deny nature for the sake of order, to sacrifice the apple for the teacher (the schools) or learns to appreciate apples that actually are flawed because they are picked before their time as thoughts that are handed down (home-schooling) Yet, assuredly there are squirrels and birds that will steal the fruit, our children, if we do not take action. In the end what is best done? One thing of which I am sure, better to share the apples from the tree with nature than to eat apples from Monsanto, unattractive to rodents or winged creatures and probably unhealthy to us all. Perhaps we are in too much of a hurry to pick the fruit and to educate the young. Take time, I’d say. I swear it’s not too late.

    • Monsanto is No Child Left Behind for our little apples. We corrupt the fruit to get it to grow faster. This story is a gentle expose on that… too subtle to be called a direct attack (per se), but it does read clearly for the discerning reader. I know she didn’t mean to have her story say that, but I also know that Stef is aware of what a story does once it is birthed.

  10. Mike Casper says:

    Hope springs eternal not just in the human breast but from the branches of an apple tree. Your story was sweet and deep on so many levels. Thank you for taking me out of my corporate world for a moment and inserting me into your backyard.

  11. Chuck Chuckerson says:

    I really enjoyed this. Such wonderful imagery and deep emotion. You captured the beauty f nature and the beauty of people who enjoy it.

  12. Candace Louise says:

    The wonderful descriptions and emotions made this a really enjoyable read. Thank you for sharing!

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