An Apple Tree

I’m writing some experimental fiction as part of my daily writing exercises. You’re seeing it because, though it’s not haute cuisine, it’s not egg shells and coffee grounds either. These will show up here and there, now and then.

Standing under the tree, his feet squished in the soggy lawn. Above, his brother’s foot scraped against the trunk of the apple tree.


He shifted his weight, then moved both feet to firmer spots in the grass. The taller blades tickled his bare ankles above his low-topped tennies. They weren’t the Red Ball Jets he’d wanted, so it didn’t matter if they got dirty.

“Mommy said we’re not supposed to climb in the tree.” The only sound from the tree was the scraping of more not-Red-Ball-Jet tennies, finding better toeholds.

He dared take his eyes off his brother in the tree to look at the tree’s trunk. How would you grip that to reach up to the first branch? You’d have to be tall enough to reach the branch without using the trunk. Except with your feet. You could use your feet on the trunk because tennies have grips on the bottom.

His shadow covered the trunk. In the shadow on the ground past the tree, the tree grew out of his head. He held his left hand straight out like a branch and spread his fingers. One two three four five he could see each one.

Little prickles grew on his bare arms. It was almost supper time and the wind was starting.

He tried again. “We’re not supposed to climb the tree.”

White clouds parked beyond the tree top. He squinted as he looked up. His brother was looking up the driveway.

“I can see the sled hill, if I stand up.”

“Don’t. Don’t fall. We’re not supposed to be in the tree.”

He rubbed his right foot against his left shin where he felt a bug crawling. He didn’t look down because he knew there was no bug, there was only crawling. He used to look for the bug, but you could feel crawling even when there wasn’t a bug on your leg.

He stepped closer to the tree and put his hands on the narrow trunk. With his thumbs touching in front, his finger tips were on the other side of the tree. He pushed hard against the tree, but his fingers wouldn’t touch. When he got bigger he’d be able to reach all the way around the tree.

Little white flowers fluttered past. He looked up. His brother was plucking the blossoms and sprinkling them like fairy dust.

“Mommy says leave the flowers alone because they make apples. If you take a flower you don’t get an apple.”

Pluck. Sprinkle.

He thought he heard the screen door creak. If they got caught in the tree they might not get dessert and then it would be a whole ‘nother week. Bobby Jones said their family had dessert every night, even if it was just cookies sometimes. Daddy said nobody needed dessert every night and if you just ate your supper you wouldn’t always be hungry for dessert.

If dessert was ice cream, it didn’t matter how much supper you ate, because you’d still be hungry for ice cream.

It was hard when supper was hamburger hot dish. The corn had that slimy stuff, and those little black spots in the mushroom soup. It made him gag, but if he didn’t finish it he wouldn’t get ice cream. At least if dessert was just cake, he didn’t have to eat the hot dish.

He walked backward away from the tree. Right foot back as far as he could stretch, one; left foot together. Left foot back as far as he could stretch, two; right foot together.

He looked up. “Mommy says we could fall and get hurt.”

His brother was straddling the branch now, looking toward the road.

He hugged himself, covering his bare shoulders as much as he could with his hands. His feet squooshed and he stepped sideways one step.

Next year he could go to school too, and then he wouldn’t be home alone with nobody but the baby. The school had a library. He’d seen it when they went to the school for Open House. It had more books than Mommy and Daddy’s house, and they had more books than anybody’s house.

You weren’t allowed to stay inside at recess, though. He’d asked if you could do recess in the library and Daddy had said fresh air and exercise were good for you and you should get outside more anyway.

Playing outside was running, and he wasn’t a fast runner, and it was wrestling, and he didn’t like wrestling. When Tommy punched him in the arm it hurt and he cried and went inside and Mommy said don’t be a crybaby, and the kids must have heard, because when he went outside they called him a crybaby until he started crying again. Since he couldn’t go back inside he went in the back yard near the shed where they couldn’t see him from their cowboy game in the side yard where the apple tree was near the clothes lines.

He wiggled his not-Red-Ball-Jets in the soggy lawn.

“We’re not allowed in the tree.”

Nothing. His brother was scraping the bark with his thumbnail. Would that hurt the tree? What if the sap leaked out? Would the apples get enough sap to grow?

“I’m going inside.”

“No telling!”

“I’m not. I’m just going inside.”

He stood, looking up, wiggling his toes so the tips of his shoes went slurp slurp slurp in the little mud puddles around his shoes.

The screen door creaked and his mom yelled “Supper!”

He ran to the front porch.

“Where’s your brother?”

He looked toward the yard. No telling. No telling.

“He’s in the yard.”

She stepped off the porch.

“Get down out of that tree! You know you’re not supposed to be in the tree. Get down right now.”

Scraping, then a thump and a grunt.

“Don’t jump like that! If you can climb up you can climb down. Get your muddy shoes off. You can wash them after supper.”

One hand in the middle of his back and one in the middle of his brother’s, she pushed them up onto the porch. He pushed his left shoe off with his right toe, then reached down with his left hand to push his right shoe off.

“Wait!” He sat down and pulled his tennies back on. He jumped off the porch and ran to the tree.

The last of the sun was in the higher branches, almost up to the upstairs window. Maybe he could see the tree from the baby’s room window. Was that the baby’s room? He’d look after supper. Maybe he could see the top of the tree. Even his brother hadn’t seen the top of the tree from right in the middle of it.

The screen door creaked and banged. He ran to the porch, pulled his shoes off, and eased the door open just enough to slip through.

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