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|Posted on Saturday, August 24, 2013 - 10:19 am: |
Another rewrite from the WEIRDMONGER book. More available here: http://weirdmonger.wordpress.com/complete-re-writes-from-2013-of-some-of-the-67- stories-in-weirdmonger/
DUTIFUL TO THE DEAD
When he told her he had an apple tree, she thought she knew what to expect. But, instead of a trunk, or, actually, as a trunk, there was a stacked pillar of red-rubbed fruits from which radiated laden skewers bending lissomly like sinewy necklaces of nectarines. Such were simply apples.
Thus, an apple tree in its true sense. A tree of apples. Made from apples. A treeful of them. With not a chink of bark wood between their rosy cheeks. An apple-shaped tree. Or, rather, a tree of apple shapes. Whatever the case, he stood in his pocket meadow, awaiting her cries of amazement and eventual words of inevitable praise laced with query. Indeed, not only one such tree: there was a close-ordered orchard of them, moving with the wind and, sometimes, against it. Swishing: not creaking as bark would. Squeaking, almost snorting, as appleskins blew raspberries one upon the other.
Several questions fought for priority on her lips. She had only met him once before: a chance encounter upon a dance floor. His nickname that everyone used, he said, was Grin. And his teeth were white in one, as he told her.
Otherwise, ignorance was, if not bliss, certainly convenient, since there were several experiences she would never have used up, given the truth earlier. It has always been her belief that life is laid out before you as a map of chances and the person living this life has the responsibility to pick up its various incidents, emotions, vehicles, stances, interactions for good or ill. As in a game, the more chances captured and taken from the board the more chance of new chances taking their place. Otherwise, the final catch-all chance would catch up on you all the sooner.
And she certainly took a chance with Grin, following that dance and their winning the spot prize. She will always remember the twirling mosquitoful beams from the dance-hall ceiling as these lights randomly sought the lucky couple – if luck is random, which I doubt. So, when the central shaft picked us out in a scintillating circle, she could have died. Grin hid her in his arms and kissed her till their teeth clashed as if promising each other tongues for another day.
She guessed there was more to him than met the eye, anticipating when the savour of his saliva would mix with her own backwash in a gush of spring and summer combined – not ordinary seasons, but only those endless ones when childhood ever seemed too short.
Their assignation in his small orchard was arranged the same evening. They had not yet reached beyond that earlier buffer of a kiss – so, she was nervous as she walked under the hot sun past the clinging loose-leaved bushes and crested the brow of a hill she had never known until today. Nervous, because she fully expected intimacy – one of those “freefalls in the hay” against which her father once warned her.
“Young men are only after one thing, my girl,” her father had said, with a grin and a glint in his eye, as if he knew she knew his warning was based on the firm ground of his personal experience. Her mother, you see, was someone she never knew, but she loved her, because she knew she would have done so, given half the chance. She was nothing if not dutiful to the dead. She then wondered whether her mother could have loved her on the brink of her own death, where she had been when she first saw her daughter’s emerging pinkness.
Grin was already at the gate to greet her. A very nice gate of knotted slats, indistinguishable from the fence it completed. His inevitable grin above the gate’s top edge helped assuage the irritation caused by its bottom edge grating along the ground when he pushed it open against the grain. The grass, she noticed, was even greener than the buttercups were yellow – but, then, of course, her attention was captured by the apple trees which were, surprisingly, ordinary wooden trees, putting paid to her earlier dream – though the fruit hanging from these proper trees looked juicier, if more sparsely hung.
“Welcome to my meadow,” said Grin. “Have an apple. They’re just ripe.”
She walked over to the nearest tree and politely plucked the smallest she could find. Her teeth met with a click inside its soft flesh: a discomforting consistency reminding her of the sauce for pork.
Grin had followed her to the tree with his one word question.
The slightly tart crispness she expected must have been part of the earlier dream, since the apple’s actual taste was quite different. She prodded her long-cultivated fingernail to extract a pip from between her teeth. The insides of her throat felt coated in sweet slime.
“Not so nice as they look,” she answered. Her politeness ever had a short fuse.
“Things never are.” After a second smile, he left a weighty pause. “But the fact they look so nice does help, wouldn’t you say?”
“Yes,” she said uncertainly. She remembered once having sucked a gorgeous-looking chocolate that her father brought from work only to discover that it melted in her mouth like silt from the bottom of our creek back home, leaving her teeth brown past several brushings.
“Did you enjoy our dance?”
He plucked a particularly plump apple for himself and munched it, burying half his face in the process.
“Yes,” she said with growing panic. The day was baking hot and windless. She recalled the sight of the swaying long-bunched branches from her earlier dream. If summers could ever be endless, this was one such summer’s midsummer’s day. She wiped sweat from her brow, some of which she could taste from what had trickled to the corners of her lips – sickly sweet, not salty. If she cried, she feared tears of syrup. Dream curdled.
But this was no longer dream.
A teethful, teeth-lipped mouth at the teeth-heavy top of his teethed-to-the-arms-and-legs body ground and grated between her white crackling neck-twigs, burying down to her once innocent heart, to her very core, by-passing both blood and marrow in search of his real feast: the enamel skeletons within her bones.
However tiny, each was complete.
Rewrite of ‘Apple Turnover’ from the WEIRDMONGER book (2003)