A blog dedicated to the creative output of R.P. Brown email@example.com
Having come to the conclusion that standing in the shade was much cooler and altogether more pleasant, George had taken shelter under the apple tree that stood strong and proud on the hill above the village of Coreton.
It was blistering day, unusual for autumn, and George had always been quite prone to sunburn, not to mention he tended to sweat profusely. He missed the winter, conveniently forgetting how he’d grumbled when his bones had stiffened in the cold. Currently, his legs were sore, standing for forty minutes was no small task when you were eighty eight. George had considered sitting with his back against the tree but he was concerned he would not be able to get back up on his feet if he did. So he waited patiently, looking forward to the moment when he could sit in his favourite red chair, close his eyes and have a nap.
In his right hand he held one singular, red apple. There had been ample opportunity to analysis the package over the last forty minutes but George had not taken any interest. Instead he had constantly examined his watch, first with his eyes following the second-hand as it made its rounds and then with his ears against its face, listening for any indication of irregular ticking. The newest inspection revealed that not only was time progressing correctly but whoever was meant to meet him beneath the tree was late and therefore not progressing correctly.
George was considering leaving the apple on the ground where he stood, after all it was not his fault that some people could not be punctual, but then he spotted a figure casually ascending the incline. This was for the best because George was someone who took responsibility seriously and he thought it was perhaps ill-considered to leave a particular red apple beside its identical brothers.
“Good Morning” said the person, when they reached the summit. George observed the small, girl with dip dyed hair and a piercing above her left eyebrow.
“You’re late” he grunted.
“Am not” retaliated the girl.
“You are!” George eagerly indicated his wrist and adopted the air of his childhood hero Mr Sherlock Holmes. “You cannot argue with the facts my dear. It is now 11.45 a.m. and you were instructed to arrive at 11.40 a.m.”
“Actually sir, I was asked to arrive promptly at 11.50 a.m. and I am therefore five minutes early.”
“Ah… right you are” said George, though he was not convinced of her correctness and was quite frankly flabbergasted. Reluctantly George, who was speechless, fell into silence.
“Will you be heading on now then?” ventured the girl after a pause.
“If you’re positive that you have the right time, then it’s best to follow the instructions.”
“Well I’ll wait the extra five minutes” sighed George.
Marigold Weatherbee was very unsure of her wrinkly companion. Her only surviving Grandparent, encouraged Marigold to refer to her as Trish and had just organised a roller disco to celebrate her seventieth birthday. In comparison, this ancient looking man whose back bent at an extraordinary angle, seemed completely alien. Marigold was not one to shy away from the unknown and decided she would persist with small talk, even if it killed her.
“I’m Marigold” sang Marigold.
“George” said George.
Well that was that, she’d tried. The man was obviously resolute to stay in silence, she theorised that what may seem a long time to her in her youth may only be a flash of existence for such an ancient creature or perhaps he was just grumpy. Whatever the case those five minutes were unbearable for Marigold.
“Well times up” said George, straightening his back with an enthusiasm surprising for his age. He was thinking of his red chair. “You are to look after this apple for the duration of your shift and then pass it on to the next person.”
“What, that’s it?”
“Yes. That’s it” answered George, handing her the apple. He was relieved to have the passed the buck so to speak and began almost skipping down the hill.
“Wait!” called Marigold and George turned begrudgingly. “Why?”
“Why are we holding an apple under an apple tree surrounded by other apples?”
“Because we were asked to.”
“Why have we been asked to?”
“When you’ve been in the war, you learn not to ask so many questions.” With that final remark George trudged off. He had never fought in the war having celebrated his eighteenth birthday five days after Japan officially surrendered. He was also an asthmatic.
Marigold watched George until he disappeared off into the distance. How could someone hold an ordinary apple for fifty minutes and not be remotely curious as to the reason why? She could not even comprehend a mind so unsuspicious, conspiracy could be found anywhere if one just took the time to scrutinise. Last weekend, Marigold had attended a sit in at Coreton City Hall, though she couldn’t remember the reason, she had played her part. The world would never change on its own, you had to fight to make a difference, the revolution could not come fast enough as far she was concerned.
The revolution was nowhere to be found on the hill under the apple tree. She could barely find it in Coreton. When she saw injustice, she was the thorn that kept persisting, constantly badgering the council to fix holes in the road or to buy Nintendo Wii’s for the elderly. Here, she felt useless and wasted. Marigold was a woman of action and not patience. She’d taken a day off from the hair salon for this. To stand on one spot or sit in the sun but fundamentally to waste time. There were wars being fought and lost, minds to change, she was sure of it.
It was far far too hot. That’s global warming for you. Marigold removed her denim jacket and exposed her pale shoulders to the sun. She laid the jacket on the ground and lay on top of it. Then she contemplated the unnatural fruit she held in her hand.
There was a mystery behind this. She was sure of it. She just need to ask the right question and then the answer would appear magically in front of her. The question really ought to be what possible gain could there be in paying someone to hold an apple for fifty minutes and then pass it on the next stranger. Was there a financial motivation? Presumably not, though it seemed to be what drove people generally. This stank of some greater intellect than greed. Perhaps it was a psychology experiment, maybe somebody was watching from the adjacent hill, the one without the apple tree. Marigold’s skin bristled with the thought of it. Eyes studying her every move intently from afar through a lens. Were they taking photos? Or just taking notes? Who could ever know?
Marigold was getting frustrated, her natural curiosity kindling an angry flame deep within in her. How dare they? How dare they trial her patience? How dare they treat her like a rat? Cage her with rules and boundaries. The thought of cold metal bars began to make her shiver, subconsciously she began to play with her hair, and then as the nervousness persisted she began to bite her nails. She was being silly. There was only one thing she could do, when push came to shove she was herself and if she was being controlled, observed or studied then she could only be Marigold.
With one rapid determined motion she took a bite out of the apple. It was delicious, sweet and gratifying. Never had victory been so juicy.
Marigold looked at her phone. Only ten minutes had passed, the torment felt like it would never end, her precious life was falling away from her with every passing second. Her mind began wondering about more important things, the Middle East, the War on Drugs, the next edition of her favourite Manga. If only the local bookstore would expand the section, she wouldn’t have to keep ordering it every month. I mean she did order it every month, why didn’t they just get one for her when it was published?
“My legs hurt” complained Wee Jim.
“Not much further”
“But I’m so tired” persisted Wee Jim.
“You can see the top now.”
“I’m thirsty” whined Wee Jim.
“You can have some juice when you get to the top”
“I’m not walking anymore.”
Sarah looked at her son sat in protest and sighed, he was the most stubborn child in the whole world of that she had no doubt. She used to love going on walks with her own mother, perhaps it was because he was fat. He did look a bit peaky and he was sweating quite a lot but surely the more he sweated the more weight he would lose and then the other kids would call him Wee Jim, instead of Fat Jim. Big Jim, her Jim, her husband said it was because he was about to go through a growth spurt, that it was just baby fat. He was only seven though and none of the other kids were massive. He just had no interest in the outdoors or anything but first person shooters that were too old for him. Big Jim was a bad influence and very chubby as well.
“Come on I’ll give you a piggy back.”
Sarah felt like she was carrying a small camel through the Sahara. It was that warm and her son was that fat.
When she reached the summit of her Everest, she was panting so hard that the young lady lying in front of her looked considerably concerned. Wee Jim jumped off her and Sarah heard her back crack, it was an unnatural grinding noise.
“I need some juice mommy. That was a long walk.”
“Just one second. Mommy needs to get her breath back.”
Marigold was looking from Wee Jim to Sarah and back to Wee Jim and then to Sarah and so on and so forth; absolutely amazed that this stick thin woman could have carried such a lump of a boy up such a steep hill. She wasn’t going to have children but if she did they would be vegetarians and therefore couldn’t possibly be as ginormous as this round sack of fat.
“What a handsome little boy” chirped Marigold.
“Thank you…” wheezed Sarah “He’s very… high spirited.”
“Mummy juice please!”
“And polite too” observed Marigold.
“Yes well I do believe that a little manners goes a long way. Are you the person with the package?”
“Yes that’s me! Are you here to take over already? Time flies when you’re lost in your own thoughts”
“I’m sorry we’re a bit late.”
“I didn’t notice. I was really enjoying the sun. There’s nothing better than the sun, it’s just so huge and powerful. It’s just awesome. I always think about how far away it is and I still don’t think I really get it. You know?”
“Mommy I want juice now!”
“Okay, okay. I’ll get it now.”
Despite the weather snot was pouring down Wee Jim’s face. Sarah rummaged through her handbag and produced a juice box. She punched the straw through the top, violently and placed it in her son’s pudgy fingers. As Wee Jim guzzled the drink, the green flowing from his nostrils mixed freely with the orange liquid. Marigold thought he was a bit of a tragic creature. So did Sarah. She’d wanted to be a dancer before she got pregnant.
“So apparently we’ve to hold on to this apple until the next person arrives.”
Marigold passed the apple to a very confused and frazzled Sarah. Wee Jim had started to jump on the other apples surrounding the tree. His massive weight crushed the apples, launching apple fragments high into the air and squirting juice all over the two woman. Sarah didn’t have the heart to tell him to stop, any exercise was good exercise.
“There’s a bite out of it”
“Yeah, I think it was the old man who had it before me. I think he was going a bit senile.”
“I’ll be seeing you later.”
Left alone with her destructive mountain of a child and an apple, Sarah watched the young girl depart down the hill. She looked longingly at her and wondered what someone her age thought of her life, so normal, so lacking in inspiration, carrying around that huge weight. What did she think of the girl? Not much, just a pang of jealousy but perhaps she was looking through rose tinted glasses. Her world at that age was a shoe that didn’t quite fit. Then again she wasn’t sure she’d changed that much. She looked at the apple in her hand and realised she’d come up the hill looking for something different, something memorable.
With all the strength she could muster, Sarah flung the apple after the girl and felt disappointed as she watched it land safe and sound, three quarters of the way up. How she hated her mundane life.
“Come on” she said and grabbed her son roughly by the arm. Something inside her changed and from that moment on she headed in a new direction.
Marigold never made the connection between the woman she gossiped about in the salon and the woman under the apple tree.
George found out first, sitting in his favourite red chair. He had just finished reading the sports pages and was about to have a well-deserved nap, when something on the front page caught his eye. The headline read ‘Missing woman, husband and son deeply concerned.’ She’d left a note, it was brief and to the point. She’d had enough. She asked others not to look for her. She was sorry but as far as she was concerned Coreton could fall off the face of the planet. Finally that she wished Big Jim and Wee Jim all the best.
Five years later she’d settled in Shanghai.
‘What is the world coming to?’ thought George.