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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Apple orchard

Inspired by recent events, I got the bones for a story. Here it is all fleshed out... sorta.

Oscar detested funerals, but in this case he would make an exception. A faded picture of his brother stood propped up against a plain wooden box. Beside the box, a tall vase full of flowers adorned the table at the altar. Family and friends of the deceased were solemnly filling the pews in this tiny church his brother once attended. Distant cousins with their nephews and nieces. In laws, out laws and friends of the deceased. Oscar felt nothing but contempt for these simple savages. All things considered, Oscar would rather be having a root canal.
I don't want to stay in this hick town any more than I have to, He thought. Don't want any of this loserville on me.
None of these idiots could understand the disdain he felt being here, not one of them. As soon as he was old enough, Oscar left home to become a New York based commodities broker, while his brother remained on the farm, tending those wretched apple trees. There was only one reason he was even here: Harvey left everything to him.
Oscar would do what he did best: liquidate everything and forget this little piss hole town existed. As soon as that deed was in his hand, he'd hop in his SUV and sell the land to developers. In fact, after he'd made inquiries, some associates said they'd be interested in looking at buying. The market was weak at the moment, but perhaps in a few weeks...  



The two brothers couldn't have been more different. Oscar found the comforts of the big city and the jet set suited his taste, while his younger sibling Harvey grew up the stereotypical country bumpkin.
After the service, the obligatory iced tea and sandwich social commenced out in the church foyer. Putting his back to a wall, Oscar nursed his tea and tried his best to not make eye contact with the locals. The inbred little shits, he thought.
A young man with a clip on tie cautiously approached Oscar. 
“Uncle Oscar?” he asked timidly.
Not entirely wanting to acknowledge the teen, Oscar nodded, mentally preparing to have his eyes glaze over while being introduced to all the kin-folk.
“I'm your nephew, Joseph,” he said.
Oh, my God, he thought behind the smile. My brother had a rugrat.
Was this was going to be awkward? He never got along with his family.  Didn't bother to attend any weddings and never exchanged Christmas cards.
“My dad gave me exact instructions about the farm,” Joseph said. “He told me how uncomfortable you'd be and to take care of this real quiet like.”
Trying hard to mask his surprise, Oscar said, “All I know was that I was mentioned in his will.” As a habit, he never revealed his hand to others, let alone a hayseed hick like the boy in front of him.
“Mm-hmm,” Joseph agreed. “He left everything to you, but there's something I'd like to ask. Dad thought you'd be quick to sell it, but if I were to persuade you to let me run the farm, maybe you wouldn't sell it right off.” 
Liquidating Harvey's farm had a certain amount of appeal. Holding on to it simply didn't seem like a money maker. Then again, he might not be able to off load it immediately. Harvey's kid might be good for something after all. The boy could keep things looking neat and presentable for buyers. Yeah, that could work out.
“My pa had one request before I turn the deed over to you,” Joseph said.
“What's that?” Oscar began to feel intrigued.
“He wanted to be buried under his apple orchard.” 
That sounds reasonable, put my hick brother in the ground he wasted his life on. Oscar mused.
“He wanted you to do the honors,” Joseph added.
“Wait,” Oscar shot back. “What are you talking about?”
“I've already dug the hole. Dad picked out the tree,” Joseph said. “All you'd have to do is put his ashes in the ground,” he indicated the wooden carved box on the altar.
Put the box in the ground, collect the deed, high tail it out of here. Was there a down side? Oscar thought.
Kicking up dirt as Joseph's pickup barreled down the country road was bumpier than Oscar remembered. This had to be the redneck trifecta: Two men in their Sunday best, fresh from a funeral. A beat up Dodge racing down the road, Dukes of Hazard style. And all before the farm was sold to the evil lawyer.
In this case Oscar didn't mind playing the bad guy if it meant he'd get out of here sooner. Oscar was going to need more than a shower to get the stupid off of him when he blew this place.
Joseph had been downright somber while at the church. Once behind the wheel however, he became giddy with excitement.
“We're almost there, Uncle Oscar,” he said gleefully.
One hand on the ceiling and the other on the door handle, Oscar could only grimace. If I open my mouth, all the dirt and bugs will fly in.
With a sudden right turn, the Dodge screeched to a halt, sending rocks and dust flying. A rusted John Deere sat nestled under a tree that marked the start of the apple orchard. Oscar stepped out and immediately noticed a hole behind the tractor. 
Shouldn't that hole go straight down? He thought.
Noticing his confusion, Joseph cleared his throat and said, “Pa wanted to be under the tree, so I had to dig the hole at an angle.”
There was something else wrong, but Oscar couldn't put his finger on it. The sun would be setting in an hour or two. He wanted this place in his rear view mirror by then.
With the box containing his brother's ashes, Oscar stepped over to the oversized gopher hole. Tendril-like roots were visible sticking out of the fresh earth. It was impossible to lean over and drop the box in the hole.
“You're going to have to push with your foot in the ground to get the box in there,” Joseph said anxiously.
If doing as his nephew instructed meant getting this over with sooner, Oscar was all for it. Placing the box of ashes at the entrance to the hole, he sank to one knee in order to push the box in with his other leg. I'm going to send my nephew the dry cleaning bill for ruining this suit. 
The roots seemed to object to the presence of a square object being thrust below the tree. Scratching and clawing at Oscar's leg, he knew he was going to need a new suit after this.
“Just a little more and it'll be right under the tree,” Joseph encouraged. 
Summoning the last of his patience, Oscar slammed his foot against the box and felt it break under his heel. He felt a mix of soft dirt and ashes envelop his ankle. Now he'd need new shoes as well.
“Well, that does it,” Oscar said. “Harvey is now under his damned apple tree.”
An evil grin spread across Joseph's face. “And so are you, Uncle.”
Oscar felt a wriggling sensation going up his thigh. Was it a snake? Worms? No, it felt like several snakes surrounding his leg, winding their way past his hip. Pulling with all his might, the sinewy roots held firm. Oscar pushed with his arms in a vain attempt to free himself from this half hole.
“Well, what do you know?” Joseph said. “Paw was right.”
“What do you mean?” Oscar demanded.
“The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree, you being kin and all.”
A ticklish sensation forced Oscar to look down. Roots covered his other leg, he even felt them burrowing into the soft earth, anchoring him to the farm he spent a lifetime trying to escape. Bark began covering his suit, his chest.
“What's going on!” he demanded. “Joseph, help me!” Oscar thrust his hands up to his nephew desperately.
Shaking his head, the hayseed grin was back. “I'd take a look at those hands, if I were you.”
Oscar's fingertips were a shade of green, his outstretched arms turning brown.  Leaf buds sprouted from his head, but Oscar could no longer move his arms to be sure.

In the time it took the sun to turn the sky deep crimson, another tree joined the apple grove.

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