Golden Apple

Helen hated fruit. You had to wash it and peel it, and check it wasn’t mushy or spoiled, and even then, it was full of pips and junky bits, and maybe worms. You couldn’t just open and eat it like you could with chocolate or a bag of chips. And the taste wasn’t always the same. You could have an orange that was sweet and juicy, and the next one would be hard and sour. If it wanted to get eaten, it should be the same each time, then you knew what you were getting. Fruit was stupid.

However, fruit could not be avoided. Her mother often let it slide, but after conversations with her healthy friend Shannon – went on a fruit frenzy, and this was one of those times. Helen had been told to get some fruit. “Ten-a-day they say, sweetness.”

“That includes veggies too though, mom.”

“Ok, how many fruit and veggies have you had today?”

“I’ve had tomato ketchup and onion rings. That’s two. And potato chips. Three. There were berries in my ice cream. Four. Sprite has limes and lemons. So six so far.”

“I’m not sure all of those count, sugar. I’m afraid my order still stands. Go and buy some fruit.”

Helen biked down to the store – that was healthy! – and went inside. Why do they put all the fresh stuff near the entrance? Then you can’t say you didn’t see it. She began to browse.

Fresh fruit definitely looked good – all those colours: red, yellow, green, purple, orange; and those shapes – long, shiny, round, lumpy, and prickly; but it was those very things that disguised its dark side – the mushiness, spoilage, pips, junky bits, and worms. She looked at their labels. They came from all kinds of places: California, Florida, and Mexico, and further afield: Brazil, Iraq, and New Zealand. She imagined people in those countries sitting in the sunshine with rolls of stickers , putting one on each fruit.

In the corner was a display of golden apples, whose scent intensified as she approached. More like melons than apples, they drew you in. She picked one up. It’s label said, “Do Not Eat”. WTF! What was that supposed to mean?

The new Produce Manager was misting the greens. Helen called him over.

“These apples are the most real thing in the store,” he said with a faint accent. “They are grown in the Valley, in a hundred-year-old orchard, by refugees from Russia. I know them well. They use an ancient way of farming, unchanged for two-thousand years, called Deo-Dynamik. Deo means God, and Dynamik means Alive. They say that they bring forth divine spirit.”

This was way more information than Helen wanted. “But why do they say ‘Do Not Eat’?”

“Each fruit is completely different. Look.” One small and pale yellow, another was large and almost orange, and a third was misshapen like a potato. “People are used to fruits looking alike. But none of these golden apples have the same appearance. And their tastes are even more unpredictable. Their appearance is a warning to everyday shoppers – you may get more than you bargained for.”

“If they are so special, then why aren’t they more expensive?” said Helen. These apples were cheaper than chocolates and chips.

“They cost more to grow, but they are not transported thousands of miles, so the price works out about the same. Look, why don’t you try a golden apple? A free sample. Pick one.”

Helen pointed to the small, pale yellow one. The Produce Manger polished it on his apron and handed it to her. Up close its scent was like her dead grandma’s dizzying perfume, and its skin was sagging, like that on her shrunken skull before burial. She had a moment of revulsion, but her action was already in progress, and ended in a crunchy bite. It sent juice down her chin.

As Helen’s teeth sank into the apple, the apple seemed to bite her back. Her teeth closed upon it, but the apple enclosed her too. She was captured by the life within it. What had the Manager said – Deo-Dynamik? She remembered her mom’s friend Shannon saying that, “Those Russian scientists are clever.” Maybe their farmers too.

Helen felt that she had been given this apple because she was the most beautiful girl in the world. There would be a fight about it, for sure. Other girls would object and create discord. It may even lead to a great war. But she had been led to the apple, and the apple to her. Her beauty was hers, as theirs’ was theirs’. She was its rightful owner.

Helen changed her mind about fruit instantly. This apple would bring her everlasting youth and health. She would retain her natural glow forever, infused with earth magic. If one day she were captured by a liar and deceiver, the earth magic would protect her, and surely force her release.

Within the apple seed, Helen saw mighty trees of the future. The branches of each were heavy with glowing fruits. Each apple ripened in sunshine, and was washed by rain; it was caressed by winds, and sent to earth by thunder. People would try to own these seeds, to change them, to fill them with death. But many would swear to protect these seeds forever.    Helen realized that this apple contained all the world. Its roundness was wholeness. Its shine was illumination. Its body was flesh. Its seed were immortality. By tasting this fruit, she had known this world. She was this world.

Helen’s arm was hurting. Really hurting. She realized it had been twisted around her back. Someone was talking harshly. What was happening?

“Eating our apples without paying, eh? Well, let’s see if you try that again. Bloody kids always stealing fruit. Some excuse or another.” The person put on a series of silly voices. First, high-pitched: “I wanted to be healthy”; then whining: “I was seeing if it was sweet”; then chirping: “I was testing its ripeness”. He returned to his normal, harsh voice. “Bah! Fruit is standardized these days. It’s all the same. It’s all ripe and good for you. Now get out of here, kid. And don’t come back for a month – you’re banned!”

Helen was marched out of the store, quite confused. If this was the Produce Manager, she wondered, then who was the other guy? She never got the chance to find out. He had taken off his apron and badge and slipped out earlier. He had to tend his hundred-year-old orchard, as his people had done in Russia for two-thousand years before coming here.

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