A Morning in the Orchard

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
September/October 2006

William Gwaltney

I’m lying on my back in my grandfather’s orchard, staring up at the branches above me. It is one of the last days of summer. Already the days are shorter and the nights are cooler. Some kinds of apples are already ripe. Others will be ready to pick soon. I think of my grandmother’s apple pie, and how I used to make it with her. She died last year, before the apple harvest, and I have not had her pie since. I really miss her.

I hear bees busily humming about, visiting the late summer flowers. Fall is quickly approaching, and the bees move from flower to flower, collecting pollen to make the sweet honey that they will dream about all winter. They are landing so softly on flowers that it barely makes the flowers dance. The gentle hum of their wings nearly lulls me to sleep.

The sky is as blue as my grandfather’s eyes. Above me, big white clouds race across the sky like pieces of cotton blowing in the wind. I look for pictures in the clouds. One looks like a dog chasing after a ball. Another looks like a frog jumping off of a lily pad. School starts in another week, and time seems to have slowed down.

I hear the branches moving in the closest tree. I look up and see a squirrel, flicking his bushy tail, his eyes happily laughing at me. I don’t know what he finds so funny. And then I see it, the perfect apple! Big, ripe, and juicy, it hangs far above my head.

A Morning in the Orchard reaching for an apple

I scramble up the last few feet, and grab the shiny apple in my hands

I scrape my hands on the rough bark of the trunk as I struggle to reach the lowest branch on the tree. I let go of the trunk and leap for the branch, an adrenaline rush temporarily conquering my fear of heights. I catch it in my hands and hang from it, slowly swinging, surprised that I have made it this far without falling. Slowly, painstakingly, I pull myself up onto the branch. Standing on the thickest part of it, closest to the tree, I look up.

The apple is still far above me. I continue climbing higher, using the same tactic for every large branch that I meet. The smaller branches get in my way, scratching my face and tangling my long, black hair. I pass many beautiful apples, dripping with dew and warmed by the sun, but none are the perfect apple I am after. I scramble up the last few feet, and grab the shiny apple in my hands. My mouth begins to water. I can almost taste the apple, sweet and yet tart at the same time. Crisp… juicy… with a nice big… hole? A hole?! Now I know what the squirrel was laughing at. Over in the next tree, he chatters again. I throw the apple at him. Of course I miss. His eyes still smiling, he runs away, jumping from tree to tree across the orchard until I lose sight of him.

“Sophie!” calls my grandfather. “Is that you?” I scamper down the tree, take his hand, and tell him all about my day as we walk through the orchard. We talk about apples, and squirrels, and Grandma. He tells me that he misses her too.

A Morning in the Orchard apple pie

He puts his rough, brown farmer’s hand around my shoulder and pulls me close. “You know, Sophie,” he says, “I spent the morning in the attic, and you’ll never guess what I found. It’s the recipe for Grandma’s apple pie. I used to help her make it sometimes. I can’t do it all alone, but you used to help her too. Maybe between the two of us, we can figure it out. Wanna try?”

“But it won’t be the same without Grandma,” I tell him.

“That’s true,” he says, “but nothing is the same without Grandma. Still, I don’t think that she would want us to never have another apple pie. What do you say?” I nod yes, and we walk towards home… towards an afternoon in the farmhouse kitchen, making Grandma’s famous apple pie.

A Morning in the Orchard William Gwaltney

William Gwaltney, 10
Englewood, Colorado

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