Conversation with an Apple

William Loader

I was doing the Saturday morning shopping in the local supermarket, had just entered the aisles where the fruit is displayed and was standing before the Gala apples. As I looked, I noticed a group in the middle which had a similar shape. I addressed them quietly, hoping no one would hear. ‘Do you all belong together,’ I said. ‘You all have the same shape. Might you have grown on the same tree?’

At first there was no reaction. They just looked back at me with their blushed dimples, perhaps not used to conversation of this kind. Then one whispered back. ‘Yes and no. We come from the same region, but I have lost all of my friends.’

At this point I sensed the sadness. It continued: ‘I used to enjoy our branch,’ it said. ‘There were seven of us close together and others nearby. We were high aloft in the wind, close to the sun when it appeared, and near the clouds. I enjoyed the fresh breeze, the busy life of bees and ants, an even the birds, if they kept their distance, and especially if they didn’t sit immediately above us - you know what I mean!

‘But then we were taken, plucked into uncertainty. At first I thought it was an adventure. I could see my friends, not far away. We were washed and bathed and put all together in one big vat. By this time I was mixed in with strangers. Already then some of my companions had disappeared from sight. The process went on. They began to sort us out; big John, the largest of us all, was taken into a different group with lots of other big ones. And the two little ones who had grown next to me went in a similar way. Some were wrapped in soft blue paper to be sent far away. Others were put into plastic bags with only small holes for breathing. I found myself with lots of others just like myself. We were tumbled about, so many that at most I could see only distant relatives and most of them even disappeared. It was very lonely. I longed for the company of the branch.’

By this time I was beginning to wonder at this talkative apple. The story was strangely familiar. My shopping trolley was impatient and began to nudge threateningly against my foot. But the apple continued:

‘I was afraid. I was terribly afraid. John had told me about those other fruit. He could see them from high up. Not far from us were pears. They, said John, once used to be part of us. Their ancestors tried to escape and nearly succeeded. You can see it in their bell shape; they were held. They are not true apples. And there are many other strange fruits, some with thick skins; some that don’t last; some that would make you smell or would scratch. I would hate to be put in with them. And here we are all the same, all together. At least they keep those others away.’

At this point the trolley jumped and I bit my tongue. Pears are pears, not apples. The naive prejudice was enough to send me on my way, but the conversation continued:

‘But what will become of us? I dread the thought of going all powdery inside, of my skin becoming greasy and then wrinkling. I most of all fear the bad parts that start as little spots and go dark brown and spread till all that is left is mush. It can happen to any of us and then it spreads and if it’s not checked everyone starts to go brown. I want to remain crisp, fresh.’

By this time, I was oblivious to those who brushed past me. I was listening. It was a challenge. I was being invited to be host, to be a home to an apple, to let it be with me, to be part of me. I looked intently at its slightly blushed face, stretched out and took the apple into my hand. There was no greasiness. When I pressed with my fingers there was no indentation. Crisp and fresh and ready. I gently placed it in my linen cloth bag, taking care not to bruise it. It called to me to take some its friends, as many as I could; so I filled the bag.

It troubled me that all this apple wanted was to be found and tasted in its full freshness, at its best. Part of me wanted to preserve it, to keep it for memory’s sake. But it was only an apple and with typical apple prejudice. How could it make sense to want to be there for someone else like that? But then I thought of its fear of the powdering and the badness. I was half wondering whether to ring an expert about preservation, just to see if there might not be a way in this world of wondrous science and technology to preserve the apple forever. I could put it up there next to the rock samples in the lounge. But it squeezed out a reply from deep in the bag:

‘Please don’t preserve me. That is worse than death. I never asked to live forever. Apples are not meant for that. My joy is the moment of knowing that I have brought taste and freshness.’

Death had never quite struck me that way before, or life. Still I couldn’t help myself. When the day came that I received such generosity, I took the seeds and found a special place for them in the garden. Silly, really, because there is no shortage of apple trees. Perhaps I was really planting something in myself.