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A Call From Nature

By Chris Wood

The apple tree called to me on a warm summer eve. Heavy and dark red were the apples, and full in green was the tree. The sky, dark in the east boasted stars twinkling and a moon growing. But in the west, the last clouds of the day were still reflecting the sun’s final light, coloring that half with fantastic shades of purple, pink and orange. It was as if the day was fighting to remain.

I pulled a fat apple from a dangling branch above my head, breathed on its skin, wiped it on my shirt and sank my teeth in. It made a snap as I bit and the sugary sweet smell was released. I could hear children playing off in the distance. Their screams of joy made me think back to my childhood. My two younger brothers, my older sister and I would spend hours playing in this yard. Climbing up the tree and swinging from its broad branches were but a few games the apple tree offered. My sister could hang upside down from a limb, like a monkey, then flip her legs off and manage to twist around, landing on her feet. She called it a, “penny drop.”

I returned to the present, smelling a steak grilling on a barbeque in the distance. The breeze must have carried the smell all the way from the Hammond’s who live nearly a block away. I ran my hand along the rough bark of the tree and looked at some of the things carved in the tree’s base. Initials of RS and TS were engraved with a heart. That was the handy work of the previous family who lived here nearly two score ago. I only heard stories from neighbors about them, but they were described as a loving elderly couple that was never able to have children. However, they welcomed the neighborhood kids to run and play in their yard. They viewed them from their picture window. Hand in hand, watery eyes behind thick-rimmed glasses, they pretended the whole lot of them was their own. But they would never interfere with their playing.

Rhoda would wait until around two in the afternoon then retire to the kitchen to make two huge pitchers of iced tea and lemonade. Teddy would stroll over to the side door and peer through the screen. He twiddled his thumbs for a few minutes, and then too went in the kitchen. Rhoda handed Teddy a pitcher and took one herself, tucking a handful of paper cups into her apron. They walked out onto their patio and stopped at the picnic table. Teddy placed his pitcher down then took the one his wife was carrying. Rhoda removed the cups from her apron and placed them on the table. She would then squeeze Teddy’s arm with both her hands. Teddy would place his free arm on his wife’s shoulder and gently rub and pat it. After a few minutes they would return to the house and sit in their living room. The children would know that the refreshments were for them. Hot and sweaty from the summer sun, they would run to the icy cold pitchers and cool down.

“Sanderson,” I thought to myself. That was their last name.

The darkness had won over the day, once again, and I stood with stars and a slightly less than full moon above me, covering the night. I looked on the ground and found a rock with a sharp edge. I got close to the trunk of the tree and crudely chiseled in my wife’s and my initials just below the Sanderson’s. We had come from the doctor’s office earlier in the day and I decided that a visit to my parent’s house might help us cope with the news. I thought of the box my mom kept for me in the attic with all my valued childhood possessions: A little league mitt, an old football trophy, baseball card collection, a jar with six pennies -- each one with the year of one member of my immediate family’s birth, and a microscope kit.

I finished the heart around the newly carved initials and cleaned the remaining bark from the inscription with my hand. I tossed the rock to the side, took a deep breath and turned back to my parent’s house. I looked through the picture window and saw my father, mother and wife gabbing away over coffee. They were laughing and I felt better despite the news the doctor gave us today. I could still hear children off in the background playing. Probably catching fireflies in a jar while their parents played dice or gin on a nearby neighborhood patio.

“I’ll bet my wife makes some of the best lemonade and iced tea around,” I thought.

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