(Courtesy of Hillary / Fine Art America)

Creative Writing

Short story: poison apples, poison worms (and friendship)

Stepping back from the passionate beams shooting from the sun’s beady pupils, I partially shield my stinging eyes, pupils wavering on the wobbling iron ladder, its full height stretched against one of the bouquet of richly populated tree branches out of the thousand duplicates each swaying from a foot away. Here is the vague remembrance…
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/bmjuniorr/" target="_self">Lauren Lee</a>

Lauren Lee

December 19, 2021

Stepping back from the passionate beams shooting from the sun’s beady pupils, I partially shield my stinging eyes, pupils wavering on the wobbling iron ladder, its full height stretched against one of the bouquet of richly populated tree branches out of the thousand duplicates each swaying from a foot away. Here is the vague remembrance of shining childhood intertwined with the slim needle of trust and safety with loved ones. Here, although somewhat unfitting, is the flickering hologram of past but scarring years shadowing over middle school and the beginning years of high school, merely a projection onto a past setting, but appropriate.

I can see the sky of pleasant blue-tinged hues polka-dotted with white sheep hairs peeking from the geometric shapes of layered branches brown and rich and alive with green lined wings. The families of trees waved their branches and fluttered their pom poms, enriching the soul and air with the sharp but pleasant tang of ripe fiery apples touched by the golden droplets of the sun.

An apple gently swung in the soothing breeze, catching the golden god’s rays ever so often; it swiftly inches enough times to the left so that a brash slant of light slammed my eyes shut, seemingly boldly and unreservedly casting “pick me” signs to passing beaten-down farmers, gluttonous customers, and starving gray catbirds. I observe the fruity warmth and silky juices of the apple as a crunch resounds in my eardrums. Fuzzier than sun dust, furry mahogany butterflies dart between trees, gifts of sticky glistening dew droplets. The sun softly lifts itself from its underground bunker in the roughly tousled hills, stretching a drape of glowing bulbs from corner to corner. Day has come. 

It was easy — too easy to blissfully ignore the signs of toxicity and foreboding destruction. I wished to live in comfort. I earnestly fancied the notion of living through high school with a ruined apple stinking the putrid air that thickly permeated my aching brain and hollow stomach.

On that day of recognition and resignation from a friendship not worthy of investment, I had begun to see the sky blackening into a shadow of the night sky, the sun too blurry to tell apart from article lights beating down the outstretched leaves from shivering arms, too weary to hold them up any longer.

Underneath are skeleton limbs crooked and jagged in its beauty and orientation, the green and brown, the calling cards of Nature herself, leaking into the pitch black sky. On the silver sticks are light gray italicized words: “mother not mudder, ohmygosh not ohmygaawsh, permanent not permanent or peppermint” (in a Korean accent). On the silver sticks, the light lettering seems to slip into the body of the silver metal trees in a flash and a glare, and slip back in unnoticed out of their own accord.

In the cemetery of poison,  my eyes unwittingly caught the sheen of the apples, which jabbed through my eye to my ear, leaving a ringing whistle in my toes. Crunching into mush and wet slime, I spat the half-chewed dark worms onto the sticks and bones littering the pathway, mourning the brutal death of their comrades. The dew droplets hatch into a fluttering dust storm of tiny codling moths, frantic in its pursuit of infecting more hapless victims. In barely a wink, the sun leaves no souvenirs or warning as it drops between the foggy outline between the blanched mountains and the stone cold trees.

A tiny clearing opened between the shadows upon shadows of soft green diamonds hanging onto their last thread of life until the wind knocked them down. I clung to a thin trunk, innocent and naive. Shaking on the ladder, my throat closed at the icicles of teary sweat when she prodded me down, down, down into a tiger trap of gory hearts beating with arteries clawed into shredded filaments of pink yarn; all without a physical touch, but with the vibrating echoes of a million sirens, skeletal in their construction but effective in its inevitable hurt.  

It is my fortune, luck, blessing, that I was already secured with the inflammable planks of loving and trustworthy family members’ advice that dated back to 7th grade. What drastically advanced my sluggish progress was a holy catalyst. In the unassuming wide high school department room, a phrase from a sermon drifted by in the still air of a church and latched onto me. One less than half a decade saw myself slowly, unwavering, thoroughly drag the discarded bin of dusty maggot-filled apples half-bitten into the faint streams of glorious sunshine.

Like the dirty soiled water sucked down between the teeth of a stained drainage grate, any desire to pursue my “friendship” with her was guzzled from oblivion. There was as much incentive to force a frail friendship’s survival as one may consider drinking in the juices of a poison apple after a crunchy morsel that revealed veins of throbbing green and embedded flakes of mold circling the core. What does the glistening taut flesh of a freshly picked infected apple mean to a farmer but rotting brown dung on the inside, stinking of failure?

Consider also the crisp firmness of the fruit- what would that do for the fruit if bruises and pinpoints of colonies of fungi trace the curved surface in the patterns of the starry sky? Does the consumer’s saliva-drenched gaping pit of oval-shaped white pebbles and dreary red muscle, take squirming coddling moth larvae burrowing into the hills on the opposite into consideration? In its bleakest truth, does the mouth not suffer more from its foolish and futile persistence in devouring the red fruit further than tossing it away for an alternative?

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