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••• The International Writers Magazine -

The Rotten Apple Wars
• Jessica Davis
The Consequences of Gravity

falling apples

My grandfather was a tree hugger. Not literally, but he loved everything about nature, particularly apple trees. He always wanted to know more about them, like the best soil to plant them in, what the best moisture levels were for them, which season was best for different varieties, how to take care of them when they’re sick, and, of course, how to plant more of them. When he and my grandmother built their house, the first thing they did was plant an apple tree. Eventually, they planted a whole orchard in the backyard.  And because there were so many different trees, everyone could have a favorite.

As my grandfather aged, he stopped learning about them and started learning what he could do to them–how he could change them at the biological level. One of his best projects–and my most beloved tree–became the one he grafted together in the front yard to grow two different kinds of apples. Taking two saplings, he cut them near the trunk, and bound the cut halves together to grow as one tree. He claimed he was a doctor completing an open tree-heart transplant.

Under the Apple Tree As the tree grew, half of it sprouted Granny Smiths, and the other Red Delicious. Every year in the late summer, the tree would blossom with these shiny, round, appley ornaments. The looming red and green specimens brought on an early Christmas feel, gleaming in the dry September heat. And because the tree thrived near the driveway, the apples that weren’t picked around late November would plummet, unexpectedly. I had to dodge them whenever I wanted shade.

By the time they fell, they were always mushy and brown and misshapen, so it wasn’t even like I could devour them out of spite when they splattered on me. My only retaliation would be to sullenly slink away from the crime scene.

Battling this tree was like fighting a losing war, where I knew I needed to get out of the sun, but the enemy would always win with its moldy, overripe weapons. I was reliving the Wizard of Oz or Lord of the Rings scene where the trees’ uprooted themselves and fought to take nature back.

In hindsight, I liked playing roadkill with the tree. I wasn’t the only one in battle, either. Everyone who came over had to fight the Rotten Apple War, especially the people who didn’t know they were mid-battle and parked underneath the tree. Cracked windows. Dents in the hood. Gooey slime caked on. Those cars took some serious beatings.

Now, both of my grandparents are gone. And so is the tree. A new family lives in the house, with their little baby and freshly renovated kitchen. One of the conditions they had prior to buying the house was to have ‘that rotten apple tree taken out of the driveway.’ They said the tree was a hazard. They didn’t want it to fall on their house. They didn’t want apples to tumble down on them and their baby. They didn’t want to fight in the Rotten Apple War. Personally, I had solutions to all their problems, just enlist in the war, but I get it, no one wants to put dents in their car or their baby’s head. But that tree and those apples grew character. Those apples were consistent. Those apples had been there longer than that child had even been alive. Those apples belonged in that driveway. Those apples were grown with the nurture and care of an old man doing what he loved with his family. Dodging those soft, poorly launched missiles was the key to staying light on my feet.

And that tree granted shade, cover, protection, snacks–and most importantly, consistency.
Consistency is surprisingly hard to find as the years have gone by. Not even the apple tree or my grandparent’s house has remained consistent. When I was younger, lounging in the shade of my favorite tree with the ever-present impending doom of having the wind knocked out of me by a rotten apple, I never considered I would be without it. Now that I’m grown and about to graduate from college, I can’t help but wonder what my life would look like if that consistency was still here. Would I be as anxious as I am now?
The Orchard

Would some type of consistency even serve me at this point? Everything is about to change again after graduation in May, so what’s the use in searching for it now? When I was picking an apple, that was an easy choice–did I want a red or a green one?–but now I’m adjusting to a life of uncertainties and confusion. Instead of dodging falling apples I’m dodging essay deadlines and shifts at work.

Sometimes I catch myself acting like that young family with the baby, always worried about a rotten tree and treating things that should be considered a lovely addition to life as a threat. The only difference between me and that family is that instead of dealing with literal rotten apples, my metaphorical rotten apples are my career, my social life, and an imminent graduation ceremony. Except they shouldn’t be rotten. Those aspects of my life should be the juicy blossoms of an early September harvest, not the late November rot. Unlike my beloved childhood tree, I’ve reminded myself that I am nowhere near close to being cut down and forgotten.
© Jessica Davis 2.23.24
Graduating College of Charleston - May 2024
English writing, rhetoric, and publication

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