BY DAVID HENSON
Copyright is held by the author.
“YOU TOOK the last one?” My wife’s comment is more of a jab than a question.
“I’ll go get more.” There’s something about this new apple. Gotta have it.
At Randall’s, I find a hand-written sign. One per customer. I heft the bushel basket into my cart.
A produce clerk charges toward me. “Hey, one per customer.”
“I’ve got only one.”
“Not one bushel basket, wise guy.” He strains the bounty from my cart, puts it back on the shelf and hands me one of the new apples. He picks up another and fumbles it to the floor. “Uh oh. Better take this to the back and clean it.” He turns away. I’m pretty sure I hear a crunch. My mouth waters.
“You shouldn’t have let him push you around,” Irma says as we stare at the single apple I bring home.
“The cashier said they’re getting a shipment in tomorrow. I’ll stop by on my way to work.”
I arrive at Randall’s shortly before they open. The lot is full, so I double-park on the street and join the crowd. After a moment, the doors slide, and the mob lurches forward. It’s all I can do to not be knocked down.
On my way from the store to the office, I call Irma and tell her my shopping was fruitless. “There were too many people ahead of me. Plus, I think the produce guy is poaching some for himself.”
“The produce guy? Leave it to me.”
Anxious to learn what Irma has done, I take the afternoon off. When I get home, I find my wife working in the flower garden. It’s her pride and joy, especially the floribunda. Irma takes my hand and leads me into the kitchen. Five of the new apples perch like cardinals on the counter.
“Wonderful! How did you manage —”
“The produce guy and I made a deal.” Irma opens her mouth and bobs her head.
I can’t believe she’d do such a thing. “That’s fantastic, Honey.”
As I’m gobbling my second core, Irma puts her hand to my mouth. “Spit.” I do as she asks.
Irma drags a finger through the chewed mass in her palm and holds up three seeds.
“Wait here,” I say. “I’ll go find the perfect spot.”
After about an hour, Irma joins me in the flower garden. “Fred, what’s taking so long?” She sees the heap of rose bushes I’ve dug up. “What have you done?”
“Sorry, Irma, but the floribunda were in the best spot for the apple tree. They had to go.”
My wife looks around the garden. I fear she might be searching for the spade so she can bash me. “I think you’re right,” she says.
Over the next several weeks, stocks of the new apple hit the stores in spasms resulting in protests and a few riots. But between Irma’s arrangement with the clerk at Randall’s and my going to any grocery store within a 100-mile radius whenever a fresh shipment is rumored, we get by. There’s a blip when the Randall’s produce guy is replaced by a woman, but Irma soldiers on.
On day, I get home from job-hunting, having been sacked for missing too much time camping in line like a Stones fan desperate for tickets.
Irma is glowing. “We’ve given birth.” Sure enough, there’s a sprout where we planted the seeds. We jump up and down like children, but our celebration is short-lived. When clouds part from the sun, the shoot remains in deep shadow.
“It’s that damn tree.” I jerk my head toward the oak. The botanical society estimates it’s 100 years old.
Irma heads for the garage and marches back yanking the chain saw to life.
My wife shoves the roar against the oak, and sawdust blizzards around us. After a few minutes, the oak groans, makes a loud cracking sound and falls. Fortunately, it misses the house. Unfortunately, it crushes the garage, which is where I keep the mint condition 1954 Corvette I inherited from my grandpa.
“Sorry about that, chief,” Irma says.
“The price we pay.”
We go inside and turn on the television just in time to catch the breaking news: a new and even better apple will hit store shelves any day. Irma and I return to the garden.
“Be my guest,” I say.
Irma steps on the sprout and twists her foot as if stamping out a discarded cigarette.
I search area stores online for any announcements about the new apple. It takes forever for the websites to load. Damn phone. I can’t wait for the upgraded model to come out.
David Henson and his wife have lived in Brussels and Hong Kong and now reside in Illinois. His work has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes, Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions and has appeared in various journals including Commuter Lit, Moonpark Review, Literally Stories, and Fiction on the Web. Find him on Twitter at @annalou8.