Tales from the Lemonade Porch: The Golden Apple
If you’ve been following along with my posts for National Poetry Month, you’ll have recently learned that I’m not the only writer in the family. Sable and I have long wanted to collaborate on a project together, but couldn’t find the common ground until we were sharing a drink on our porch late one night last week.
Alternating every four sentences, we took turns writing the same story. One of us starts with four sentences beginning any story they would like. From there, the other one of us has to continue the story, adding whatever they like, as long as it doesn’t contradict what comes before. Same person can’t start and end the story. This really was just a writing exercise but I like the story so much, I decided we’ll post it, and any future installments we do.
Your job, other than reading, is to guess which of us you think wrote which parts. The start will always be italicized, and the second writer will be in normal font to make it easier to see the difference. Thank you and get ready to place your bets..
The Golden Apple
There was something mysterious about the tree that was isolated in what was once an orchid filled with life and vegetation. It lay there now, abandoned and alone, and yet more alive than anything in its surroundings. The orchid had been suddenly abandoned many years ago and no one seemed to know why. Other than that one tree, nothing grew, and nothing seemed to visit either, aside from some lost travelers or curious kids.
On this tree, deep into summer, grows leaves of all sizes, flush in a deep green. This natural canopy provides shade for the few that venture deep enough into the dead orchid. Little is known about the orchid, less still about this solitary tree, but a rumor persists of a golden apple, some see while basking in the tree’s protection. Those adventurous enough to climb the twisted and gnarled limbs of wood in search of the golden apple return empty handed. The darker rumor is some don’t return at all when climbing in pursuit of the golden apple.
Two lovers lay underneath the tree one hot summer night. This was where they would meet when their parents thought they were out studying. She was a few years younger than her now legal boyfriend, and because her mother disapproved of the relationship, this was the only thing that Layla continuously lied to her parents about.
With CJ going away to college come the fall, the two spend as much time together before the leaves of “their” tree begins to turn colors. Layla studies his face, trying to commit every curve and perfect blemish of the man she adores. Although the feelings are mutual, CJ has been tempted by another, “Do you see that thing, like a bright apple?”
Layla pries her eyes away from his and instead follows his gaze, “I think so.”
“Legend says many have tried to pick that apple and few have returned.” CJ says
”Yeah,” Layla says, “like Mrs. Wilkes cat that some say you can still hear when very quiet.” She rolls her eyes clearly not believing in any of these stories. Layla was the more rational of the two, but that’s not to say there weren’t some instances where she’d feel a little uneasy under that tree, although she’d never tell CJ that.
Embracing his girlfriend’s skepticism, CJ jokes, “Like Mrs. Wilkes would ever be able to tell if any one of her hundred cats went missing.” The lovers share a laugh, followed by heavy kissing that is bound to lead to more until CJ pulls away, “But still, you don’t see it?”
Humoring him, Layla concentrates on the tree, searching through the fluttering leaves, until she sees what he’s pointing at. “Babe, that’s just the sun shining through.”
CJ looks back at the tree then at Layla with a puzzled look on his face. “What sun?” says CJ, and he turns back at the tree and then up at the sky. “Layla, it looks like rain. Where do you see the sun?”
“Stop being silly CJ, this isn’t fun anymore.” She says as she looks him in the eye, and there, in the reflection from his pupils she sees it: the golden apple. It takes all her strength to not turn her head, but eventually curiosity wins out. Looking back at what she thought to be the sun, “Oh my god, you’re right.”
Typically, CJ derives a perverse pleasure every time she says that, but the fear in her voice fives him pause now. “You’re not fucking with me, are you?” he asks, suddenly hoping she is.
Layla goes quiet and doesn’t move or say anything for what feels like an eternity for CJ, until he finally breaks the silence, “Layla, say something.” He says in a higher pitched voice.
“Shhh,” Layla turns her head, and slowly spins around as though she’s following something. “Do you hear it?” she says ever so softly, “I hear... a cat.”
Now CJ is convinced his girlfriend is pulling his leg, so he plays along. He pretends to listen to nothing, until he hears it too, the distinct cry of a cat pleading for help. Not sur what Layla will want to do, he offers to take her home.
“No, you have to save it!” She begs frantically, pointing up the tree.
“Layla, I don’t even see the cat, how can I save it?” he says as he looks in her eyes which he notices are beginning to fill with tears.
“We have to save him,” She says more frantically, “He must be trapped and hanging and scared, we can’t leave him.”
She was always the type who tried to help animals, even as a young girl. CJ swore she’d do something stupid someday trying to save an animal that he feared would cost her, her life.
To prevent that from happening today, CJ sets out to climb the tree, “Stay here and say something if you see it.” He knows she’d never actually try to climb after him, but he wanted to sound like he had a plan. Two, three, four branches up, and he’s climbed higher than he expected, his girlfriend and the hard, unforgiving ground seem impossibly far below him. To his ears the sounds of the mewling feline grow distant, but the elusive golden apple draws ever closer.
“CJ” Layla calls, “you’ve gone too far up, head back.”
“I’ll be down soon,” he yells back, “I think I see something.” He climbs further up and can see the apple, a lot more clearly now. “Just a few more branches.” he says to himself, as he climbs further. “I see it!” he yells down to Layla, but at this point he can’t see the ground, “the golden apple” as he reaches out to grab it.
Within his reach, yet incredibly far, CJ struggles deeper and deeper into the tree. The leaves and branches that provided comfort on the ground, wrap around him, becoming a net he can’t escape. “Layla!?” he calls futilely to his lover he’ll never see again. Inches away, and forever out of his grasp, CJ becomes nothing more than a myth for Layla to spread.
There you have it, our first writing experiment, The Golden Apple. It was a fun project for us, and certainly plan on revisiting this type of collaboration soon. Remember to keep reading and enjoy life.