I went out back and found my father standing under the apple tree. He at least had the decency to look embarrassed.
You trying to sell me to the devil again? I asked.
He tricked me. He always tricks me, my father said.
We both knew a person might get tricked once, maybe twice, but after that, well, motivations are laid bare. A cold wind blew and an apple the size of my fist fell into the grass. It made a quiet sound, but it was unmistakable, and I know we both heard it.
It doesn’t look like he’s coming, my father said. You always get out of it anyway. Bitterness nearly overwhelmed the pride in his voice, but it was there. The devil had never gotten me, but not because of my father. Only me. Even when I had to protect myself with my own tears. Truth be told, I was tired. Tired of the chalk circles, the cutting of hands, fighting to stay somewhere I knew I wasn’t wanted. Tired of watching my father stand in the shade of the apple tree, looking hopeful.
Wait here, I said. I want you to see this.
I pulled a chainsaw out of the garage. My father’s eyes went wide when he saw what I intended, but gone were the days where he could prevent me from doing anything against my will. Perhaps that was why he had tried to make the deal again, after so long; a final sad attempt to exert his own dwindling power.
I nearly sawed all the way through the trunk of the apple tree, but the metal teeth stuck and the chainsaw whined and smoked in my hands until I let it go, leaving it lodged in the tree. I kicked at the tree until it splintered but it did not fall. It would continue to stand but I had damaged it enough that it would die eventually, becoming a skeleton of what it had been, chainsaw slowly rusting, no leaves, no fruit, only waiting for a robust wind to come along and snap it in half. Soon enough the gust wouldn’t even need to be that strong. My father smiled triumphantly, not realizing the damage had already been done.
I went inside and grabbed my things.
But where will you go? my father asked. The vitriol had drained from his voice, and though his smile lingered, we both knew it wasn’t a joke, hadn’t been for a long time. When I didn’t answer he stooped and picked up the fallen apple, tried to give it to me.
I looked at his little house, his dying tree, at all that I had known. I left the apple in his hand; it would be of no use to me where I was going. I made my way toward a grove of pears I had heard of, knowing he might wait for me for a long time, but he would never follow.
Evan James Sheldon
Evan James Sheldon is a Senior Editor for F(r)iction and the Editorial Director for Brink Literacy Project. You can find him online at www.evanjamessheldon.com.
Artwork: Winslow Homer, The Woodcutter, 1891.