13 apples

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We bounce on the tips of our toes trying to see over the other heads in the crowd. I can barely see the rope as it sways in the wind keeping the apple in the air. The dark branches of the tree reach out like claws grasping the sky and rattling together. Everyone is waiting, breaths rising in slow curls through the cold night air. Everyone is excited. It’s Halloween and it’s time to play the hanging tree.

Thirteen of us line up on the edge if the clearing right under the ominous branch. Only one of us will get the right one. We start to get edgy, wanting it done and over with. Who will it be?

We are given one last look at the tree branch holding the thirteen strings, only one important. Then thick scarves are tied over our faces and we are made to spin.

I have lost where the branch is. I am scared. What if I lose? I cannot lose. I will not.

I get a heavy push in the back and land on all fours. I hear twelve other bodies land like myself on the hard packed earth. The game of chance is about to begin.

The others start to chant:
“13 apples hanging from a tree,
12 dark red and one bright green
Blindfolded, spun around, and then set free.
Is that green one meant for me?”

It’s eerie, yet exciting to hear my voice mix with the others voices in the rising and falling of the slow rhythmic chant. I can’t get distracted. I waited for the soft thump of apples hitting grass to sound in my ears.

I frantically crawl on my hands and knees, bumping shoulders with the other twelve, in the chaotic search for the apple. I do not know where I am going or who I am hitting. I hope I am headed in the right direction.

The grass is dry and itchy against my palms as I search. I can feel dirt getting into my nails. I speed up. It has to be around here somewhere!

“Please, please” I think “get it.” And that’s when my right hand skims something round and smooth. The stem is stabbing me in the hand but I will not let it from my grasp. I use my hand to yank off the blindfold.

I stare at the bright red apple clutched in my palm. My stomach sinks into the dirt beneath my knees.

No good luck this year.





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