The Bittersweet Nostalgia of Apples
Author's note: I'm not done with this story and am currently in the middle of another one, I'm still in the... Show full author's note »
The ReunionCameron, Cameron Julier was her name. The name of the girl who had jumped in front of the train that cold summer night. Theories came and went, but only one peculiar odd person knew why. Why Cameron Julier would step in front of that train, that individual who knew was Tate, Tate Sykergol. So here, our story will now begin…the story of that winter, that spring, and that summer…
One: The Reunion
It was cold in the depths of that winter, a night that was deadly with its cold hisses and wisps of bitter wind. On that night, sat a boy. He was 14 and did not have a current home.
One would think that he had been bad and been temporarily kicked out of his home, but that was not the case, for this boy at least. This boy was Tate Sykergol, Tate had been once told by a woman passing by that his life was simply his own, and that in his game of life, he was the one who controlled it. She had then told him to control it wisely and to not let his life fall into the hands of any other. Since then, when he was 11, he had solely lived off of that saying. Although he could have lived in an orphanage, Tate thought that orphanages were for weaklings who couldn’t make it on their own. Although it was 1942, and living was difficult for a 14 year old individual, Tate was strong, and always found a way to get by with plenty of food, clothing and currently had what he called a “home,” although technically…it was not a home.
Tate had a job at the Penny Winkling Grocery Story working for 25 cents an hour as a stock boy. The minimum wage was 30 cents, but the people at the Penny Winkling Grocery Store said that he was a child and that the minimum wage was simply for adults only and that 25 cents and hour was a steal. Tate didn’t really care whether it was a steal or not and was just glad to be getting paid money that he buy food with. Tate had worked a shift from 8:00 am to 6 pm, working was not fun, and sometimes Tate was on the verge of quitting. Stocking for 10 hours a day including weekends was somewhat depressing and could really put a damper on things…
Working 10 hours a day getting paid 25 cents an hour gave Tate $2.50 a day, but getting paid on the 15th and 30th and every month, each pay time he got $37.50 and each month he received $75. A total of $900 a year, the average salary was $1,900, but that was for people with families and houses, and kids. But for just Tate, a 14 year old homeless boy, that was just fine; even if he was living in a no longer used trash bin that was located in the crook of a dark valley.
“Tate! It’s cold out here! I can sneak you into my house if you wanted. What do you say?” Tate’s brown haired, green eyed good friend Ned had come to visit him, it was heartwarming, but Tate had truly rather himself stay inside his bin. He was tired of his friend always looking after him like he was some unstable baby.
“Ned, it’s fine, really. I’m perfectly warm in here. I mean, it’s not the warmest, but it’s not anything that would kill me. Come in, we can play a game if you wanted.” Tate was perfectly comfortable with his home and thought that he was very lucky to have what he did. Some hobos completely gave up and froze on nights like this outside on the steps of warm bakeries.
“Okay, okay, but not for long. I said I was running down to the butcher’s to pick up some steak.” Ned climbed up the slippery side of the bin to Tate’s satisfaction and fell onto the soft layer of blankets at the bottom of bin.
“Close the top!” Tate urged as the snow began to flurry inside. Ned obediently closed the top and turned to face Tate, Tate looked the same and his “home” looked the same as well. All along the long end of the bin where lit candles providing both light and a bit of warmth, books and board games sat messily in a corner, a loaf of bread and jug of melted snow, and at least 20 apples sat in the corner opposite of it, a stack of neatly folded silk blouses and suits and a stack of regular cotton blouses and trousers sat in a dull corner, and a few intricately sewn (yet very cheap) pillows that Tate had fancied more than anything else in another.
Ned, well educated on the regular routine, took the most beat up pillow, placed it down on the blankets and took his seat opposite Tate.
“Tate, I don’t want to play a game, actually. Would you read me a sonnet from Shakespeare?” It was always the same with Ned, Ned was a lover of literature and flowy poems, the reason why when Ned had visited him, the book on Shakespeare Literature was the most commonly used item in the whole bin. Sometimes they played games, but they mostly took turns reading from Shakespeare.
“Fine, fine.” Tate agreed as he pulled the book from the corner, careful not to knock over a candle.
“Tate, if you never went to school, and if you were never supervised by any kind of adult, then how is it that you can read?” Ned had asked the question quite frequently, but always got the same unsatisfying answer.
“I learned it from apples, of course. Which sonnet do you want to hear?” Tate replied. The reply made no sense to Ned, about the apples, Tate had often talked learning things from the apples when it came to learning, Tate had never really provided much information about the apples and the curiosity always drove Ned crazy, and although he’d asked before about the apples and got no explanation, he figured he’d ask again after the poem.
“Read me…Sonnet 5, I remember that one being quite lovely.” Ned had personally adored Sonnet 5, that Tate knew, why, he didn’t.
“Those hours, that with gentle work did frame
The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell,
Will play the tyrants to the very same
And that unfair which fairly doth excel:
For never-resting time leads summer on
To hideous winter and confounds him there;
Sap check'd with frost and lusty leaves quite gone,
Beauty o'ersnow'd and bareness every where:
Then, were not summer's distillation left,
A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,
Beauty's effect with beauty were bereft,
Nor it nor no remembrance what it was:
But flowers distill'd though they with winter meet,
Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.”
“Ah, sweetly read Tate, as usual. How it is you can do so, will remain forever unknown…sad, sad, sad. Such a talent must have its source.”
“Yes, it does, from the apples…”
“Tate, I’ll declare you delusional and crazy if you do not further explain the situation with the fruit.”
“Well, then call me delusional and call me crazy, I have not a care in the world…”
“Except for those pillows of yours,” Ned added with a shudder.
“Yes, except for the pillows…” Ned had always known that Tate had liked the pillows, and had just assumed that he did because they looked luxurious in a cheap kind of way. But he realized that, Tate never really did explain why.
“Tate, why do you like the pillows so much?” Ned examined Tate’s face, no reaction. Tate’s face had stayed subtle and relaxed.
“Because it gives me something to care about.”
“Don’t you care about me?”
“Yes…but you are not something that I own. You are a person. So, how have you been, Ned?” So that was why, Ned thought. It was kind of sad.
“I’ve been fine. My sister’s new friend Cameron, she’s always over. It’s kind of annoying, why can’t they play ever at her house?” Tate for some reason loved hearing Ned say these kinds of things. There were plenty of reasons why!
“Maybe because her family lives in a flat and it’s too small. Maybe her Mom hates company, maybe she has a crush on you and likes being around you, maybe your Mom-“
“No, no, no, you see, she’s annoyed by me too. One time I overheard her asking my sister why I was always home because she thought that I was annoying-what were you going to say about my Mom?”
“I guess she doesn’t like you then. I was going to say maybe your Mom makes better food than her Mom does.”
“Oh…” Ned replied relaxing.
“What did you think I was going to say?” Tate asked as he watched his friend chuckle and rub his eyes.
“I don’t know, Tate, I don’t know.”
“Well, then.” Tate replied pretending to be annoyed.
Suddenly Ned sat up having just remembered something. “Hey, Tate, you see, there’s going to be a big…get together, my family. We’re allowed to bring friends because technically they’re family. Do you want to come? It’s tomorrow at 6:30, it’s kind of a formal event, you’ll come, won’t you?” This invitation had thrown Tate completely off. A get-together? And what exactly was this? And Ned viewed him as family? That was nice.
“Really? Are you sure?”
“Yeah, why not.” Tate always had a laid back not a care in the world attitude that Ned had loved, but had also sometimes been annoyed by.
“Alrighty then! I’ll see you tomorrow at 6:30, please, be there! And, remember, it’s formal, so, look nice! There’ll be lots of pretty girls there for you impress!” Tate chuckled, in this current stage in life, he really didn’t have time for impressing girls, impressing girls turned into dates, dates turned into long term relationships, long term relationships turned into marriage, marriage meant kids, kids meant a house, and a house, kids, and a wife meant money; which was something that Tate did not have.
“Sure, sure, I’ll look nice and impress the girls.” Tate said wondering if he’d mean what he said when tomorrow came. “Bye, Ned!” Tate called as Ned began to climb out of the bin.
“Thanks Tate! Bye buddy!” Ned then disappeared into the flurry of snow and the lid closed with a soft thud.
The next morning was a Saturday, a work day for Tate. During the night Tate had had a dream about impressing a girl, marrying her, having a family, and running away because he couldn’t handle it all. It wasn’t a dream that he enjoyed and was glad when the morning came. And then was sad because of the ten hours of work that awaited him. The get-together might be fun though, and hopefully he wouldn’t get too involved with anyone.
Glancing at his wrist watch, Tate read the ugly time of 7:50. Ten minutes to change, eat breakfast, drop off his laundry, and get to work. Excellent, Tate thought caustically. Rapidly Tate dug through his unworn blouses and trousers and quickly picked out a baby blue blouse with white chiffon sleeves, matching baby blue trousers, and a pair of black and white saddle shoes.
Quickly after he was changed, he grabbed two slices of bread, took a long drink from the jug of melted snow which was now water, stuffed his dirty clothes in a bag, put on his extravagantly fancy French wool duffle coat and onyx black tweed cap, and set out on his way. His time was at 7:58, two minutes to drop of the laundry and get to the Penny Winkler Grocery Store.
Merely running, Tate ran to his personal laundress, Betty Goiland’s house, dropped his bag off on the porch in front of the door and set out on his way to Penny Winkler Grocery Store. Betty was really just a stay at home Mom who did Tate’s laundry for 50 cents a load.
If someone were to see Tate, a lavish young handsome boy dressed in costly clothing running down the streets, they would never guess that he was a homeless stocker boy at the local grocery store.
Panting and out of breath, Tate finally arrived at the Penny Winkler Grocery Store where his boss, Mr. Amberson stood at the dusty makeshift checkout desk awaiting him.
“Finally you arrive. You’re supposed to be here eight o’ clock sharp, Sykergol.” Mr. Amberson looked Tate up and down and sighed.
“Boy, where do you come from each morning? A mansion with its own golf course in the back yard? How can you afford coats and hats like that with the pay I’m giving you? Come on Sykergol, tell me your secret.” Tate had highly detested Mr. Amberson, he was always on Tate’s case. Why couldn’t he just accept him the way he was? Some people, Tate didn’t want to know him, and Mr. Amberson was one of these people.
“Stay out of my business, Amberson.” Tate replied as he took a dusty Penny Winkler apron off of its hook.
“Jeez, I was only curious. Children and their attitudes, tell me again why exactly I hired you?”
“Because you wanted me to do all of your dirty work.” Tate snapped back and he passed Amberson.
“Yes, and I suppose that’s why!” Amberson replied sarcastically. Amberson was jealous of Tate, terribly jealous. It was a sad confession he was yet to make. Tate was young, attracted and charmed every female in the store, dressed lavishly, and even though he gave a lot of mouth, he brought in a slightly noticeable amount more profit than when the store was without him. He could very smoothly, convince a customer into buying more than they originally had planned on buying. Tate had made Amberson feel terribly useless. Firing him would make everyone mad at him and it would also hurt the store, so what was left for Amberson to do? Nothing, he’d just have to deal with the boy.
For Tate, working was boring slow work. But convincing the customers was fun, with the females at least. The men didn’t fall for Tate, they in fact hated Tate, they saw through all of his lies and schemes, but in the grocery store, there were mostly Mother’s buying food for the family, so it didn’t really matter.
When Tate reached the back of the store where all of the unloaded boxes of food sat, he took off his coat and hat and put on his creamy white apron tying a perfect little bow in the back. Near the door sat boxes of rice. Great. Rice was heavy when it was in bulk and Tate didn’t look forward to carrying the boxes to their sections and unloading them. But, what choice did he have. Tate started with the first box, it felt as if it were a hundred pounds! Tate lugged the box to the rice section where a couple of women were examining spices opposite the rice. Tate set down the box close to the women, took out a pocket knife, cut open the box and began to unload. The rice was brown, healthy rice. Tate preferred white rice, the less healthy kind! On unloading his third bag, he noticed one of the women holding a small jar of cinnamon.
“Cinnamon, a delicious spice, I think.” Tate said as he stood up next to the woman.
“Yes, very good indeed.” The woman looked up at Tate with large brown eyes.
“Are you planning on making something with it?”
“Yes, cinnamon buns. Why?” The woman shifted her feet uncomfortably and adjusted her purple cloche hat.
“Mmmm, cinnamon buns. Sounds good. Are you making a whole batch, my dear?”
“Y-yes, that’s so.” The woman stuttered. She apparently wasn’t immune to Tate’s charm and always empathetic deep blue eyes.
“Well, I used to help my Mom make them, and usually we used about two small jars of cinnamon. One usually wasn’t enough. But that was just for us anyways! But we sure did love our cinnamon buns mighty cinnamonny, but all families are different right?”
“Yes, I suppose.” The woman replied. “But-I should, probably get two just in case, right?”
“Yeah, maybe. What’s a cinnamon bun if it doesn’t have enough cinnamon, right? It’s good just to be sure.”
“Yes, you’re right! Thank you-“ She quickly glanced at his name tag, “Tate!”
“You’re welcome Ma’am, I speak from experience. Good luck to your cinnamon buns, I’m sure they’ll taste like wonders of Heaven!”
And this was exactly how Tate was able to get customers to buy extra. Although it hurt his heart when he spoke lies of having a family, and a Mother, he did it anyway because business was business and everyone’s life was crapped up one way or another. Like the woman wearing the purple cloche hat, she might add two full jars of cinnamon to the batter, and her cinnamon buns might turn out tasting like over-cinnamoned crap.
The day drove on slowly. The store had a chill from the constant opening and closing doors at the front, and although he’d convinced 4 other women with stories like the one he’d told the first lady, he was still feeling like crap. He was a stocker boy. And was currently stocking rice, yes, still stocking rice after two hours. The whole isle’s left side was all rice, rice of different kinds, shapes, and sizes. Sometimes Tate wondered if his Mother would be proud of him. He knew how to read and write, wasn’t that enough? He had a full time job and on his own standards, lived comfortably.
But…would she have wanted him to live in an actual home in an orphanage rather than on his own toughing it out? No, of course not, Tate told himself. His life was his own and he couldn’t let it fall into the hands of another. Being in an orphanage meant adults telling you what to do, and Tate did not want to be told what to do. He hated being told what to do. If was his life and he’d do what he wanted. Having his job at the Penny Winkler Grocery Store was different. One would think that Amberson bossed him around, when really, Tate was the one bossing him around. For some reason, Amberson seemed almost afraid of the thought of firing him. Weird. Amberson was a weird guy.
Soon enough after two more hours of stocking the shelves, (he’d happily moved onto jams and jellies), lunch hour came. Although lunch hour came, Tate still had to work, the good part was that he could eat while he worked. The store provided their workers during lunch hour a lunch. This lunch consisted of a ham and cheese sandwich, a sticky bun, and a whiskey or beer of their choice.
Tate had always enjoyed the sandwich and bun, but he didn’t drink. Tate vowed to himself never to drink. Tate knew that once you drank, you got addicted and needed drinks, and the drinks made you do stupid things, they controlled your life. Tate going by his saying of being the controller of his own life, found his reason sound enough not to do it. Drinking took life out of your hands, which was unacceptable to Tate.
Stocking the jams and jellies happily, he awaited his lunch. And it came, at the exact time it came everyday, 12:05 pm, Charlie Nilune, the store manager, came around with a box of lunches. Approaching Tate, he prepared a lunch bag, “Which drink would you like?” He asked already knowing the answer.
“Neither, sir, but thanks for the offer,” Tate replied with a smile. Tate liked Charlie a bit more, there was just something about him, or…something about those delectable sandwiches! They were just so good! All he had at home was a stale loaf of bread in which he ate for breakfast and dinner.
Charlie sat Tate’s lunch on ground next to the box of half unloaded jams and jellies.
“You’re a wise, smart boy, Tate. You make good choices. When your wife comes around, she’ll be glad to have you.” Tate knew all too well that he was a good man, but liked being so anyway.
“Thanks, Charlie, as are you.” He said even though Charlie had left in too much haste to hear. Ah, the best part of the day…lunch. Although he were supposed to be working during lunch hour, Tate didn’t work. Tate enjoyed his food, it tasted so good. He sat himself down on the floor next to his load and started with the sandwich. The sandwich was good, the cheese was pepper jack, a favorite of Tate’s, and the ham was fresh from the butchers. While Tate was enjoying his sandwich, Mr. Amberson came by. When he saw Tate not working, he jumped back in shame and gasped.
“Tate! You’re not working! You know you’re supposed to work while you eat! How else are those jellies to get unloaded?!” Tate, wanting to annoy his boss even more, exaggerated the goodness of his sandwich by making unnecessary moans as he chewed each bite.
“Mmmm, it’s just so good! Those jellies are just going to have to wait…” Tate explained as he took another over sized bit of his sandwich, a bite that finished it.
“Ha! You’re done! Now get back to work before I fire you!” Mr. Amberson spat. Tate knew all too well that Mr. Amberson would do everything but fire him!
“Amberson,” Tate sighed, “We both know that firing me would go against every hair on your head, every pimple on your face, and every badly sewn patch on your pants, okay? So I’m going to sit here and enjoy my juicy bun, oh, what’s that? Forgot about the bun? Well, that’s just too bad…yet again, those jellies are just going to have wait…”
“Tate! I never did like you! I hope you burn in hell, you hear!” With that, Mr. Amberson walked off angrily. Tate honestly didn’t believe that he was going to burn in hell, but he also didn’t think that he’d make it Heaven either, he’d just be an in between.
Even though Tate wanted to annoy Mr. Amberson by eating the bun slowly which would waste time, instead, he’d save it for later. He’d eat it on his way to Mrs. Goiland’s, that way he’d smell sweet like sticky buns when he arrived at the get together. So Tate stood up, dusted off his pants, and shoved the wrapped sticky bun in his pants pocket. He then got back to work and began stocking the jams and jellies shelf again.
SIX HOURS LATER
“Well, I’m out of here.” Tate said as he hung up his white apron on the hook a the front of the store.
“Glad to hear it, Tate. Now that you’re all prettied up and gone, my life will go a lot smoother and things will be a lot better. The second you announce your departure, is the second my soul sings.”
“Yeah well I’m not in the best mood around you either Amberson. Tell me, what do you go home to? Skeleton stick children and a wife who mourns over her destiny with you? Whoever that wife is, I’m feeling every once of her pain. Poor woman.” Tate replied, Tate knew that what he said was mean and knew that it was a practical knife in the heart for Amberson every time he said these things, but Tate was practically a wild animal that’d never been tamed, so therefore, he was wild and was mean to the people he didn’t like. He made it clear that he didn’t like them too.
“You know what, Tate?”
“I really don’t wish to hear what you have to say, can I go?”
“Tate, you’re a real horror story for me, you know that. What you said was mean and cruel…Don’t you ever think about other people and how your remarks would make them feel?”
“Of course I do! That’s why I say the things I say! Because I know it’s a knife in the heart for the receiver and a bit of satisfaction for the giver! I’ll see you tomorrow. Sadly” Tate added as an after thought. He then began to walk out of the store but heard Amberson’s last remark.
“As I will to you…sadly.” So pretty much, Amberson and Tate’s relationship was bad. Amberson was weak and found it hard to call someone names without feeling terribly guilty about it in the end, and Tate was rough and wild and could darkly embarrass and name call someone to tears and feel satisfaction in the end. Amberson was weaker than Tate, and it was really starting to get at him. So what he did, was he went home to, yes, skeleton thin children, and, yes, a wife who merely hated him, and sobbed his daily pains to her. She’d listen and bitterly laugh, but sometimes, maybe when she was in the happiest of moods, she’d feel bad for him, every day Amberson would hope that she was in one of those moods so that she’d feel bad for him and weep with him.
The day was cold on the streets and Tate was anxious to pick up his laundry and get home. Remembering the sticky bun, Tate took it out of his pocket, unwrapped it and began eating it. Mrs. Goiland’s house was only about three minutes away walking, very close.
The bun was sugary and sweet and made his mouth warm with pleasure.