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The Secret Plum Tree Escape
by LaDonna Fridenmaker
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Author requests article critique


The Secret Plum Tree Escape

Autumn, it’s a lovely time of year. The trees are bursting with an array of brilliant colors. The leaves look like small canvases painted with reds, oranges and yellows. The aromas of Autumn are a comfort. The smell of pumpkin pie and homemade bread baking in the oven gives that warm feeling deep inside. Abigail has always loved this time of the year when everything excited her senses. It also sent her back to life on the farm, when she was nine years old. She lived on a big farm in Central Ohio with her family of four brothers and one sister. Abigail was the oldest. Dad took care of the fields and the pigs, one cow, the sheep, and Lucky the horse. Mom tended to the garden, kept up the house and the six children.
Sadly, Abigail now sits quietly in her wheel chair. Time has played a mean trick on her and cursed her with old age and the awful disease of Alzheimer.
Stillness fills her days. The disease has rendered her speechless and immobile. She must be completely cared for by Josephine, Abigail’s personal nurse. She feeds her, bathes her and even reads the evening paper to her. All that Abigail retains are memories, not the memories of here and now, but the ones of long ago, when she was a nine-year-old girl on that big farm in Central Ohio.
One morning nurse Josephine came to take Abigail on a stroll out in the court yard. Autumn was strutting her beauty on this morning. The leaves bursting with brilliant reds, and oranges, made Abigail’s eyes sparkle with delight. The most pleasant smile erupted on Abigail’s face. She connected with the glory of the day.
“Abigail, I’m going to let you sit here for a while. Let me tuck this blanket around you. It is just a little nippy out here this morning. I’ll be back in a few minutes and we can go back inside,” Josephine said lovingly.
“Ahhh,” Abigail tried to speak. The child that lived inside Abigail was excited about being outside. The leaves danced the waltz for her entertainment.
Birds chirped the melodious song of Autumn. She watched as a tiny gray squirrel ran up and down the truck of the big oak tree that loomed over head. She was overwhelmed with joy. Moments passed. Nurse Josephine did not return. Finally, Abigail gave up on her. Her eyes grew heavy, her frail chin laid against her boney chest and she had a sweet smile spread wide across her face. Sleep came. A sweet escape. The moment sleep came to her eyes she was transported to a time when life was full and free. A time when she was young and life had meaning and purpose. Abigail found herself running in the meadow. She was there on the farm when she was a tender nine years old.
“Lucky, you are so beautiful. I like to rub your soft brown coat. You are the best horse any girl could ever have.”
“Abigail, where are you? I need you to go to the barn and collect the eggs.
Hurry dear, but I need to make a cake for Mrs. McNealy. She comes home from the hospital today,” said Mother.
“Yes, ma’am, I will get them, but what if that mean old bitty hen starts chasing me again?" “Honey, just go in and get the eggs and come out. If you pester the hens, they will come after you. Please hurry, now.”
Abigail gathered the eggs. Not one of the hens bothered her. For this she was thankful. She took the basket of eggs in the house and set them on the table.
“Momma, can I help?"
“Yes, Abigail, go and get your apron on.”
“Can I have the bowl to lick when we are all done with the cake, please momma?”
“Yes, you may. Now come on.”
Abigail and Momma made the cake, but just as Abigail reached for the bowl her brothers came and took the bowl away. Before Momma had a chance to say a word, the contents of the bowl had been devoured.
“I’m sorry, Abigail.”
“It’s okay, Momma."
Abigail ran outside. She caught a glimpse of the gleaming fields. It was Autumn on the farm. The painted trees and the smell of fresh-cut hay filled her nostrils. This scene put the smile back on her tiny face.
“Sometimes those boys make me so mad. I wish I was an only child.
But since that can’t be, I’ll go to my secret place, the big Plum Tree in the orchard. There I can be the only one. I can be whatever I want to be. I can go wherever I want to go.”
With that thought she ran full speed to the orchard. She saw her tree and a big smile broke out on her face. Up the tree she shuffled.
She sat on her favorite branch and pulled off a purple plum.
“Yummy, this is so good. I think it’s much better than that old chocolate. I didn’t want it any way.” The plum juice dripped down her neck and out of her mouth she spit the seed and it landed on the head of a chicken.
From up top her secret hiding place Abigail could see her brothers running all around the farm looking for her.
“Abby, where are you? Why are you hiding from us? We are sorry we ate all the chocolate. Come out, Abby," the boys yelled.
Abigail giggled on her perch. There was no way she was going to come down. She wanted those silly boys to suffer. Anyway, she had better things to do like dreams of her future. Abigail figured that someday she was going to be someone very important.
“Maybe I’ll be a nurse. No, I don’t like blood. I know. I’ll be a teacher. No, my brothers drive me crazy. What shall I ever be? I do like dreamin’. What can I do with dreamin' and get paid for it? Oh, I have it, I will be a writer. I will dream up the wildest stories and have them put into books and people from everywhere will buy my books. I will be famous.”
“Abigail, where are you. Dinner is almost ready. I need help setting the table. By golly girl, wherever are you.”
Abigail didn’t answer her momma. She quietly slid down the truck of the tree, making sure that no one was watching. Her secret place could not be revealed.
“Momma, were you calling me? I was just cooling off. You know those boys make me so mad.”
“I know dear, but don’t bother with them. Someday you will be grown and away from here. I’m sure you will have an exciting career. You will probably travel. You know sweetie, your possibilities are endless.”
Abigail skipped around the table putting down the plates. She felt happy. Even if her brothers were mean to her, she knew momma loved her.
Abigail’s next thought, as she slept outside in the wheelchair waiting on Josephine, was about those teenage years. Especially the time her heart was nearly broken in two.
“Momma, which dress do you think will look best for the Senior Ball? This red one with the tiny white flowers or the yellow one with the flowing scarf? Which one, huh, momma? You know I want to look my best for Rick. This is really an important dance. Momma, I think he may ask me to marry him. Wouldn’t that be so grand?”
“Abigail, now don’t get yourself all worked up. You’ll make yourself sick. Just wait and see if Rick really asks you. Don’t worry about getting married. You have to go to college and . . . Well, Abigail, I choose the yellow dress. It looks best with your flaming red hair.”
“Good momma, that’s the one I really wanted to wear.”
That very evening Rick picked up Abigail and whisked her away for a glorious night of dancing. The dance was to be held outside, with the harvest moon glistening. All was going grand until...
“Abby girl. I need to tell you something. It’s kind of hard, but I have been practicing all day. So listen first and then you can answer,” said Rick.
Abigail’s face was shining brighter than the moon itself. She was so sure that Rick was about to propose.
“Ok, sweet Ricky. I’m listening.” Her smile was tender. Her eyes sparkled like the stars. Rick was very hesitant, but finally mustered enough strength to speak. Clearing his throat, he said,
“Abby girl, you know how special you are to me. The sun doesn’t rise nor set without you in my thoughts. That’s what makes this so difficult.”
“Come on Rick, I can hardly wait. Ask me.”
“Ok, Abby girl,” dropping to his knees. He says, “Will you marry me.”
“Yes, yes, yes, I just knew you were going to ask me that question. Yes a thousand times, yes.”
Abby girl, hold on honey, there’s more.”
“More. What are you talking about, Ricky?”
“Well, we can’t marry right yet!”
“No, Abby girl. First, I must go in the Army. I got my papers two weeks ago, but I couldn’t bear to tell you.”
“Ricky, don’t go. Stay here and marry me.”
“Abby girl, I’d like nothing better, but government rules are not to be messed with.”
Abigail was sobbing uncontrollably. She stood up and started running home. It was not a short run. It took at least ten minutes on a gravel road. By the time she reached home, her heels were broken on her shoes. The dress was torn and raveled from the bushes. Her face was wet with tears. All she could think of was that she had to get to her plum tree. Once she got there, she climbed as high as she could. She cried herself to sleep.
As mornings light shone on her face she awoke. She then realized she had spent the night in the tree. Abigail knew she had to go in the house. Momma would be worried.
“Abigail, where have you been? What has happened to you? Did that Ricky do this to you? Wait till I tell your father. That boy will wish he’d never been born.”
“No, momma, he didn’t hurt me. In fact, he asked me to marry him.”
“So what happened, dear.”
Abigail broke down in tears again.
“Momma, he’s leaving for the Army. He wants to wait till he comes home to get married.”
Momma comforted Abigail and convinced her to just start planning the wedding. This got Abigail’s mind off of Ricky being gone. She started ordering every bride magazine she could. She planned the music, and the reception dinner. She was so excited. Then on a beautiful Saturday morning the phone rang.
“Hello, may I speak to Abigail? Abigail, this is Rick’s daddy. I have some bad news to tell you...”
“No, no, I don’t want any more bad news.”
“Dear, Ricky was killed today. A stray bullet took his life. I’m so sorry.”
Abigail ran to her tree. It was her only place of security and strength. It was her hiding place. She sat in her plum tree and cried for hours.
The wind began to blow. Abigail’s blanket was flying in the wind. Josephine still had not shown up. Abigail was remained fast asleep. As she continued to dream she went to one of the most important times in her life.
Abigail sat behind a big cherry desk. There was a gold-plated plaque on her desk that read, Editor-in-Chef. She looked at the plaque nearly every day. She even pinched herself occasionally to see if it was a dream. She had made it. The dreams of a young girl on a farm of becoming someone important had come true.
Those dreams that had taken place in the top of her plum tree are now a reality.
She became a writer, but not only a writer, but the Editor-in-Chef of the Chicago Times.
“Dreams really do come true. “
The wind grew stronger and blew the blanket completely off of Abigail’s lap. The cool air chilled her and caused her to awaken. As her eyes opened from her dream world, her face was filled with a gleaming smile. Her eyes danced as they watched the leaves falling from the great oak tree. Just then Abigail took in a deep breath and said.
“I made it. Thank you my plum tree.”
With those last words uttered from Abigail’s lips she drew her last breath.
Abigail now rests on that big farm in Ohio. She is now permanently shaded by her beloved plum tree. On her tombstone it reads, “Take time to dream dreams... That’s what life is made of.”

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