“Are you crazy? I can’t believe ya’ think you could make anythang of that dried up land. You’ll be lucky if you growed a weed.”
“Come on, Dad. Can’t I just have one day, one moment where you could show a little support? This is my dream.”
“That’s your problem boy, always dreamin’. Never gonna ‘mount to nothin’ less you work. Gonna grow an orchard…that’s purty funny!”
Chester shook his head to rid himself of his father’s laughter. Even after all these years the memory of his dad mocked him from the grave. He looked out over the acres of apple trees and his heart swelled with pride.
“Looks like I showed you, Dad. Whose laughin’ now?”
A flash of white darted behind a tree and interrupted the smugness on his face.
Chester took two steps at a time and moved quickly through the rows of trees. As he rounded the corner, a small girl used her stained shirt as a basket for his apples.
“Hey you! Get out of my orchard ya little thief!”
Her face paled when she saw him and with one bound she jumped the fence, apples and all.
“And don’t come back or I’ll call the law on ya!”
Her dark curls spread across her face as she glanced back at him. Chester turned and walked back toward the house, kicking dirt along the way.
“Stupid little girl, stealin’ my apples…takin’ money right out of my pocket.”
“What’chu gripin’ about now?”
Sissy stopped pulling weeds from the flower bed and turned to look at her brother.
“Some girl out in my orchard was stealin my apples!”
“God gave you them apples and orchard so you best humble yourself a bit before He takes it all away.”
“God gave me two good hands to work hard and this is my reward! I don’t want no girl out there stealin the apples!”
“Did she have black curls and blue eyes?”
“Then she ain’t stealin no apples. I gave her permission.”
“You did what? Are ya crazy?”
As soon as the words came from his mouth he realized the apple had not fallen far from the tree and the scene with his father replayed in his mind. He searched her face for pain, the same pain he had felt years before but she seemed unscathed by the remark.
Peace comes from Jesus, she had told him several times before.
Oh, how he envied her peace!
“There’s more to this life than money and apples, Chester. Maybe if you took the time to get to know your neighbors you might realize that! By the way her name is Maggie.”
So the little thief lives next door.
He turned from his sister’s stare and headed down to the edge of the orchard. His long legs cleared the fence and passed through the tall grass. He visualized nothing more than a run down shack with several windows cracked open. He snuck closer to take a look.
“Momma, don’t the apples smell good. They’ll be cool any minute and I’ll mash them so they’ll be easier for you to eat.”
Maggie stood by the stove and glanced over her shoulder. Chester followed her gaze to the woman lying on the sofa. Her ashen face reflected an aged portrait of her daughter as she tried to return Maggie’s smile.
“You’re so good to me dear Maggie. What would I do without you?”
“Let’s not find out! Besides, I’m prayin’ Daddy will return to help but I want you to know I’ll never leave you. Now eat these apples so you can get stronger and we can take a walk through the leaves like you love to do.”
“Maybe you could show me the orchard where you get the apples. I would love to meet the people that have been helping us and tell them thank you.”
“Maybe one day, Momma, maybe one day.”
The sun shone bright the next day as Chester returned to the edge of his orchard and climbed over the fence. He crouched down behind a bush to get a better look at the front door of Maggie’s house. From the time on his watch, he knew she would be coming to his orchard soon to take more apples. This would be the perfect moment.
The front door opened and she stepped onto the porch. A smile formed on Chester’s lips. Maggie stooped down and picked up the basket filled with milk, bread and so much more than apples.
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