Me and Ryan Hamilton ambled our way to Miss Callie’s orchard late Sunday evening. Ryan hadn’t decided whether we were going to pitch the tent that he carried rolled up on his back, but I was hoping we would.
I’d slept in the woods before, but sneaking onto miserly Miss Callie’s orchard and spending the night there, was a challenge. I did think for one minute about the fact that her old hound dog might come after us, but I was pretty sure we’d best him. We didn’t bring any food. It was part of the fun to eat right off Miss Callie’s trees. If we got real brave, we planned on getting our thirst quenched at her well pump. It stood up straight as a soldier just on the other side of her kitchen window.
Everybody in town hated Miss Callie. She was cross 24-7, and yelled at any kid that tried to eat even one apple off her trees. She let many a pile of apples go to waste rather than share her harvest, but Ryan and me was going to make a dent in her apples tonight.
If my Ma knew what we were planning, she’d skin me alive. She was too good, in my opinion. She’d pinned my ears back once when she caught me calling Miss Callie a biddy. When I’d complained, Ma’d told me that being mean back to someone was a waste of time. I didn’t believe that for a minute. People got what they gave and Miss Callie was way past time to get hers, and I considered it time well spent to help her get it.
The sun was showing a speck of itself still on the horizon when we shimmied our way under the fence that surrounded Miss Callie’s apple trees. Near to the ground, big fat bumblebees droned from clover to clover, and sometimes, took a rest on top of a wormy brown apple.
Ryan led the way as we crawled on our bellies to a line of trees near the fence. The grass was a foot high under those trees and I thought a minute about whether snakes might be under there. But making lots of noise to scare them off was out of the question, so we squirmed onward, the tickle of the weeds on my nose nearly sending me into a sneezing frenzy.
We parked ourselves under the second tree in the row, and slowly took our backpacks off to pitch our camp. Once we had our bedrolls out and were settled in, Ryan gave me a wide grin as he reached right up above his head and snatched a fat apple off the branch. He lit into that apple like he hadn’t eaten in months and I followed him with my own sweet, juicy fruit. We must have devoured six or seven apples a piece before we slowed down. We lay back on our bedrolls and I asked about pitching the tent after the first mosquito bit my ear.
“Naw. It’s good just being under this here tree,” Ryan shook his head. I disagreed, but he owned the tent so I shut up. We ate us about four more apples and our pile of cores looked pretty impressive when we finally rolled onto our full bellies.
“I can’t wait to see Miss Callie’s face when she spies our damage,” Ryan grinned. I nodded and shut my eyes, too full of fruit to answer.
I slept right through the night, until a sudden shower woke me up. The smell, though, wasn’t nothing like fresh rain and I sputtered and gagged as I tasted bitter liquid on my lips. About the same time, Ryan come off his bedroll gagging and puking and he jumped up right into the face of Miss Callie.
“I knew you boys was a gittin’ my apples,” she screeched as she took to smacking on Ryan’s head with her insect sprayer. Ryan tore outta there and left me behind. I glanced over just as she pumped that contraption full of vinegar and spewed it out like poison on my head. I staggered to my feet, and took off running, Miss Callie cackling and hooting like a banshee as she watched me go.
“Patience is bitter, but it bears sweet fruit, “she yelled while I high-tailed it away from Miss Callie’s weapon.
I couldn’t stop coughing as her laughter chased me home, and I still had Ma to face, too.
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