By Trudy A. Martinez
As Nellie reaches the top of the hilly crest, she stops and glances back at Terry’s automobile moving down the road. Her mind wanders, as she cuts through the pasture, until she comes across Pa’s horse, Heartthrob. She remembers standing nearby watching her Pa jaw his tobacco, when a church member came by with a horse. “This horse has an ailing leg,” he said. “I can’t make use of him, neither can I put him out of his misery, just don’t have the heart for it. Would you care to take him?” He asked.
Pa nods in the affirmative, takes a few more chews on his tobacco, lends over to the right slightly, and spits, before he properly thanks the man. “Much oblige,” he says, thanking the man. “Appreciate you’ll thinking of me instead of putting him down.” Pa is known for his ability to work miracles (so they say) on such creatures. Animals take to Pa.
After the man leaves, Pa mixes up a remedy, plasters it on Heartthrob, and wraps it snuggly the horse leg, and sets him out to pasture. Before too long, the horse is doing much better; and the mare who shares the pasture with him is with foal.
Next to the pasture stands an old apple tree; this tree holds special memories and a special secret. When the family first moves from Sherman to the Denison farm, the huge apple tree is dying. It has only one live limb. The rest of the tree looks desolate, and appears nearly dead. On the last remaining branch, there is one large red apple (not quite ripe) hanging for everyone to see.
Papa tells all us youngins, “Do not touch that apple;” he points to it and reiterates, “That apple is mine!”
There is no arguing with Papa; what he says is law. He is a kind man, but he is also a stern man. When Papa lays down the law, you know he means business and you better stay on the narrow path and do right by him.
The secret of the dying tree embraces and haunts Nellie Mae from time to time. Her mind rehashes the temptations wearing her down. “I could resist, Lord. I just could resist. Try as I may, I could not resist; it was so red; I was so hungry.”
The echo of Papa’s voice telling her ”do not touch that apple” rings in her ear as she plans and as she climbs the tree anyways. “I got the apple, Lord. I sat under the dying tree, Lord. And I ate that apple, the same one my Papa forbade me to eat. It was the best. It was juicy. Never had I tasted an apple so sweet. Forgive me Lord.”
Papa asks, ‘Who ate my apple?’
He never asks directly. “Nellie did you eat my apple?”
Nellie Mae says as she rehashes the memories of her failing. “Someday I’ll tell Pa, someday, but not today.”
Heartthrob takes the blame by default for the missing apple. He is the right height to reach up and grab it. Nellie buries her shame and her actions deep in her memory telling herself, “Someday, someday, but not today.”