Rotten Apples

I am seven and I know things

I know that the decay of the apples under the solitary apple tree at the edge of the field is a good thing. Somehow I know the heady sweetness is meant to be.

I know that the stench of the nearby pig farm is not a good thing. I am familiar with farm life. It smells, but it should not reek.

I know a mother is not to supposed to sleep all day and a little girl is not supposed to milk the cow alone.

I know that something is up but I don’t know what that something is.

The cow knows something is up, too, because she doesn’t let me get but half a pail full, which I slosh lug to an empty kitchen.

I am alone in this memory.

None of my siblings appear in it which is odd because there are five of us.

It’s like they are mist or something. Perhaps it the quiet traumas that shrink everything else to it’s smallest common denominator; the person being quietly traumatized.

Every day before school I peek into my mother’s bedroom. I can hear her labored breathing so this is another thing I know:

She lives still; a still life body outlined under blankets.

There is no light in her room but it isn’t only the darkness that frightens me.

It is the whiteness.

It is whiteness of the bedspread pulled up to her chin. It is the whiteness of the curtains, the whiteness of the walls.

It is the whiteness of her.

Another thing I know…she is not supposed to look like that.

I have to go to school.

The pumpkins have gone soft and I breathe in the rotten smell of decomposing apples. I am not afraid of this kind of dying.

It seems right, all this plant stuff breaking down and feeding the earth.

Soon I come to the part of the road where the back of an old barn abuts the road and the weeds grow spindly bent and brown.

The stench hits hard and this is the part of the road where I run. The odor is just plain wrong and I know it’s because the farmer doesn’t care.

As I run I wonder who is taking care of my mother when I am at school.  There is no one in my memory that comes to look after her, but there must have been someone. I learn later that pneumonia, after all, can kill a person.

On my way home from school I run past the pig farm again, hating its filth, running all the way this time through the wet snow mixing with dirt and  broken apples sending up a fragrance, an offering of life, that, for some reason I take comfort in, even though I don’t yet know the One who had already given Himself as a fragrant offering for me. He is in shadow during this part of my life, someone I talk to while watching the clouds go from castles to horses to ships while I lay under the apple tree in the Spring.

There is no Spring on this day and I am running down the road, legs tired and lungs heaving, past the stonewall, hooking a right up the walkway and sprinting through the back door slam- shattering the quiet.

Some things are not supposed to be wasting.  This I know.

Jesus knows it too and proves it to his friends by bringing them through the storm darkness to a place of tomb whiteness  where a tortured man wails, cast off, cast out, decaying and wasting.  He is alone in his story, too.

Jesus is not afraid of the darkness or the whiteness. He is not afraid of the wasting and the filth and the chains and the fear.

Jesus comes and puts the man back right. Back right in his body. Back right in his head.

Later all the wasting and filth that tortured the man ended up belonging to the pigs that day. I wonder if the man remembered his torture.

At some point my mother leaves her bed, healed, and I don’t remember it all.

Perhaps it is something I didn’t need to know.

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