Masker’s Orchard, October

Fresh from rain, the orchard sags, wet.
Branches drop drips in the grass.
Apples dimple the ground, some too soft, rotted,
my thumb puncturing its skin,
some glistening a perfect red.
We plod along together, unsure of a direction,
embarrassed at Nature’s unabashed display,
her fruit laying about like a woman’s undergarments
on her bedroom floor.
The wetness climbs our shoes, darkens the hems of our jeans.
Somewhere children shout, run. Slowly our bags fill.
I wrap an arm around her for warmth.
She crunches into red flesh, exposing a pocket of white cotton,
comments on the balance of sweet and tart.
We crest a hill. I’m still lost, this many years into my life.
The sky gently pulls grey clouds away from itself.
My mother, pulling blue blankets up to my chin.
The tucking under the chin. The kiss.
The hand disappearing into blackness.

Och’s Orchard

After a run by the reservoir they changed clothes in the car and drove west on Interstate 80 to the orchard, the sweet smell of apples in the air, an abundance of apples everywhere, like plump rubies in the grass. They dropped into the dips of the hills and knolls, down dirt paths and around trees, lifting branches and leaves, picking Winesaps, Jersey Macintoshes, Cortlands, Jonagolds, Crispins, Macouns. The bags grew heavy and he slowed, drifting behind her, watching as she became a part of the landscape, her plaid flannel shirt and bright blue jeans, her braided hair, her smile as she looked back over her shoulder at no one else but him.

Later they drove through the softly falling dusk into the blue fields of a drive-in theater. The big screen tarnished and looming against the sky. Rows of cars nestled in like spoons. The sounds from the film echoing out of open doors, open trunks, out into the night and upward against the autumn stars. Two canvas bags sat in the backseat, packed with the apples they’d plucked, ripe and ready for eating. They moved to the grass, laying down their coats, and lay there on their stomachs, each with an arm wrapped around the other, like childhood friends. He knew then that this was how love happened, through the basic rituals of his kind; that it was as much a decision as any work of fate, a surrender of that familiar resistance. That he’d been saying yes yes yes all day in his heart.