I wanted my apples plucked right from the trees.
No, I didn’t want to eat them. Store-purchased apples tasted better, but I wanted those orchard apples for their tough, hard-to-turn stems, still decorated with leaves.
It was a game all the girls in second grade played. We stood in a circle, wearing worn bell bottoms and halter tops, hand-me-downs from the decade before. All skinned elbows and scabs, we held our apples in our left hands while we twisted the stems in turn with each letter of the alphabet.
A–turn. B–turn. C–turn.
When the stem snapped off, the letter that matched the snap was the same letter that began the last name of the boy you would marry.
There were squeals and groans with the letter B, as no one wanted to marry the Barnett twins who lived near the park. There may have been sighs of delight if someone would reach the letter F as that could belong to Tommy Franklin, the cute boy whose father owned the local drugstore that sold penny candy. But mostly the snap only left us all giggling, searching for our ideal partner that could possibly be linked to the letter.
We lived in a time when fathers were losing their jobs, and outside of town, families were losing farms. Marriage seemed a part of this everyday struggle. Marriage was my father working swing shifts and overtime hours or my mother scrubbing sweat stains from my brother’s T-shirts. It was worry lines between eyebrows, and early gray in my mother’s hair, each day aging her older than she really was. It was my friends’ mothers worrying about scattered bills on kitchen tables as they wiped up spilled milk from their children.
Some of my friends wanted the snap, the letter, the assurance of some kind of certainty, even one that looked messy.
But I knew if I could make it through the whole alphabet, I would be free from the bounds of marriage. I turned the apple in my hands a few times before finally tossing it aside, uneaten, with its sturdy stem still in place.
Karen J. Weyant‘s poems and essays have appeared in The Briar Cliff Review, Chautauqua, Crab Creek Review, cream city review, Copper Nickel, Fourth River, Harpur Palate, Lake Effect, Poetry East, Punctuate, Spillway, Stoneboat, and Whiskey Island. She teaches at Jamestown Community College in Jamestown, New York. When she is not teaching, she explores the rural Rust Belt of northern Pennsylvania and western New York.