Samantha Keller just wanted to find a toothbrush. That’s all she asked out of life. Not an unreasonable request. Not considering the fact that she had just bitten into a luscious, though thoroughly deceptive, apple from her neighbor’s tree, which had seconds before had been home to a fat worm. Her frantic attempt at brushing her teeth in a hurry resulted in the toothbrush flipping between her fingers and landing in the toilet.
Hovering in front of the bathroom closet, patting the shelf just above her eye level where she always put the extras, availed nothing but sticky fingers. An empty cough syrup bottle lay like a forgotten soldier on a battlefield before red goo seepage and a decidedly sick-pink cotton ball offering testimony of other clumsy encounters.
Life really shouldn’t be this hard.
“Oh, to heck with it.” She turned to the sink, popped open the mouthwash, did a complete rinse, and considered herself lucky.
She peered into the mirror and saw her mom’s face. Though her hair sported the salt and pepper look of a middle-aged woman who can’t decide if she’s a new 40 or an old 50, the trapped expression of her mother riveted her gaze to the glass. “Ba-ba-ba…” Like a nursery rhyme never finished, Mom couldn’t get her words out, though her eyes pleaded for understanding.
Samantha yanked herself away and refocused. She tromped down the hall to the kitchen and stared at the bowl brimful of beautiful apples. “Tricked me once but not twice.” She snatched the paring knife off the counter.
The phone rang. She checked. A local number.
She answered with all the confidence of a homeowner in good standing, whose neighborhood friends might check on her once in a blue moon. “Hello?”
“As a residential customer, we would like you to answer a few simple—”
Slapping the end button, Samantha frowned. She had answered four scam calls through the week and vowed to let it ring forevermore. If someone wanted to actually talk with her, they’d leave a message, right? Why on Earth did she keep falling for the latest in life’s tricks?
Reaching for the knife, the phone rang again. With a shrug, she insisted on outwitting the maniacal scammers who poured out their lives in demolishing humanity’s trust in the phone system.
It stopped ringing.
She plucked an apple from the mound and made the first cut.
The phone rang again.
Completely against her will, Samantha glanced at the glowing screen and recognized the number. Her sister in Wisconsin. Blanch and her husband ran a dairy farm south of the city and made a decent living while raising the cutest set of twins God ever created.
Rolling every ounce of ill humor off her shoulders and sliding onto a stool, she leaned against the counter and let the apple and the knife fall from her fingers. “Hey, Blanch! I was just thinking of you while—”
A sob choked the line.
Samantha lifted the phone from her ear and stared at it. Had she lost the connection? Another scammer copying her sister’s number?
Sobbing tumbled into crashing thunder. A wail screeched over four hundred miles and smacked Samantha in the face.
“Oh, God, Blanch! What—?”
“She’s dead! I can’t believe it!”
Agony shivered over Samantha as tears sprang to her eyes. “Dead? Who?”
“Mom! She died during the night. I stopped by early to give her some homemade cookies and fresh apples off our tree, but when the nurse went to check on her…” Sobbing rampaged over a cliff.
Tired truisms sprang to Samantha’s lips. It’s better this way…a blessed relief…Mom would want us to live on…to celebrate her life without the all the horrific dementia…
But no words came.
They weren’t truly true. Not yet anyway.
As tears meandered down her cheeks, her husband Elliott wandered into the room. He frowned at her tears, bent low, and took her hand.
She listened to Samantha’s cascading grief, dragged a notepaper and pen front and center and wrote, “Mom died,” and shoved the bald announcement toward her husband.
Wrapping a comforting arm around her shaking shoulders, he offered what he could, a gentle murmur of sorrow.
A week later…
Samantha faced the mound of dirt piled in front of her parent’s headstone. Mom’s nicely dressed body lay four and a half feet under, safely encased in a mahogany coffin inside a cement vault, right next to her dad’s resting place. Samantha’s gaze wandered over the birthdates and death dates, and the scripture quote, “You shall be known by your fruit.” The etching of two apple trees that her mother had insisted mark their last place on earth stood in testimony to lives that never stopped bearing love and goodness even when they couldn’t say a word.
Elliott edged closer.
Her son, daughter, sister, various friends, and relations had come to the funeral and left shortly after. Samantha had returned for three days in a row trying to understand how something as luscious as life could hold such a worm as death.
Elliott took her hand and said nothing. Wonderful in the mystery of communal silence, he didn’t need to fix her grief. He simply shared it.
Autumn leaves swirled from the colorful trees as black crows perched on mossy gravestones, creating a scene Alfred Hitchcock would’ve been proud to call his own.
“She was a beautiful baby.” Samantha had spent hours reviewing old family photos the night before, sharing her favorites with her patient husband.
Elliott smiled. “She was a good and holy woman with a gentle heart.”
“Though she could be a stickler! Remember how she insisted that every Thanksgiving had to be celebrated at her house?”
“And she never did forgive dad. She held his mistakes up to the light of day every chance she got. Trying to drag him to Heaven, she’d say, but it made life miserable sometimes.”
Elliott bowed his head.
The cell phone rang.
Samantha pulled it from her coat pocket.
After hitting the talk button, Samantha strolled across the graveyard toward a cluster of trees. “Yes, honey?”
Blanche’s voice rose strong and clear. “Just checking in. I made a pie for the kids and thought of mom. I just wanted to hear your voice.”
Samantha stared at the tree in front of her. “Were there any worms in it?”
“Worms? In what?”
“The pie.” Samantha cleared her voice and tried to jiggle her brain into coherent thought. I bit into an apple the other day…and you know…”
A chuckle broke the silence. “Oh, no. The pie looks delicious.” Her voice took on mom’s imperious tone. “You’re supposed to cut the worms out before you eat the fruit, you know.”
Ever my intention.
Samantha took her husband’s hand, meandered to the car, and left the mound of dirt behind.
Books by A. K. Frailey
Science Fiction Novels
Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg
Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN
Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend Novels
OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN
OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF
OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)
OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)
Oldearth Melchior Encounter (In production)
The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5
My Road Goes Ever On—Spiritual Being, Human Journey https://amzn.to/2KvF3Ll
The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd0z
It Might Have Been—And Other Short Stories https://amzn.to/2XXdDDz
Encounter Sci-Fi Short Stories https://amzn.to/3dq6q5l