COLUMN: Mr. Apple lives forever

This is my weekly column that ran in the Saturday, April 9, 2011 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. I was bumped off the Sunday page for a large number of letters to the editor.

Mr. Apple lives forever
By Aaron J. Brown

I’m learning that life’s challenges wait in the misty valley between things you can control and things you cannot. This was proven true the day Mr. Apple visited our home.

I noticed a spot on the apple drawn from the bag the other night, so I cut off the discoloration with a knife. The cut resembled a jaunty little smile, so I cut a nose, eyes and eyebrows. When I set the happy apple face next to the rest of my dinner, a reheated piece of grilled steak, I took great amusement in the scene. This apple appeared to be joyfully coveting the steak, a wanton gaze of meaty self indulgence by a staple of vegetarian diets.

Thinking this a great moment to teach the concept of irony to my three young boys, each eating cheese sandwiches over at the table, I presented the plate to them like a stage.

“Hey, guys, look at Mr. Apple!”

And, oh, the peals of laughter as Mr. Apple spoke to them, regaling my sons, aged 5, 3 and 3, with stories from his orchard days and lamenting his position on the dinner plate.

Eventually, one of the boys asked, “Can we keep Mr. Apple?” Another added, “Yeah, can he live here with us?”

Uhhhh. About that, I thought. This comedy was becoming a drama.

“Mr. Apple is an apple. He is my dinner and I am going to eat him.”

I made several errors here, beginning with naming the fruit, followed by the repeated use of personal pronouns. I glanced over to Christina, for a lifeline. She smiled and shook her head. This was a problem of my own making.

“Noooooo,” called out Doug.

“You can’t eat Mr. Apple,” exclaimed George. With that, he grabbed Mr. Apple and ran. This quickly became part of the fun. Mr. Apple hopped along the window frames, across the coffee table and through the air. Then, Mr. Apple bumbled out of George’s hand, rolling across the carpet, collecting lint and dog fur and the accumulated crumbs of a thousand snack crackers. His smile endured.

“Boys,” I said, having finished the rest of my dinner. “I need to wash Mr. Apple.”

The boys knew what seemed to be coming. “You can eat Mr. Apple’s back,” said Doug, offering a compromise. “Yeah,” said George. “We can save his face.”

“Guys, he’s going to get all mealy. We can’t keep him. He’s an apple.”

Melancholy eyes looked up to me. This required a serious response.

“OK, Mr. Apple is more than an apple. He lives in all apples. He will appear in another apple some day, if not in this bag than in the bag after. Every time we eat an apple, Mr. Apple will be there. As long as we remember our time with Mr. Apple he’ll never really be gone.”

They accepted this as truth. Quietly they left the room to play with trains. Solemnly, reverently, I consumed the flesh of Mr. Apple. We were one, and the universe would continue. I would outlive this one apple; may the boys outlive me.

It then occurred to me that this was the most spiritual lesson I’d ever offered the boys. We’ve yet to broach the serious questions of life and death, no more than in the abstract. I suppose I always figured that life would dictate that moment. I hadn’t expected that this moment would arrive during dinner on this random night.

The tree of life bears fruit of all kinds, some sweet, some bitter, most always with spots. Cut away the spots and you have Mr. Apple, a joyous soul we are glad to know.

Aaron J. Brown is a writer and community college instructor from the Iron Range. Read more at his blog or in his book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”

UPDATE: In an earlier version of this post I suggested that the letters to the editor that bumped me from Sunday to Saturday were presumably about the firing of the Hibbing city administrator this week. I wrote, “I thought about writing a post on that topic, but what more is there to say? Hibbing, baby. It’s a hard town to not be fired in.” Well, that’s fine and all, but none of the letters were about this topic. The first letter was about northern Minnesota seceding from the state, followed by a detailed introspection of the labor rally last week and a complaint about trash in the Memorial Building parking lot. Never can tell. 

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