Perched on the highest limb of the apple tree the boy can see further, clearer than ever.
Anger places him in the tree. His older brother, Adam, his hero, his best friend, his confidant has turned on him. Adam laughed at him, blurting out his closest secret for the family to hear. To a 10-year old boy’s soul, this is the ultimate betrayal.
And so here he is glaring out over trees and fields with his back pressed into a crook of the tallest tree in his father’s apple orchard.
When next the boy glances down, Adam stands in the orchard holding something shiny. It’s the harmonica he gave Adam last Christmas. Is Adam here to play him an apology?
Before the boy can move from his perch, a second figure enters the orchard, steps up to Adam, and shyly kisses his cheek. Adam hands her the harmonica, they leave the orchard arm in arm.
Stunned, the boy’s eyes trace their path as they leave. Not an apology, but another stab. He lays his head back against the tree and cries.
Soon he hears approaching footsteps and looks down to see his father standing, waiting beneath a neighboring tree. Has his father come looking for him? No, the truth emerges. Through the trees comes a young lady, the daughter of their neighbor.
She quickly reaches his father, they cling together, tearing at one another. Looking at them through the cross-hatched branches he sees clothing, then flesh, then all disappear as they fall to the tall grass of the orchard.
He understands. He doesn’t understand. He has seen dogs and horses act the same way, and yet, this is his father.
He looks across orchard and fields toward his home, where his mother stands at the edge of their yard. In the blaze of the sunset, he sees the glisten of a tear on her cheek.
When dark descends and the orchard is draped in black, the boy slips to the ground to stand beside the silent sentinel that witnessed the loss of his childhood.
Head bowed, he slowly trudges home.