In the heat of summer the air is still and thick. There’s a haze of heat in the atmosphere. Sweetness and dust linger. Bees spread pollen and greedily climb over blossoms of lavender, lily and elderberry. The lush green glory of spring has ended, leaving behind dry and thirsty masses of once thriving vegetation.
Sylvia and Anne mound the potatoes in their small urban garden patch. Sylvia wears a straw hat and has a cigarette hanging from the side of her mouth. Anne has a kerchief covering up her face like a bandit. As they work the earth, more and more dust gathers in the air.
As she finishes her row Sylvia insists, “All right Anne you’ve worked me hard enough today.
Anne lifts her head to look at Sylvia, rolls her eyes and checks her watch.
“Five more minutes Sylvia. It’s not two yet! Keep going, we agreed that two o’clock we would rest”
“Oh I’m on to your tricks there missy; you’re just trying to get me to start another row you see!”
Motioning to her finished row.
“So if I do begin another, two o’clock will roll around and you’ll urge me all the more to finish my row. Next thing you know we’ll have finished all but one row a piece, and you’ll suggest we finish those as well and be done all together!”
Entertained by her accusations. “Why Sylvia I think that’s a great idea!”
“What? You Devil! You’ll be the death of me.”
Finishing her row, working with her head down.
“You’ll work me to the grave you will. You’re just trying’ to get rid of old Sylvia.”
As she finishes.
“I’m on to your tricks missy! Yes ma’am you’ll see no more hard labor from Sylvia Breslyn on this day!”
Tossing her spade down, walking away mumbling something in the same spirit that she has just spouted off. She walks to the front steps where there is iced tea waiting in a pitcher with two glasses. The ice has melted and Sylvia perhaps mumbling about that.
“So Goddamned hot the ice has melted…Jesus and all the Saints…slave driving an old woman all for a heap of potatoes!”
Anne smiles to herself. She has grown accustomed to Sylvia banter. She resumes her work and chuckles as Sylvia mumbles on. As beads of sweat gather and fall off of Anne’s brow, she is content and settled into her work.
“I suppose you’re right Sylv. I think I’ll finish here and be done as well.”
As Anne continues her work a large truck pulls up on their street and parks three lots up. It is loaded with people in the back of the flat bed. As the crowd leaves the vehicle each man or women is carrying a large crate of apples, some even two or three.
Sylvia scowls in curiosity as Anne lean her chin on her spade and looks on at the sight.
The people with the crates disperse this way and that, but one older gentleman stacks his crates one on top of the other and pulls a hand painted sign from the top crate. It reads simply “Apples 5 Cents”
Sylvia gives Anne a look of a cynic. Anne walks over and joins Sylvia on the porch.
Sylvia looks on sipping her drink. “I would like to see who in their right mind would pay that much for an apple.”
While continuing to look on in curiosity, Sylvia douses her tea with whiskey from a hidden flask, and then she takes a straight shot before returning it to her satchel. Sylvia hands Anne a glass of tea, which she has already taken the liberty of “Doctoring up” for her. By this time Anne is used to it. She takes the drink easily. They both watch in amazement as businessmen walk by on their way here or there, all seem to take notice of the old man selling apples. Many buy an apple and those that don’t seem to at least toss him a penny or two, just out of pity sake.
As the day drags on, the children shuffle home from school. Anne and Sylvia continue to watch the man from the window as they prepare dinner. Within two hours he has gone through two crates, which must have brought him at least a couple of dollars.
Sylvia has seen enough; she marches outside with a cup of
Soup and piece of bread. She gives it to the apple vendor.
She talks with him for a few minutes, then bids him goodnight and gathers the dinnerware.
Sylvia, upon entering, joins Anne who is waiting with bated breath for an explanation)
“Apples Anne. That’s all I can tell you. It is so easy and all you need is ten dollars to start up.”