A CONVERSATION IN THE RAIN
Sonny finished up their talk by telling Abby, “I’ll lock this in the seed room, and your bag too. It’s going to rain.” He gently picked up the mapstick and the small duffel bag and walked into the shanty.
“Can I have the privilege of giving you a little tour?” asked Dennis.
“I’d love that, Dad, let’s go while we still have time.”
Thick clouds covered the sky. An early twilight spread across the land. Abby and her father walked among the trees. She ate a few apples, and they discussed different varieties, old and new. But Dennis seemed preoccupied. In response to her questions he gave short answers, and finally none at all.
“What’s the matter, Dad?”
“Oh, there’s more to this story. I’m just debating how to tell you.” They stopped and looked at each other. A fine drizzle was in the air. Wisps of fog floated across the orchard.
“It’s okay,” Abby said softly. “I want to hear it.”
“Let me tell you a little history, maybe that’s the best way. You see, after we left Rivergate and moved to Ridgewood, your mother and I needed more money. I was promoted at Owen’s Apples and increased my hours, but soon I realized I didn’t like it. In fact I began to hate it.”
He put his hands in his pockets and hunched his shoulders. “Now don’t feel sorry for me,” Dennis continued. “Just listen… After only a few months I realized that I’d lost a dream. I’d always had a secret hope that someday I would grow an apple tree from seed – not grafting, mind you, but straight from seed – that would have fabulous new gifts. You know how unexpected these experiments are. The result is always a new variety but usually not worth growing for people. But I’ve always known that every once in a while a new seed comes up with entirely new, perfect virtues, a moment of grace, a miracle. At Owen’s Apples, as you can guess, I had no time to experiment. No one cared. They wouldn’t even allow me to try because it didn’t pay.”
Abby waited, knowing there was more. A strong breeze blew the drizzle into her face.
“In my heart, this loss of a dream was somehow related to the mapstick. I knew I had this great gift, but could do nothing with it, and it became an obsession. So I finally asked Wendy about it.”
Abby gasped. “You went to see her? But you didn’t get along, hadn’t spoken in years! Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Yes, yes, don’t rub it in. I’ve made terrible mistakes, I know. But after you started high school and began to stay away nights and lead a separate life that I knew little about, I had to do something. I searched her out. She was overjoyed to see me, and even said she’d been expecting me. I told her the problems that were eating away at my life, and she said a few things that I’d like to tell you now.” Abby waited, breathless with anticipation. She felt her heart moving, pounding in her breast.
“She said that I was already in fact growing a new shoot from a wild seed, a tree that could become an unexpected variety, a moment of grace. I knew as soon as she said this that the new tree… it was you. So I asked her about the mapstick. What does it mean, when should I give it to you, what should I say? Wendy told me I’d know when the time came, because you would come to me. I knew today was it.”
Abby felt tears rolling down her cheeks. She grabbed her father and hugged him, sobbing quietly. He finally stepped back and said, “And there’s more. Wendy talked about the mapstick. Did she ever mention this to you?”
“She told me to wait for the right time, and I guess she did too.”
Abby heard a sound drifting on the wind, and realized it was someone calling. “Dennnniss! Abbbyyy! Where are youuu! Dennniss! Abbyyy!”
“It’s mom,” Abby said. They wiped the tears and rain from their faces and walked toward the sound. Abby ground her teeth. “I need to hear the rest of this,” she told herself.