For Briana Jaeger, I hope you like it.
“My jaw dropped as my eyes unveiled the secret before me…”
“And what was it?” a small boy in the back piped up.
“I’m getting there,” James said, a little crossly. He hated being interrupted when he was telling a story. He took a moment to remember where he was. “My jaw dropped as I saw what it was the ancient chest contained.” He paused, daring anyone to jump in. “It was an apple.”
“That’s all?” The small boy looked put out. “I have one of those every day.”
“But it wasn’t just any apple,” James said with a triumphant shake of his fist. “It was the last golden apple of the Tree of Time.”
“How do you know it was the last one?” a girl sitting in the front asked. “Maybe there were others.”
“Yeah, maybe there were others!” several other children chimed in.
James gave an exasperated sigh. “It’s a story. You’re not supposed to over-analyze it.”
“It means to come up with all sorts of questions that don’t have answers,” James said. “Now, do you want to hear the end or not?”
The children quieted down, and James resumed. “I very carefully drew it out of the chest. It was heavy, like a boulder-”
James killed the question with a withering glare.
“It was heavy, like a boulder, and warm like the sun. I could feel the immense power, pulsing in my hand. I could do so many things with it, but was that power really mine to use? For the Tree of Time only grew so many apples. So I did the only thing I could. I traveled far across the land, to the mountains, and I climbed up the tallest mountain, and buried the apple. I hope there might grow another tree, and so the world might never run out of time.”
He fell silent, and the silence consumed the room. A dozen and a half bemused faces stared up at him.
The children nodded solemnly, and their eyes were narrowed and cynical. James walked out of the classroom, feeling like a bent old man. It was taking so much more effort to get people to believe these days, even in something as simple as a story. He pulled his coat tighter, suddenly cold. Part of it was him, he knew. He didn’t have the patience for the practical, hard-nosed children who were taught that what they could see and touch was more important than what they could dream.
“I’m getting too old for this,” James grumbled to himself.
“Excuse me, sir,” a young voice said, and a small tug came at his elbow.
James looked down. The boy gazed up at him with big blue eyes, wide and innocent. He had not asked any questions inside. From the expression, he had been saving them up.
“Yes?” James asked, sure he was going to be regaled with another long Inquisition of the impracticalities of his tale.
“I think you got something wrong,” the boy said.
Here it comes, James groaned silently. “And what would that be?”
“The Time Tree didn’t grow apples, it was pears, and they weren’t golden, they were green and purple and blue, every color of the rainbow.”
James’ mouth hung open. “And how did you figure that out?”
“I got one as a present from my uncle,” the boy said. “I took the pear, and ate it, and when I ate the whole thing, it took me forward in time to when I was an old man. I talked with myself for a long time, asking all sorts of questions…”
The words rolled over James as the boy continued his story, and a smile began to grow on James’ face.