Apple of my Lies

by Garrett Gagnon

My college friend Emily and I went to Ithaca for the Apple Harvest Festival, or as it is more commonly referred to, “Applefest.” The Ithaca Commons are turned into a total immersion apple wonderland fit to burst with vendors selling any and every apple themed food item you could imagine.
Applefest was popping. There were apples to our left, apples to our right, even fallen apples rolling around on the street. Some of the various booths were selling classic plain apples. They’d have signs reading simple phrases like “apples for sale.” These were the sweet old people of Applefest. The ones who’d been doing this since the festival originated in 1982 and still had the same rickety wagons that their grandchildren had filled to the brim. There were also more abstract apple enthusiasts. These were the outside the box thinkers, taking something simple as apples and doctoring them into wild attention grabbers. Walking past apple dumplings, apple sandwiches, probably even apple jack o’lanterns, Emily and I decided it was time we made a purchase. One can not attend an event literally overflowing with apples and not eat a single apple.
Emily and I walked by a booth called “Apple on o’stick,” and went up to the booth to its right. This was a large stand that had attracted a decent sized crowd. Upon further investigation we saw they sold fresh New York apples, but they were no simple apple stand. They had an endless amount of crates packed with what I’m sure was all 41 types of Apples grown in New York state. The booth seemed to be thriving. They had a tent like roof and people bustled around all four sides filling bags with apple after apple before stepping to the front and paying. Emily and I were overwhelmed with the selection. I don’t claim to know much about apples and Emily said the only kind she could think of was fuji. We cluelessly walked to the front of the booth for some assistance.
A black haired and bearded man of about thirty greeted us. We told him we were wondering what kind of apples he thought we’d like best. The man looked us up and down smiling and said “You’re going to want to talk to Donna.” From the left most corner of the booth came a woman who had clearly devoted her entire life to growing and studying apples. Donna wore a button down flannel shirt with a dark green vest pulled over. Her thick glasses were shielded slightly by a baseball cap pulled low partially hiding a thicket of dirty blonde curls. I did not see what kind of pants she was wearing but I’d really like to think they’d have been dungarees. Donna was perhaps the most magnificently crunchy looking person I’d ever had the fortune of meeting.
She greeted us cheerfully and we told her we’d love some apple recommendations. At this Donna looked confused. “Well what kind of apples do you like?” She said this slowly as if suspecting us of playing some sort of trick on her. Emily piped in that she thought she’d heard fuji might be good. Donna looked at her a little too long before setting off on something of an apple monologue. I wish I had an exact transcript of her advice because it’d be a great piece for acting auditions. Her speech definitely ended though with Donna telling us that if we thought the result of a Fuji apple on the pallet was satisfactory, we’d want to go to the far right side of the tent and pick out a “Cox Orange Pippin.” We thanked Donna, paid her two dollars in quarters that we hadn’t needed for the parking meter, and made our way around the right end of the tent to get our apples.
Emily and I passed more types of apples than we’d ever seen. I was paying attention to each one’s name now. There were beautiful red Cameos and large plump SnapDragons quite close to overflowing from their crates. We passed so many vibrant colors, crisp pink apples, golden yellows, vibrant greens, and then at the end of the row, I saw the sign: “Cox Orange Pippin.” We hastened to them and looked inside to find a cluster of shriveled brown apples covered in spots. Emily appeared confused as I was.
I couldn’t understand it as I looked at the succulent pink apples on our left and then back to the dull brown of the Pippins. It appeared Donna had been messing with us and sudden resentment grew in me. She probably sang praises of the Cox Orange Pippin to everyone she spoke to trying to sell the disgusting little twerps any way she could. I looked through the covered area trying to grab her attention but she was talking with an older woman, no doubt another interested customer.
The resentment built up stronger. All we’d wanted was some genuine apple advice and she’d tried to trick us. Donna was probably telling this poor old lady right now “Sure Ma’am, the Cox Orange Pippins will get rid of your bunions in no time.” And what would the rest of the customers hear? “Yes sir, your children will never misbehave again once they get a little Pippin.” “That’s right Mr. Humphreys, all it takes is a Cox Orange Pippin to bring that spark back into your marriage.” I for one was not going to let Donna take me for a ride. Emily and I continued our apple search and opted for two enormous “Sweet Sixteen” apples. We continued walking down the commons as I angrily munched my large pink apple.
Emily, a huge bookworm, wanted to stop in Buffalo Street Books. I walked through aisles of book shelves still crunching on my Sweet Sixteen. It was tasty but an overwhelmingly sweet flavor. It was a tad too much for me. I mindlessly picked up a few books glancing over their covers and looking at pictures of the authors. Emily walked by joking with me “Garrett, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.” I felt a little uneasy as I continued pursuing and wasn’t sure why.
As I ate my sickly Sweet Sixteen and found myself wondering what Donna would have to say about them. “Beautiful to the eye, but don’t let looks deceive you” perhaps. It hit me all at once right there in the bookstore that I had done just that. The pockmarked Cox Orange Pippins hadn’t been recommended for their looks. What if they’d been the most delicious apple in the world? The ugly duckling of apples, forever shunned for the way they look but their true beauty seen by their savior, Donna.
A million thoughts began to race through my head. What if Donna had been testing us! She could have told us to try the Cox Orange Pippin and then watched from afar to see if we actually would. Perhaps she really was telling everyone to try the Pippins and was conducting an experiment seeing how many people would. Maybe the ones who sampled them got to be part of her very important study still further, being asked what they thought of this grand apple and how best to record its legacy. Or, I thought suddenly clutching a shelf for balance, what if Donna was some sort of genie appearing once a year at Applefest to find the worthiest people with the purest souls. Perhaps she was measuring our compassion to see if we’d sneer away at this physically revolting apple or try it with true open mindedness. Then Donna would reveal herself to the worthy person and grant them three wishes. The only logical wish would be for more Cox Orange Pippins and at this Donna would be so happy that she’d grant all your wildest dreams for the rest of your life.
Regardless if Donna did or did not have motives other than to provide us with apples we’d enjoy, we had messed up big time. We’d been woefully ignorant in our apple selection. I rushed to tell Emily what I’d realized as we walked out of the bookstore, though perhaps in less detail. She agreed that we had been prejudice towards the Pippins and suggested going back. I considered the idea but it felt wrong to go back after we had failed Donna like this. Somehow I know she saw us walking away from the stand with Sweet Sixteens rather than a Cox Orange Pippin for each of us. One does not devote a lifetime to apples and then miss a beat at one’s own apple stand at the biggest apple festival of the year. It would be pathetic if we were to show our faces around there after what we’d done. We trudged back to the parking garage, truly shamed. It was then that Emily showed me her uneaten Sweet Sixteen and told me she was allergic to apple skins.

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