A simple premise; a bold promise To present one story per day,
every day—providing exceptional authors with exposure
and avid readers with first-rate fiction.

Today's Story by Benjamin Wachs

“We have to use it,” they told each other. “This will only be worth it if we follow through.”


The lesson he’d been taught in apple orchards was:  don’t pick the fallen fruit.  We don’t pasteurize, it changes the flavor, and that’s the fruit most likely to contain bacteria that kill children and old people when they drink it.

She made cider the way he remembered it:  from an unpasteurized batch, mulled with cloves and cinnamon.  She was from Michigan, where they know what cider’s supposed to taste like.  Where they keep it away from the very young and the very old.  For them, the smell has to be enough.  Take a deep breath, remember everything that you’re missing, or drink from another steaming pan … this one pasteurized.  It tastes safe.

It got harder and harder to find real cider in the stores, even in Michigan;  even in Indiana.  Then federal health regulations made it impossible.  He had a young apple tree transported to the back yard.  He knew how to take care of it.  She researched presses online, a good one was more expensive than they’d expected, and together they cleared space for it in the basement.   He threw out his high school track trophies, she donated a box of her grandmother’s tacky Christmas ornaments to the Methodist church.  He’d never won a trophy since childhood:   she’d told her family she’d hold on to the ornaments so grandma would know they were safe.  “We have to use it,” they told each other.  “This will only be worth it if we follow through.”

He tended the tree in the spring and it bore fruit in the fall.  He picked it before the apples hit the ground and put them in wicker baskets made by an old woman at the farmer’s market.

Two weeks went by … almost two much time … but they took the baskets downstairs and put the apples in the press.  They made too much:  they had to bottle some of it and set it in the fridge, and put even more in the meat freezer to save for later.  There was room in the freezer, though:  he had expensive cuts flown in from around the world, and couldn’t afford too much.  She always laughed at him that it was crazy to spend so much on meat that you put on ice.  He pulled these steaks out for special occasions:  for ordinary dinners they bought local.

That night they mulled half the batch and sipped the other half raw.  It made them shiver.  It tasted like childhood.  The smell of cider filled the house.  He’d had a Kobe fillet from the freezer defrosting.  When the phone rang and Ted and Norma asked what they were doing for dinner, she said they both had to work late.  He put the steak on the grill with a light sesame and soy marinade.

They sat down to dinner, eating outside even though it was too chilly.  They ate in silence;  they drank together;  they watched the fireflies flicker in the back yard.

“You know,” he said at last, “Adam ate an apple in the Garden of Eden, and that’s what made him mortal.  But in Norse mythology, the gods eat golden apples from a tree, and that’s what makes them live forever.”

“Huh,” she said.  She closed her eyes and smelled the steam coming out of her cup.  For a moment she was back in her childhood, and soon Christmas presents would magically appear.  The happiest moments of her life.  She opened her eyes and looked at her husband.   It was exactly the sort of thing he’d say.  He’d wanted to grow up so fast.  “I think they were both right.”


Benjamin Wachs has written for Village Voice Media, Playboy.com, and NPR among other venues.  He archives his work at www.TheWachsGallery.com.

Read more fiction by Benjamin Wachs


To comment on this story, visit Fiction365’s Facebook page