It is thieving – there are worse crimes!
“I thought you were going to get me some apples?” Abby glared at her husband.
“I am, give me a chance,” Andy tutted, “Can’t you see I’m busy?”
“Put your betting slips away, and get outside, find me at least thirty cookers for my pies. And I mean now!”
Andy ducked as a wooden spoon skimmed his head and thudded into the television.
“And don’t forget a bag to carry them in. Unlike last time. Idiot.”
“Bloody women,” he breathed as soon as he was out of hearing range. He searched for his unused work boots. He looked around to make sure she hadn’t heard him.
The front door slammed behind him. He was in control at last. But not for long.
“Oy, goofy, where are you going?” next door’s thirteen-year-old daughter laughed.
Andy pulled up his coat collar and ignored the horrible child.
“Morning, Andy, you are early today,” called the newsagent, stepping back from the doorway as Andy made his way to the counter.
“I’ll have The Sun please.”
“What a surprise, you always buy that rag.”
“It is good for racing and football. And I like it,” grunted Andy. Under his breath, he whispered, “And it is none of your business.”
Grabbing the sports section, he buried his nose in last night’s game reports.
“Shit, they lost again,” Andy crumpled the paper and stuffed it in his pocket next to the precious bag. His temperature was rising.
“Where are you going so bright and early?” The over made-up fifty-year-old woman called. “If you’ve got a tenner, I could make your morning,” she laughed.
Andy continued walking towards the farm, still hearing the woman’s giggles.
The farm dog chased to the gate, gnashing teeth and letting Andy know he was not welcome.
“Ha, I’m not coming in the front gate, stupid dog. You’re as thick as your owner,” whispered Andy. The last thing he needed was a double-barrelled shotgun aimed at him.
With his shoulders slumped and head ducked, Andy briskly marched past the farmhouse, continuing up the lane and beyond the woods towards the farm’s far orchard. The chirping birds brightened Andy’s mood, but not for long. There was a battered truck parked near the gap in the hedge. Andy’s entrance to his prize, thirty cooking apples to keep his wife off his back, at least until she found something else to take him away from the tv.
“How am I supposed to make a living, if I don’t get the chance to study the odds?” he thought.
He ducked his head halfway through the hole, listening for any sign of the truck owner. Was the farmer working in the orchard? Silence. Andy rubbed his hands more because of the chill in the air than the pleasure of collecting the prize fruit.
Andy squeezed through the gap, straightened and brushed the leaves off his jacket. He looked around for low-hanging branches laden with plump apples. Walking ahead he spotted a tree almost breaking with the weight of ‘cookers’. He hurried ahead. Stopping in his tracks, frozen. A man was sitting his back resting against the tree trunk, casually smoking. There was a small pile of dog ends next to his right hand.
“Hello, what you after?” the man asked.
“The same as you, I guess,” Andy spotted a small pile of apples in front of the man’s outstretched legs.
“Good timing mate, I was just having a break, before I went to my truck to fetch a beer crate to stand on, as you can see the best fruit is out of reach. Now you can fetch it. Off you go, I’ve left the back door unlocked.”
Andy looked at the man, recognition was dawning, it was ‘Smithy’ the school thug.
“Oh, no,” he gasped.
“What are you looking at?”
“Wait a minute, do I know you?”
“Yes,” stammered Andy. “We went to school together.”
“Wait a minute, let me look at you. Christ, it’s ‘Goggles’, I remember you. Haha, you wore those National Health glasses, with little curly bits around the ears. Yes, it’s coming back, you had pink ones,” he roared with laughter.
“I only had pink ones because you broke my blue ones, I had to wear my sister’s.”
Smithy was rolling around on the ground, his laughter got louder as did the slaps on his thighs. He struggled to stop long enough to issue an order.
“Get the crate, I’ll climb up and for every three apples, I get one for you. That’s fair.”
“I only need thirty, my wife said.”
“Christ, you sound like you are back at school. The teacher said…” he started cackling again.
Andy stomped off to the truck.
“There’s a good boy. Put it there and I’ll clamber up and drop the fruit to you.”
Smithy standing tall was stretching and twisting the fruit free. Then lobbing them to Andy, who dropped more than he caught, causing rounds of hilarity from above.
Memories of thirty years ago came crashing between Andy’s ears, the bullying, the teasing and the torture he had suffered at the hands of this foul person. Even now he was laughing and giving out orders.
“Do you remember the day that fat cow, what was her name? I can’t remember, the girl reported me for playing tricks on you, anyway I got expelled ‘cos of her and you,” he chuckled.
Andy’s face was glowing like a winter’s poker, “Her name was Abby, she is my wife.”
“You must be joking? Who would marry her?”
Smithy was on tiptoes, stretching across a ‘V’ section of branches. Grunting as he reached. Andy took hold of Smithy’s thigh, twisted it and pulled down with all the force he could muster. There was a yelp and a loud crack. The crack was not wooden.
Smithy toppled from the beer crate, but the branches held him tight by the neck, throat pushed against the ‘V’. His legs swinging slowly, feet twitching.
Andy’s fingers moved his newspaper aside and shook open his plastic bag. Then counted in thirty fat and juicy apples. He whistled as he ducked through the hole.
His smile broadened, as did his stride, as he passed the farm gate. The dog, tail between its legs, growled and ducked into the barn. Andy was almost skipping as he swung his bag up and down. He slowed only at the newsagent’s doorway to flash the ‘up yours’ to the puzzled owner.
Pushing back his front door, he bowled straight to the kitchen. His glare stopped any comments from his wife about taking his footwear off.
“There are your apples, make the pie sweeter this time. I’ll be in front of the telly picking out my winners. Oh, and I’ll have a cuppa. Make it snappy.”