Two Halves of the Apple, Chapter One


Before I died, I was pretty happy. I had a new Jeep and was heading off to college.
I died suddenly in a freak accident. I had no idea my journey was just beginning.

My name is Gabe. In my human life, I was pretty good looking. I played football and got good grades when I felt like it. For my nineteenth birthday, my parents surprised me with a red Jeep. It was a little beat up, but it ran. It might not have seemed that great to some people, but I knew how hard they had worked to save up for it. It meant the world to me.
They ran a diner in town and worked all hours of the day and night to make ends meet. They’d come home tired, sore feet, half-asleep. What I always thought was, How can they be so happy when they work their butts off all the time? After I had died, I understood that they loved their job. They liked feeding people, having their own business, and having a place in town where people could gather and connect.
It wasn’t my job to be watching out for them after I died, but I couldn’t help it. I looked in on them every once in a while to make sure my mom still had pies in the oven and rotating in the glass case. I knew that if ever there were no more pies, something was terribly wrong.
That’s how she told people she loved them. Birthday? Have a lemon ice box pie. Wedding? Have a chocolate mousse pie. Only son leaving for college? Serve a dozen pies for all his friends to gorge themselves on while they played lawn darts and spent one last Saturday afternoon together.
You had to look harder at my dad to figure him out. That was something else I didn’t realize until after I was gone. He was always there. He didn’t bluster or talk a lot. He didn’t bake pies or give extravagant gifts. He was cooking for people. Omelets were his specialty. He was taking care of his family. He was repairing something around the house or the diner. He was mowing the lawns for older neighbors who couldn’t do it themselves.
He was teaching me to be like him, too. When I was about 14, he shook me awake while it was still dark. I had planned on sleeping as long as I could since it was Christmas break. I rubbed my eyes, and he was standing over me dressed in his winter coat and boots. He said nothing. He just waved me on to follow him out into the hallway.
When I stumbled into the hallway, he handed me my snow pants and the rest of my gear. Then we went outside and crunched over the snow, still bluish in the pre-dawn light. We each grabbed a shovel and started clearing off the neighbors’ driveways. We started with the elderly folks who’d need their meal deliveries. Then we worked our way up and back down our little rural road just outside of town.
After I had died, I thought of that little road as a satellite to the main part of town, a place where you couldn’t get away with any mischief because Harriet was always peering out her front window. Bernie was always in his recliner pretending to watch t.v., but really seeing who was out and about. Everyone took care of each other. Things were simple there surrounded by corn fields.

The night after my going away party, I couldn’t sleep. I had this feeling my life was balanced on the head of a pin. I figured every kid who was about to leave home for the first time felt that way. I was antsy. I slipped out the back door and stood on the grass. Folding my arms, I looked up at a full moon.
            I knew I’d miss this place and it wouldn’t look the same to me when I came back. I was going to school in Madison, and I’d be the new kid along with a thousand other new kids. I’d probably look pretty “country” to everyone there. For old time’s sake, I threw on my boots caked with mud from the last time I wore them to fish in our pond. I walked the ATV out a ways from the house and fired it up.
            Motor sawing through the night, I took off across our property heading for the tree line. The wind in my face would forever be linked to a wild grin. I was caught up in the moment and may have been going a faster than I should have. I wanted to take a jump off a small moonlit hill, so I revved the engine and went for it. I was living every boy’s dream.
            When I realized the brakes weren’t working, I tried my hardest to turn it around before I got too close to the tree line. I failed.

I knew I was dead right away. I hadn’t anticipated how quickly I would understand so many things. No panic, just peaceful recognition. When my parents found me, there was nothing that could be done. I had broken my neck and died painlessly.
            I watched them try and make sense of their time without me. My mom got out her supplies to make a pie. She tapped her fingers on the counter for a minute and smoothed her hair. She put her supplies back in the cupboards. My dad had been crying in the bathroom so that he wouldn’t upset my mom. When he came out, they almost collided in the hallway. They grabbed each other tight and collapsed to the floor in a mess of grief.
            The interesting thing was that I wasn’t too sad. I had the sense that they would heal in time. Things were they way they needed to be. And that was the moment I found myself on another plane of existence.

It was emptiness, but not in a sad, lacking way. It was neutral, light, and full of hope. There was no floor and no ceiling as if to emphasize the limitless possibilities.
            I walked around slowly on what seemed like an invisible floor, fearing I’d plummet to who knows where with each step. I called out, “Hello.”
            A man appeared sitting with his legs crossed. He was older, gray-haired, and had one arm across the back of what I imagined to be an invisible chair. The other arm was propped on his knee holding a cigarette. He was smoking like it was his job. He was the kind of man I wouldn't have readily approached when I was alive.
            He barked, “Sit down. You’re making me tired.”
            I scratched my and thought, Should an angel be smoking? Is he an angel?
            “Let’s get this over with. I’m Abram. Your mentor. Here we go.”
            “What are we doing?”
            “It’s easier if we just do it. Trust me.” He didn’t look me in the eye, just stared straight ahead into the nothingness.
            He continued, “Everything starts with these two. You’ve got Adam.” He put out his left hand, “He’s the man. And you got Eve.” He put out his right hand. “I know what you’re thinking. They’re not very creative with the names around here.”
            I wasn’t thinking anything, but I kept my mouth shut.
            As if there were a perfectly clear movie playing in front of us, we saw a huge split screen. On one side a young man, Adam, I assumed. On the other side, Eve.
            “These two need to meet, and soon.”
            “What happens if they don’t?”
            “Then we have to do this all over again in a hundred years. Let’s see if we can’t help ‘em along.” He laughed a rasping smoker’s laugh.
            I stole a glance at Abram’s cigarette. I was still fascinated with this concept. He hadn’t flicked off the ash, yet the cigarette hadn’t burned down at all either.
            He slapped me on the side of the head. “Pay attention. This is important.”
            The man and woman on the screen were walking toward one another, each with a friend. It looked as if they might physically run into each other. They were steps away from impact when Abram stood up from his invisible chair with the cigarette dangling from his mouth.
            I leaned forward anticipating a big moment when the screen went blank.

            “No, no, no,” he said shaking his head, “I should rewind things for you some.”


5 comments:

  1. love the name of the angel.

    Susan

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  2. I liked it! The story flowed well and it moved at a good pace. I'm excited to read more, Rachel!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Channing! I appreciate you reading and commenting. It's scary to put new things out there. Everyone can use a high-five now and then.

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  3. Keep it going...
    You have my attention.

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