by Hugh Wesley
You gotta get to it while you're still on the right side of the roots.
|The old apple tree groaned as Chester leaned against it.
“You sound about as bad as I feel,” he said to the tree.
George chuffed and pawed at the ground.
“Ain’t nobody talkin’ to you, you ol’ mule,” Chester croaked to the animal still standing upright in the midday sun at the edge of the hay field.
“Why don’t you come up under here in the shade, take a rest?”
George took a bite of hay, chewed it a few times, threw his head to toward the west, away from Chester and into the sun.
“Well, you never did have no sense,” Chester said. “I think you’re still afraid an apple will fall on your head, aren’t you?”
Chester heaved his chest a few times, breath wheezing. He rubbed a gritty forearm across his forehead to wipe away the sweat.
“This tree ain’t born no fruit in at least twenty years, you fool!”
George craned his neck to look at Chester, then let out a bellow.
“You go on back to work if you want to, beast,” Chester said. “I’m too old for this heat.”
George shook his head and kicked his back legs, sending a clop of dirt flying. It plopped against something hard on the other side of the tree.
Chester frowned and stepped into the sunshine, looking for the dirt the mule had flung.
He found it, alright — it had slammed against Pete Foster’s headstone.
Chester had forgotten all about the little Foster cemetery there on the backside of the tree.
Pete had decided to give up farming when he was sixty. Sold the land to Chester. Died the next week.
“Welp,” he said, picking up the scythe. “We better get back to work, you ol’ paint, before Pete comes lookin’ for a buddy.”