Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Story 5: Extreme Apple Picking

            The field was set: row on row of fruit-laden trees standing around, waiting to be ravaged.  The call did not go unheeded, and thousands from across the land swarmed upon the apple orchard, taking all the produce in sight and leaving nothing but piles of fruit corpses in their wakes.  The trees were bred especially to take this type of punishment without tears.
            This year was unusual, in that bad weather and the blight had demonstrated the truest definition of decimation by knocking out one in every 10 apple trees.  The survivors also were filtered as to who had edible product and who still had to recover from last year’s harvest.  So, out of the entire orchard, only about 15 rows were pickable.  The mass of humanity was concentrated there.
            Even though the price per pound is adjusted to include the collateral damage of those apples eaten on site, do not be lulled into complacency – bailiffs patrol the rows and anyone seen taking a bite and tossing the remainder onto the ground will be beaten soundly with truncheons.  Upon regaining consciousness, the offender then must collect all the fallen heroes at the bases of the trees at the end of the day and cart them to the pigs for dinner.  So, before biting into that tempting fruit, ponder how best not to get caught.
            To keep things interesting, every so often a crop duster flies overhead and shoots applesauce at the crowds; the regulars come prepared with jars and spoons and set up a picnic blanket.
            When selecting apples, keep in mind for what use they are intended.  Braeburn is good for baking and is not to be confused with Red Delicious, which is good for nothing.  Golden Delicious, on the other hand, lives up to its name, but should not be confused with its evil twin, Granny Smith.  Ida Red is not bad either, but also can be mixed up with Braeburn or just about any other red apple in sight.  The only thing to Stayman Winesap’s credit is its name, in that it sounds like a character from a P.G. Wodehouse story.  The row for each variety is marked by a sign, but since everything is thrown into one bag, it is all rather futile.
            The carts to transport the apples also can be converted into a child carrier – just ignore the warning written on them.  Hours of fun offset the occasional tumble-out and tears.
            Occasionally, pickers encounter “Apple Jacks”, duals between rival pickers at each end of a row.  No one ever knows what the argument is about, but each party arms themselves with the biggest apple they can find and lobs it at the other’s head.  The one who does not pick up a mealy apple from the ground wins, so no one ever does.
            Various squash such as walnut, spaghetti, and the common pumpkins and gourds also have set up shop at the orchard, alongside an unnecessary row of sunflowers that were planted there just to freak people out.  The pumpkins are authentic imports to supplement the weak harvest; a few have “Made in Pennsylvania” still stamped on them.  When selecting one from the patch, try to make sure it has not already been pre-kicked.
            On the way to the checkout booths, be sure to be ensnared by more local foodstuff – the honey, jams, and hot dogs are just to die for.  Getting one of each type of item should make a full meal.  Everything is paid for in cash or check, so those who only brought credit cards will have to drive two miles to the nearest ATM as their pickings are held hostage until their return.
            Once released from the orchard’s grasp, dump the cart anywhere and join the queue of automobiles now desperate to escape the labyrinth.  Do not let them see you drive in the opposite direction of the line of cars stretched out to the horizon, since that is the faster route and once they find out, it will be ruined for everyone.
            As the sun sets on the massacre, the apple trees dream of a life where the worst to tear their babies from their arms is a harsh breeze.  We all have our fantasies.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Story 4: Renaissance Fairing

Disappointments early in life prepare you for bigger disappointments later in life.

            The trees were brimming with radiant leaves, leaves that were bursting with color as their chlorophyll abandoned them and bitterly clinging to life before finally, exhausted, they relinquished their grasp and plummeted to their mass grave that was the forest floor.
            The wind began to blow that cool, howling blow that shoved glorious Summer aside to make way for cruel Autumn, the season of death.
            Correction: Winter is the season of death.  Autumn is just the season of dying.
           Which makes it the perfect time of year for Renaissance Fairs!  You see one, you’ve seen them all, but each one has its own flair.  One not to be missed recreates 16th-century London, complete with plague.  Hard-core Renaissance Fair-goers, affectionately dubbed “nerds”, save this stop for later in their lives, in case it may be their last – survivors wear their Elizabethan collars and oozing sores with pride.
            Some fairs get a little muddled in their time periods and locales, as with the fair that was shut down soon after its debut for having Shakespearean plays performed next to American Revolutionary War re-enactments.  Another had the always-present joust followed by a lions vs. Christians match in a makeshift Coliseum occupying the same arena.  There never was a winner in the latter event.
            Speaking of the joust – each one follows the same basic formula, so it is always interesting to see deviations.  One featured a knight knocked off his noble steed who was jarred into speaking modern English and pulling a switchblade on his still-astride opponent, who deftly charged in the opposite direction with the aggressor running after him.  Another match saw the “maiden”, a guest selected by one of the knights to fight for, take up the sword she snuck in and soundly defeat her knight’s opponent, who was supposed to fall anyway.  She was banned for life from that company’s Fair.
            As you make the circuit, do not forget to purchase your period clothing, your period weapons, and your period funnel cake.  The period jewelry pieces especially are bargains at prices you will not see anywhere else.
            Long live cosplay!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Story 3: Musical Nights

           “Are you ready to rock?!!?”
            A leaf rustled.
            “I said, ‘Are you READY to ROCK??!!!??!’”
            Fireworks exploded around the D.J.’s speakers and, at last, the crowd did, too.
            It was one of the famous summer bashes at Good Times Rock `n Roll Diner.  The setup was behind the building to accommodate the customers/music connoisseurs who came to experience good ol’ music, nostalgia, and an extra 10% off all eat-in items.
            The boogie-woogieing and the doo-wopping, the shakin’ and the shimmyin’, the twistin’ and the shoutin’ – all were happening that night as they had happened decades before, in that innocent era of the Devil’s music.  Ah, the memories of 10¢ soda, 25¢ movies, stickball in the street, Mama always in the kitchen, Papa always at work, beatings by teacher, segregation.  Good times had by all.
            In hour 5 of the night’s festivities, an impromptu dance competition became heated when two couples attempted to out-hand jive each other.  They were taken away in stretchers, trembling all over in time to the music.
            One listener complained that the purity of the experience was diluted by the fact that the original vinyl recordings had been reproduced on compact discs.  The D.J. turned up the volume in response, with the rest silently agreeing that the sound quality was a bit improved on the new format.
            At one point, an old timey car arrived on the scene: it was held together by duct tape, and a lawn mower was its engine.  The driver was dressed in the trappings of the periods; that is to say, a mix of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and even the 80s, when it all went horribly wrong.  He had a mullet, sunglasses, a sparkly shirt, a leather jacket, bell-bottoms, and disco boots, and he carried a boom box.  Once he saw where he was, he hopped back into his cute car and sped off to the costume party where he belonged.
            The trip down memory lane had finally reached a dead end as the sun began to rise for the new day.  The D.J. finished out the set with a tearjerker, leaving the three surviving listeners sobbing for their lost childhoods as he collapsed across his control board.  Reliving the past takes a lot out of your soul, and he would have to do this all over again next week.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Story 2: Harbor Trip

The momentous day had come: the four-hour drive to The Harbor, followed by a four-hour drive back home.  The Bus felt as ready as it would ever be for this undertaking: tank full, oil changed, bathroom cleaned.  It would survive this journey; with any luck, its passengers would, too.
After many adventures throughout the now six-hour-drive, it was discovered upon arrival that The Harbor would soon be closing for the day.  The Bus did not risk life and tires to be turned away at the gates – not now, not like this.  The passengers at that point wanted to go home, but they were trapped by their only mode of easy transportation.  The Bus would not be foiled by museum hours.
It backed up less stealthily than it would have liked, since the beep-beep-beeps revealed its position.  It then reared forward, smoke pouring through its nostrils, as it kneeled and accelerated along the ground, reaching escape velocity just as it impacted the gates.  Tourists and employees alike scattered into the bushes and dove behind statues as The Bus flew through the air, arcing gracefully at a 45ยบ angle until it descended into The Harbor with a mighty splash.  Fish and birds were displaced momentarily, then were able to resume their day.
            This disturbance did not go unnoticed.  The Whaler, resting peacefully in its dock as its parts were replaced one-by-one over the years, noted the unholy commotion.  Pirates have returned to these waters, was its fearful thought.
            The Whaler shook off its barnacles and shot out the hapless explorers crawling around its deck and in its bowels.  The screams of the slaughtered whales past could at last be ignored: there was work to be done
            Its sails unfurled, its helm pointed true, its cannons set at the ready.  Onward it sailed, to defend The Harbor, to defend life, to defend love, to defend revenue.
            The Bus continued its forward course until it sensed a ship approaching off the port bow.  It came about and faced The Whaler in all its menace.  Battle was at hand, and as its enemy had done, The Bus shot out the passengers seated inside it, the better able to maneuver in strange waters.  The passengers swam to shore, were taken in by the nearest restaurant, and were never seen again.
            The battle commenced!  Cannonballs were answered by the noxious flames shot from The Bus’s front grill.  Each vessel was mighty – The Whaler in size, The Bus in speed and pluck.  As The Whaler suffered singe-marks and chipped paint from the battle, docents everywhere wept.
            At last, The Bus chanced all by accelerating to ramming speed.  The Whaler, knowing that no quarter would be given and there would be no second attempt at restoration, hoisted a white flag in surrender.  The Harbor was yielded: The Bus was triumphant.  It coasted into The Whaler’s dock and took its place as the featured attraction of the Harbor.
            The defeated Whaler sailed onto the shore, dropped anchor in the main parking lot, and provided free tours of the town until the end of its days.