The winner of our most recent round of ZIP Code Stories is Robert Alaine-Couture's "Moment of Forgiveness."
ZIP Code Stories is Radio Boston's collaboration with The Drum - Boston's Audio Literary Magazine - where we ask you to write a story that captures an essence of your neighborhood in 500 words or less. This round required writers to include the following three things in their stories - an apple, a pick-up truck and the word "mask," which could be used either as a noun or verb.
Couture's "Moment of Forgiveness" transports us to Williamsburg, Massachusetts, where old and new relationships converge in a pastoral orchard setting.
Moment of Forgiveness
Thomas looked out the window, again. Passing clouds masked the October sun, dappling the trees and garden. Ben had left a message the week before: “I’ll be down in Northampton next weekend. It’ll be great to catch up.” He had spoken in that measured, close to the chest tone that Thomas knew too well. Now, days later, Thomas was anxiously cleaning the house; fretting, distracted. A meal--his favored vegetarian stew--likely to be politely declined, simmered on the stove.
As typical Ben arrived late. After some idle chitchat about nothing, Ben asked if they could walk the property. He had brought a large bottle of red wine (supermarket-cheap, Thomas noticed) and grabbed it along with two tumblers from the sink. Thomas led them out through the barn to the garden, pausing to point out the features he’d grown proudest of, breezing past those he wanted to change. They strolled for an hour or so, finally stopping at a rock wall near the far reaches of the field. Just beyond the wall and some distance down the road sat a tavern and a few antique houses, marking the wide spot that is downtown Williamsburg. A large oversized apple tree grew up out of the wall, obscuring the otherwise idyllic view with its bent and twisted branches.
Ben immediately suggested Thomas cut it down.
It was the only one on the property. Old and broken, its pungent rotting windfall perfumed the air. A lone oversized golden beauty clung tight to an upper branch. When Thomas had first bought the house two years ago he had tasted a few of the apples and disregarded them as mealy, bitter and flavorless: without purpose other than ornament. Yet surrounded by beauty, this seemingly dead tree had thrived.
“I’m leaving it,” he said. “It makes a mess of everything but I’m leaving it.”
They’d been sitting silently on the wall for a while, sipping wine, watching the light fade over the valley when a pick-up truck bounced carelessly across the field towards them, rutting the soil along the way. A mousy blonde woman stepped down from the cab. She was a bit sturdier than Thomas had expected; less pretty, too.
“Hi Tom? I’m Amy.” The woman came forward and offered a limp hug. “It took me forever to find you.”
Ben chuckled, “I said the same thing.”
They stood and exchanged pleasantries for a few moments - with Ben taking the lead, eagerly describing the town as if he hadn’t just learned it all moments before. While Ben spoke, Thomas began assessing the damage Ben’s wife had inflicted, and then gave up. There’d be time later.
“Let’s head back to the house, I’ve got dinner ready.”
As the three turned towards the house, Ben looked over at Thomas and gave a wink, reaching up as they passed the tree to pluck the apple. He took a big bite, oblivious to the bitterness, and slung his arm over Thomas’s shoulder, “It’s so good to see you.”
This program aired on February 27, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.