The Mirror of Truth

The Magic Coin

The Gopher’s Other World

The Forbidden Union

The Trail of Paradox

The Squirrel and the Apple

The Camel’s Conclusion

Will and Trust

The Subservient Child

Fanning the Freedom Flame

The Seed of Possibility

Harvest Forlorn


“Stories tell us of what we already knew and forgot, and remind us of what we haven’t yet imagined.”

—Anne L. Watson

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The Squirrel and the Apple

____ Out amongst an orchard full of bountiful trees there lived a busy little squirrel. He had many friends in the orchard but most of all he loved the many fruits, vegetables, and nuts that grew there. Of all these, his dearest friend in all creation was a new green apple which grew high atop the most gorgeous apple tree that anyone ever laid eyes upon. They had met when he was just a blossom, and even then they could feel their extraordinary bond. For hours on end the little squirrel and his best friend would sit on the branches and talk about everything of wonder. ____ They longed for a day when the apple would be fully ripe and they could set out on a journey together, but for the time being, all they could do was dream; and dream they did!
____ While the apple hung from the branch high above the orchard he loved to watch the squirrel make his rounds. He delighted at each of the squirrel's encounters and longed for the ability to run and climb like his friend, but he did not share these feelings with his four-legged comrade for fear of sounding envious. He also withheld his frustrations out of a deep love for the squirrel, for the last thing he wanted to do was burden this fanciful creature with the shackles he knew he must maintain. He realized that to sever the stem that chained him to the tree before he was ripe would mean an early and unproductive end to his life, so he accepted his vicarious position as the squirrel's personal cheerleader knowing he might never fully be a part of his merry ride.
____ As days passed, the apple's green skin turned to red, and he knew his time of freedom was nearing. Excitedly, the squirrel announced his plan. On his next trip to the forest he would take along his best friend on what would be the apple's inaugural voyage.
____ When the opportunity for travel presented itself, the squirrel made his plans. Since the apple couldn't walk or run, he had built a special cart on which he would pull his special friend. He set out on his way to the gorgeous apple tree. Along the way he met his friend the frog who asked if he could come along. Hopping along, side by side, the twosome made their way to the apple's tree. Passing under a large pecan tree they heard tiny voices calling out. The pecans on the ground were envious of the squirrel's invention for they knew it meant that even they could journey to the forest. Realizing his invention could be their dream come true, the generous squirrel couldn't bear to pass them by, so he lifted them up and placed them into the cart. As they passed under the old oak tree a similar thought was cast and the cart now held acorns as well. As the journey continued, the cart became full of leaves, twigs, nuts, and berries and the squirrel felt great joy at giving so many friends such a marvelous ride.
____ At last they neared the apple tree and the squirrel's best friend watched as they approached. At first he felt a bit ill at ease, for the squirrel had said nothing about traveling companions, but his discomfort did not last as he recalled why he loved the squirrel as he did. It was the very attitude of giving selflessly that endeared him to his friend, so he knew he could not be angry at such a noble and generous act.
____ Arriving at the tree the squirrel began to climb, but the apple called and stopped him, telling him that the cart appeared to be full and that there was no room for him to ride. He offered to wait for the next trip. The squirrel apologized for his oversight but the sentiment was unnecessary, for the apple understood and was happy that the grounded creatures could experience such joy. He knew in his heart that his day would come; besides, the tree, which held him tightly, was still sustaining him. He knew the other's days were indeed numbered, so he graciously put his own desires on hold.
____ A week later the squirrel came upon another opportunity to take his cart to the forest. He notified the apple by way of a bluebird and set out on his way. About halfway to the apple tree he reached the edge of the fruit tree section of the magnificent orchard. A pear that had recently fallen from his tree called out to him. He had heard about the cart from an acorn friend and wished to join in the fun. With a heart as big as a mountain, the squirrel consented. By the time they reached the apple tree, the cart carried a plum, two pears, and a peach. The squirrel called up to the apple, apologizing because it had happened yet again. The apple sent down a little laugh and sent them on their way, happy for all of them as the experience had allowed still more dreams to be fulfilled.
____ On the next journey, the squirrel reached the apple tree with a peach, three plumbs, and a pear. Again the apple understood and sent them away. The next trip carried plums exclusively, and then came a trip with only pears. The squirrel was elated. He felt like such a noble creature for bringing such joy to the orchard. Everywhere he turned he heard others sing his praises. He felt the greatest joy when he thought about his best friend, his personal cheerleader cheering him on from atop the tree. He knew the special apple would be so proud.
____ Eventually the trips never even made it to the apple tree as the cart filled so very rapidly, but he knew all the while his apple friend would understand. Besides, he was saving the best trip for him, and oh would it be such a joy! All the while the apple watched the activity, smiling through his loneliness at the joy he witnessed.
____ When all the fruits on the ground had made their trips, the squirrel ventured over to the vegetable garden, sending a message to the apple via mockingbird, informing his friend of the delay. There simply wasn't time to make it over to the apple tree and back in time for the first vegetable run, and it took so many trips, for only two or three tomatoes could fit on the cart at one time.
____ After many days of non-stop pulling, every object on the orchard's ground had made a trip to the forest. The little squirrel was exhausted but he felt poignant warmth inside. He was extremely proud of himself, for he knew of no other creature that would go to such lengths to see that everyone was happy. His joy was doubled by the thought of having a friend so special that would share his pride, cheering him on selflessly as he patiently waited his turn. Even though he had not seen or heard from his friend in weeks, that loving spirit never left his heart.
____ The squirrel had worked so very hard, and now he was entirely worn out, but he believed he could muster just enough energy to give his patient friend that promised trip. Arriving at the tree he called to the apple, yet the voice that returned sounded much more resonant and full than he had remembered. Throughout the squirrel's many days of service, the apple did indeed wait patiently, but he did not rest idly on his stem. While the squirrel's journey went on and on, he pictured his little friend as he remembered him, but time had passed and the little apple continued to grow, and grow, and grow. Now the beautifully mature apple was five times the size it had been at their last meeting and the squirrel's special cart was entirely too small.
____ Crushed by the weight of his own insensitivity, the squirrel rushed off to build a bigger cart, wondering how he could have been so thoughtless. It took him days to gather enough material and a week to complete the task, but at last the cart was complete, and it was truly a special creation. He knew now that he had an opportunity to make up for the time he'd been away, for this cart was a glorious gift, and he promised it would be used only to carry his precious friend.
____ When he reached the tree he stopped in his tracks as he noticed the unforgettable sight of tire tracks under the tree. Harvest time had come and the harvest was complete. The apple tree was bare.
____ A week later the squirrel was speaking with a pigeon that had been the apple's mutual friend. He had just come from the county fair, and it seemed the apple's patience and compassion had paid off, for the bird had seen the apple on a table surrounded by people and laced in a blue ribbon. The squirrel was happy for his friend's achievement, but he also felt a bit of pain for having returned too late to deliver his promise. The pain turned to anguish as the pigeon finished the story. The apple had won the contest on the merits of his size, firmness, and outward beauty. This rare beauty became miraculous to the onlookers as the judges cut the apple open. Though the apple had appeared strong and perfect on the outside, cutting into the heart revealed that the core had disintegrated into a thousand tiny pieces.

© 1993 - Paul Stephens