My mother had a slap stick, but it wasn’t at all funny, not like the slapstick comedy we loved. It was a wooden stick she used to slap us with when we were disobedient. I can’t remember Slap Stick’s name, but is must have been something like ‘Obedience’. The rules were simple – one smack on the palm of your hand for lightweight mischief and a slightly more impressive one on the bottom for any action that disrespected another being or his possessions, or endangered any life.
Despite Obedience’s reinforced discipline, my brother and I climbed into the apple tree one afternoon while my mother was taking the washing from the line. White sheets reflected starchily in the sun. The cider apples were deceitfully red. Underneath all that tight-pulled peel, smooth as a Botox brow, they were floury bitter.
A few rotten ones spilled from the branch above. They were browning, the skin wrinkling and sagging around the holes bird beaks had left. The invisible bruises rippled to the core, accumulating into a stinking pulp of raw apple puree.
“Let’s play war,” I suggested. “The apples are the bombs. Aim for the fence,” I told my younger brother.
– My first apple grenade hit the newly painted wall and left its mushy brown mark.
– My brother’s apple hit a sheet.
– My mother’s voice exploded over the yard, far worse than any bomb.
Either from fright or reflex my brother projected his second round of ammunition, which rocketed through the air and hit a bull’s eye on my mom’s unsuspecting back.
We were both ordered to the bathroom, Obedience in tow. I was first, being the oldest. My brother had to wait his turn outside. Before Obedience hit its target, I had already started yelling, believing a better show would lighten the blow. From the other end of the door, Andrew said, “It’s my turn now.”
He could never stand my screaming.