Cummonyah and Geddaway sit on a large rectangular chunk of cream sandstone that has collapsed from the retaining wall it once helped to form. Most days Geddaway looks at the collapsed wall and imagines fixing it. Everywhere he looks there’s something to fix. So, he often looks up at the sky or closes his eyes. Priorities have changed and what has fallen down must remain so. The sandstone is blinding in the full sun but is a softer cream in the shade. The stone is warm and its heat draws up into their buttocks. They are facing the apple tree and staring at its singular offering of fruit hanging from the end of a branch. It is ripening. The skin is turning pink and soon it will attract the flies, the crows and certainly intruders. Geddaway slowly moves the palm of his hand back and forth along the edge of the stone. It is rough and makes him think of the foot of Jesus he rubbed in Rome a very long time ago. The marble, had been worn down from people rubbing it for over 500 years. It looked like melted wax. He wondered how long it would take for this stone’s edge to become smooth. How is the marble Jesus different to this stone? Jesus was a block of stone once and why did people rub it? Maybe to extract a bit of God? The trinity; God in Michael in the stone and in the stone Jesus … that’s four? God, Jesus, stone … God, Mother, Jesus … what’s the other one? … What was that statue called? Someone’s Pity? Michael’s Pity? Michael’sAngelof? Angel of, angelov? Jesus was dead in his mother’s arms. She looked as he had felt. So sad you just droop. If he rubbed this stone with purpose, deliberately maybe he could smoothen the edge. He would need to become disciplined and rub the stone, say three times a day every day for three minutes at a time then he might begin to see a softening, a smoothness on the stone. He must expect a little rawness on his palms. He would need to sit facing the tree and away from it alternately to allow both hands to work the stone. Blisters will heal and the skin will toughen. Maybe that’s the price for wanting to touch God, but this is not God, it’s stone. Where is God? We blister while stone becomes easier to touch. Maybe we become easier to touch when we have been blistered. Skin. Not much between us and everything else. Rome also had the pictured ceiling and the Papa. That ceiling … got a sore neck staring at it, the stories in pictures. The Big Ending, The Guddenov … of … can’t remember what of? He remembered a long time ago having made too much cement for something and had a leftover pile of sloppy grey cement mix and was deciding to make something and did not know what to make. Deciding what to do with a lump of soft stuff should be an easy thing to do. A child with a bit of mud does not need to think, or does it? He did not remember. He felt the feeling again he had felt then. An emotional memory, a hollowness, a sense of being useless and then he’d felt angry at himself and ended up making a simple round shape like a deflated ball. A squat, dropped turd. It lay in the garden for years mocking him and when they left that house he felt sad to leave it, that unformed lump. This stone was his last chance to form something. The possibility of making some imprint on this stone lifted Geddaway’s spirits and he made a sacred oath that he would rub the stone three times a day every day for as many days as he had left. The palm trees beyond the garden are black against a dirty yellow sky. Everything is a silhouette now. People look like slate from a distance. He remembers though that once he watched his children playing in the sea and it was near sunset and still very warm and as he watched them he needed to squint against the setting sun and they seemed for the longest time to be black silhouettes frolicking in silver waves. Frolicking is a word he had not used in a long time. One only used it when one had children and even then one probably only thought it and never spoke it out aloud. How many words had he thought and not spoken?
Frolick, frolicking, frolly, lolly, picnic, picnicking, panicking he said quietly to himself. Froalllick, frolliek he sounded the word each time with a new emphasis and saying the word made him feel playful and smile.
What you smiling at Old man? Gone mad talking to yerself you old bastard? Cummonyah said sitting down beside him.
There are so many words we don’t use anymore and soon we’ll forget them cos we don’t use em and it’s a shame.
Everything makes you sad, you make yerself sad when yer happy.
Do you think so?
Ye think too much.
The apple is coming on beautifully. That makes me happy.
Do you love me?
He picked up a stone and rolled it from one palm into the other.
Yes. He said.
We should leave here, while we can.
You mean leave?
We could come back. Yes. Leave.
Like the birds, leave to come back?
I suppose? At least we’d be doing something, trying something.
What’s the point of leaving if we come back? Why don’t you just say leave when you mean leave?
You’re scared, you’ve always been so scared and where’s that got you?
I’ve got things to do here that are important.
Sitting, watching apples?
It’s more than that?
Sitting, watching apples, talking to yourself. That’s important?
It’s just a tree. There are other trees. You’ll have me.
It’s not just the tree. It’s …
What? The crows? The stones? He looked up quickly.
You don’t understand.
Cummonyah stood up, walked over to the tree and yanked the apple from the branch. A thought snaked its way through her.
Here’s your fucking apple. She pushed it into his chest. I hope you choke on it.
I don’t want it now. Geddaway threw the apple at Cummonyah. It missed her by a metre and split open against a section of the wall.
You spoil everything we have he said. He turned around and walked towards the gate.
Don’t you walk away from me Cummonyah shouted. Geddaway you come back here now!
Geddaway paused then without looking back lifted the gate and pulled it open.
Geddaway, please! Please come back. Her voice slackened. Please. He stopped and turned around and his rage dissolved when he saw her leaning against the tree looking suddenly very old. She slumped to her knees and then sat back still kneeling. She picked up the apple and tried to smash it against the tree trunk but was really only tapping it against the tree. He walked back towards her and sat down beside her and pulled her into his arms.
Please don’t leave me. She said. She lifted her left arm under his left arm and held onto his shoulder. She raised her right hand to his chest, tried weakly to hit him and then fell into him. She pushed her head into him and her body began to shudder as she sobbed but she made no noise.
I won’t leave you. He covers the top of her head with his palm and rubs her gently.
Ants are coming for the apple. They hold each other until the setting sun suddenly turns the air cooler, then they go inside.
It was not a large apple. It was shorter than Geddaway’s Index finger. It was more rectangular with round edges than a sphere. It began green and then the side exposed to the sun began to yellow and then blush. It was still quite green close to the stem. This apple would either have been eaten or stolen by the birds or worms or a vandal. Their children used to love eating apples. One liked the sour green ones, Grand Smiths, and one liked the very red ones and another liked the Olden Delicacy type. Without the tree and its apples Geddaway feared they might forever lose the sense of the process of appling. Might lose the idea of feeding with pleasure. The taste of an apple is an alternative to the taste of boiled vegetables. Once something is gone we don’t speak its word again. Without apples we don’t taste boiled potato in the same way and will never know the difference. We don’t lose things, we lose the conversation they draw from us. We lose words and then we lose ourselves.
This is what Geddaway thought but never said: I did everything for her. I shrivelled for her and she never noticed. I just won’t follow orders like a child anymore. I am a man. Not one thing ever good enough. Always trying to control everyone, everything. Is it any wonder the world retreated from that? But I stayed. I loved her. I love her still, but fuck knows why? Maybe it’s all we have left, just each other. There’s nothing left anywhere. It’s all gone. It always was. How I love her. I need nothing else.
This is what Cummonyah thought but never said: How weary to the bone I am of his incessant complaining. Nodding like a spineless rag doll in my presence then blaming me for everything. I can say nothing without him taking offence. He frowns and burns inside and everything he comes near is singed. I despise his silence. He looks through me, through everything around him. He sees nothing. He has thrown a blanket over the world. We used to laugh. I remember such laughter. I adored him. I still do, most days. Though I sometimes imagine smothering him in his sleep. I love him. He’s all I need.
They are sitting around a small stone fireplace that Geddaway has made. Cummonyah stirs cut up vegetable roots simmering in hot water.
Not a bad fireplace.
You did good old fella.
You stir those pretty well.
Cummonyah sat next to Gweddaway and linked arms with him and they shuffled closer to one another.
This makes things feel better.
What did we call those shows? On the screen …
I miss films.
Me too. We’d all sit together and watch.
You’d fall asleep.
I loved falling asleep with all of us together.
Vegetables will be ready.
You never want to talk about them.
It hurts too much. I can’t.
I know Cummonyah said rubbing his hand. I know and she lifted his hand and kissed it. Geddaway felt tears burning his eyes and lifted the pot off the fire.