For the five Mondays in June, I’m going to take a break from discussing and analysing the world of writing, and make one of my stories available free online. This one is called An Abundance of Apples, and it totals 4500 words. Part one commences below.
Last year, we ended up with too many apples. We experienced just the right weather conditions, we harvested at the optimum time, and we ran out of storage space. The supermarkets would take the bulk of the crop, but as a family-run orchard, we wanted to sell as much as possible.
I phoned around the other farms to ask if they needed or wanted any of our surplus. Only the blackberry growers did. They said they couldn’t pay us, but offered to swap for some of their surplus. Mum agreed, so my brother and I drove there.
My brother Daniel is 13. Even before I reached his age, I’d been collecting and trading items: cards, coins, books, tokens from cereal boxes, anything I could. The skills I’ve built up over the years have stood me in good stead, so I’ve tried to pass on as many as I can to the boy.
Mum looked again at the three large boxes of blackberries as we unloaded them from the car. “I can’t use all these. I thought you said they only had a few left.”
“They did. This is it. Their yield’s been good as well.”
“By the time I make jam with the first box, the rest of them’ll be rotten. You’ll have to get rid of the rest.”
“Phone Margaret Jeffreys. See if she’ll take some off your hands.”
“Oh, not Margaret Jeffreys,” Daniel and I complained in unison. We dreaded seeing, phoning or dealing with this family friend and her gruff, short attitude.
However, her son Tom answered the phone. He was the polar opposite of his mother, and happily agreed to pay for the berries, throwing in half a dozen misshapen carrots from his vegetable patch. Mum wouldn’t complain about vegetables.
On the way home, Daniel stared out of the window in a thoughtful manner. “Did you know we’ve gone up the alphabet?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, we had too many apples, so we swapped them for blackberries. Then we had too many blackberries, so we swapped them for carrots, so we’ve gone A, B, C.”
I thought about this, “I suppose we have.”
“So what are we going to swap them for?”
“It has to be something beginning with D. A doorstop, darts, maybe even a dog.”
“You begin with D; I’ll swap you for them. No, but let’s not get too carried away.”
“But can we? It would be great if we kept swapping for bigger and bigger and bigger things and got to Z and got a zebra.”
Mum never got to see the carrots. As I drove Daniel into town the next day, I told him I knew a bloke who owed me a favour.
We walked into the ironmonger, where we told him about our adventures in swapping items alphabetically. He hesitated and asked us a few questions, but gave us a doorstop in exchange for the carrots, bursting Daniel’s hopes of obtaining a drill.
The shopkeeper played his part perfectly. Although we’d made a genuine exchange, I’d arranged it with him the previous evening.
A few days later, I received an e-mail with the subject line Offer to swap doorstop for egg cup. It couldn’t possibly be spam with such a specific heading, so I opened it. The sender made reference to a website, which I didn’t click on. The message had been sent to my address and Daniel’s, so I confronted him.
He excitedly showed me a page he had made, detailing our swaps so far and appealing for help with the next letter.
“What have you done that for? Get that down right now,” I ordered.
“But I thought you wanted help with it. It’s a great way of telling people, and they can give us all sorts of things.”
We argued about this for some time and we came to a compromise. He could keep the page up, provided he removed our details. I contacted the woman who offered the egg cup and explained the situation. As she had taken the time to write, I decided to take the time to meet her in a café and arrange a trade.
Despite his initial eagerness, Daniel’s interest faded in the space of a week, and he became engrossed in football. I didn’t share his enthusiasm for the game, so I left him to it.
I started to consider the egg cup meeting again. It felt like being a kid, when you had two identical trading cards and finally found somebody who also had duplicates. You’d work out which you could swap, and what you had to buy. It’s how youngsters learn the value of items without risking large sums of money.
I chose to make a go of it.
Daniel gladly handed over the password to the site. I rewrote his posts in adult-speak, adding an appeal for something beginning with F. I opened a fresh e-mail account that I didn’t mind getting spam into.
But after another week, I had no replies, and the hit counter hardly rose. I asked him how it had come to the attention of the woman who offered the egg-cup after 24 hours, yet I’d had nothing for seven days.
He’d posted the link to our page on an apparently massively popular website called You & We. His list contained over three hundred contacts. I hesitated to say friends because I doubt even the Pope knows that many people personally, although he insisted he did. He’d posted the link, two people had given it to their contacts, and it spread exponentially from there.
I’d never previously paid attention to these sites as I would usually be working, reading or asleep, but I joined You & We out of curiosity. Once I added Daniel, the site made suggestions based on his contacts about people I might know. In just under two hours, I’d connected with more than fifty people from real life.
Next week: Flask.