For the five Mondays in June, I’m taking 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.
Last week in part one, we met an orchard owner who started off with too many apples apples, traded them for blackberries, and the blackberries for carrots, and he wants to continue up the alphabet in this manner. In part two, below, he is in possession of a flask.
I checked You & We the next day. More people had shared the link, and I found an e-mail waiting for me. Tom Jeffreys offered to swap my egg cup for a flask. If I wanted it, I only needed to go around there at my convenience.
I must’ve spoken to him on the porch for less than two minutes. During this brief time, Margaret didn’t say a single word to me, but continued her dusting in the hallway behind him, sighing at least twice and making sure she saw me checking her watch.
It took further days and a couple of online updates before I could trade again. This time, a friend of a friend offered me a golf club she’d been left in a divorce settlement.
It turned out to be a large, expensive driver, and I asked Irene several times if she felt sure about this, as I could only offer her a flask that held barely a cup of coffee.
“I’ve no use for it. Neither did he, that’s why he didn’t take it.”
I thanked her, and spent the rest of the evening at the driving range before advertising it for swaps.
Throughout this time, I’d still been working in the orchard all day, but instead of reading at night, I would update my Web presence. I decided to merge all my activities from the home-made Web page onto You & We as I seemed to get a lot more reaction there.
Unknown to me, another user had tipped off the local press. I received an e-mail from a journalist who wanted to interview me and arrange another swap.
The journalist introduced me to a businessman who ran experience days, and who wanted to give me a voucher for a short helicopter trip in exchange for the golf club and an article in the paper. I gladly accepted it.
When Mum and Dad read the article out, Daniel immediately danced around the room and told all his You & We contacts he would be going up in a helicopter.
Once he’d calmed down, I took great delight in reminding him I would be exchanging the the voucher for something beginning with I.
“But that’s not fair. That’s my reward for helping you.”
“Helping me? How did you help?”
“Well, I said you’d swapped apples and blackberries, then them for carrots, then that for a doorstop.”
“And the egg cup. I seem to remember you couldn’t care less about that, or the flask, or the golf club. And now because it’s something you want, you expect me to hand it over to you.”
“It’s only fair.”
“All you’ve done for the last fortnight is watch football. You haven’t lifted a finger to help, so don’t expect me to give you anything.”
“But that was then and this is now.”
I ignored him. I turned to my parents, who were now re-reading the article to themselves with smiles on their faces. Before I could say anything to them, Daniel had bounded over to me and punched me in the shoulder. He hadn’t done this for years, but my reaction remained as sharp as ever. I kicked him in the shin.
“Stop it,” shouted Mum, “don’t you dare do that. Daniel, get to your room now, it’s way past your bedtime.”
“Yes, Daniel, you just get to your beddy-weddy.”
“And you stop winding him up,” she shouted at me.
“Hate you all,” stated Daniel as he slammed the door shut.
“How am I winding him up? He knows I’m going to swap it and he hasn’t done anything to earn it.”
“He’s only young,” soothed Mum, now calmed down from her shouting.
“I had more sense than that at his age.”
They both laughed.
“You were exactly the same,” said Dad.
“No I wasn’t.”
They laughed even harder.
Now the paper had published my You & We address, my one e-mail every few days became half a dozen a day. I had to sort through them.
I first deleted those who failed to grasp the concept, offering items that didn’t begin with I, such as bookshelves. I then put them in order of relative value, disregarding any below the value of the voucher, such as a model igloo. I narrowed it down to two possible items.
Italian Grand Prix programme, signed
I decided against the offered iPhone from an electronics dealer because it had been used. But after a few inquires, it seemed the signed Italian Grand Prix programme was worth more than the helicopter trip, although I’d never heard of the driver.
I arranged a meeting with the seller. He appeared smartly dressed and wealthy, and we exchanged items.
On opening the envelope containing the helicopter voucher, ripped-up pieces of paper fell out. I’d left it near the door so I wouldn’t forget it. I could only apologise to the seller, who told me he understood, and would hold the programme until I obtained a replacement.
I drove home, ignoring every speed limit sign, to find my parents watching TV while my brother played his football game. I grabbed the computer from his hands, threw it across the room and gave him an overdue beating. It would have been worse if Dad hadn’t pulled me off him.
I told Mum and Dad what he’d done, and showed them the ripped pieces of paper. They expressed disappointment with him rather than anger, while I spelled out to him exactly what it had cost me, not just in monetary terms, but wasted time.
Daniel said a pitiful, “I’m sorry.”
“You will be,” I countered.
Happily, the helicopter company saw the funny side and replaced the voucher, allowing me to swap it for the programme.
Next week: Jigsaw.