Kindness hides the darker parts of the soul, like an apple with a rotten core. -Intellectual Shaman

Henderson admired his orchard, glistening in the summer sun. He didn’t spray his apples or take care of them, and they were more delicious than the soft wormy variety purchased in the grocery store. People came far and wide to pick them, which saved him labor and cost. Some swore an apple a day from Henderson’s would cure any illness and extend life. He nurtured these ideas like creative compost or bullshit for his profits, but there was one problem, the neighbor boy.

He liked apples way too much. Eight months ago, Andy was slow and not very intelligent. Henderson referred to him with his favorite colloquialisms: “Not the brightest light on the Christmas Tree,” or “I have shovels sharper than him, and they’re all pretty dull.”

Andy’s mother noticed that her son had been doing much better in school since eating Fred Henderson’s apples. “Much better” was an understatement. Andy was getting straight A’s in Honors English and Calculus. She started to pester Henderson in the same way that she had pestered Andy’s special education teachers.

“Make sure he eats at least three apples a day.”

Henderson scoffed. “Are you going to pay me?”

“Don’t you have a heart?”

“A heart of gold, but I don’t give it away freely. I charge 10 dollars an apple, but in Andy’s case, I’ll give you 3 for 15 dollars.”

Mrs. Johnson paid the money, but 15 dollars a day was expensive.

“Getting into Harvard, is worth it,” She said to herself.

Mrs. Johnson noticed that Andy was growing like an apple tree. He was already six feet tall, and smarter than Sir Isaac Newton, but as his brain developed, so did his understanding of the world.

“I have trouble making friends, mom.”

“Just be kind,” she said.

“But they’ll think I’m weak, and they won’t respect me.”

“Trust me, people remember how you make them feel; they seldom care how smart you are.”

“What about big CEOs and intellectual giants?”

“Do you care about them?”

“No, but I want to be like them.”

“Well, be careful what you wish for. In this world, you can be oh so smart, or you can be oh so pleasant. I recommend being pleasant.”

Andy was trying to take her advice, but every time he wanted something, and he was kind, it seemed like it slipped through his fingers. “Nice guys finish last.” Look at Henderson, he wasn’t a nice guy. He was a crotchety angry little man with more money than he knew what to do with. He didn’t work; people just showed up to his orchard and paid him. Why wasn’t he happy?

“Henderson, why aren’t you happy?” Andy asked.

“Boy, I ought to smack you for saying that. You aren’t like the other boys who pick apples. They climb the trees; you use a ladder. The world is divided into boys who climb trees and those who use ladders.”

Andy didn’t quite understand what he meant. “Where did this orchard come from?”

“You’re asking questions you don’t want to know.”

“I want to know.”

“Okay, I’m going to tell you… “Do you read your bible?”

“My mother says I should, but what does that have to do with anything?”

“It has everything to do with it,” Henderson said. “There are truths hidden there that the unbeliever cannot know. They will be seeing, but never perceiving… When I was a young man, like yourself, I went looking for the truth, and I found it in the book of Genesis. There is a big lie that hides everlasting life, and when I deciphered it, I found the Garden of Eden. Getting past the angel was the hard part…”

“How did you do it?”

“Basically, I made a deal, and let’s just leave it at that. The point is, I was able to cut a sapling from the tree of life and from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I beat Satan and God at their own game, and grafted it onto my trees in the orchard. Not easy to do, if I say so myself.”

“Okay, well… why aren’t you happy?”

“I can’t go out at night.”

“You’re an old guy. Don’t old people just sleep and stay at home?”

“Boy, I out to smack you for saying that, but you’re right. No, I wish I could sleep, but I can’t. Every night I have to lock myself in the vault because an angel with a flaming sword searches for me in the orchard. It wants to pierce my soul.”

Andy didn’t believe Henderson, but that evening he decided to spy on his estate, just in case he was telling the truth. And at the stroke of midnight, an angel over 10 feet tall paced the orchard with a flaming sword. Its eyes were sunken holes; it’s body, a pillar of light.

“Hendersooonnnn!” It screamed. “Come out!”

Henderson did not come out.

Andy hid in the shadows, terrified.

The sword was on fire. It was real. But then something happened, Andy wasn’t prepared for. The skirts of the angel parted.

A boy was pushing a ladder on rollers, with another boy on top of the ladder. He dropped his megaphone and sword— it was dipped in gasoline.

“Grab as many apples as you can!” They shouted.

The next morning, Andy didn’t have the heart to tell Henderson about the terror that wasn’t real. Henderson had told his story too many times to be brought back to reality. His fantasies gave him a purpose. Did he get the apples from the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Andy would never know.

The End

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