"Cross my heart and hope to die, I'll never tell a living soul," I promised myself. On a warm afternoon in June of 1929, I walked from my house, past the Sarrls house, the Dillard house and the Methodist parsonage, where the Circuit Rider lived, all the way to the end of Rochester Avenue. By this time I was in the country.

     I turned down a narrow rutted lane. Down the lane I went, hopping from one rut over the grassy middle to the other rut; making a zig zag pattern and kicking up a little dust with every hop. The lane led me to a big field of lespedeza. The sweet scent of that new mown hay is an aroma I still remember and always will. At the edge of the field sat a story book cottage with a picket fence around it. Just inside the fence grew a perfectly shaped apple tree with branches bent almost to the ground, from the weight of beautiful, little, green June apples. How my mouth watered for just one little bite.

     I knew there was an old woman living in the house and I told myself, "Even if I asked her and said please she probably wouldn't give me one." Some of the apples had fallen to the ground and I thought, "I could pick up one of those and she might never know." I knew that most old women do no see very well and that even if she did see me, I could out-run her. I was seven and she was really old, every bit of forty, and besides I was wearing my tennis shoes. They were "High tops". They had rubber soles, with deep tread, to help me run faster and had round rubber patches on the ankles. They were black and brand new.

     I walked past the house, turned around and sauntered back up the lane. When I came to the apple tree I looked all around, but didn't see the old woman. Then, without conscience, I darted through the open gate, under the tree and grabbed an apple with each hand. Quickly, I put them in the pockets of my bib overalls and ran like the devil, himself, was after me. I didn't take time to criss cross the ruts of the lane, I just ran and prayed that my new shoes would get me back to the safety of my home.

     When I reached home, completely out of breath, I sat down under a big maple tree; out of sight of Mama, who was working in her garden. Having rested for a few moments, it was time to enjoy the fruit of my crime. Reaching in the left- hand pocket of my overalls a half- rotten apple squished through my fingers. Reaching in my other pocket, I pulled out the other one. It had only one small place free of a bruise or a worm hole. I got the one little bite that I wanted so badly, but that little bite would plant seeds of guilt that I would carry for a lifetime.

     Now that I am past the autumn of my life, I am ready to break the promise I made to myself, so many years ago, and confess to stealing Mrs. Barnes' beautiful, little, green, June apples.

Millie Wilson                        © Millie Wilson 10-10-1995
10-10-1995                           May not be used without permission


A Broken Promise