Still Life

A single apple was bought at a farmer’s market by a young lady and her fiancé on a Monday night. The young lady’s name was Annie, her fiancé’s name was not important. While Not Important tapped his fingers on the steering wheel to the beat of his classical music, Annie cradled the apple in the passenger seat of their black sedan. She had wrapped her apple in some Dollar Store foam padding but had taken it out again, marvelling at how its ruby skin reflected the racing colours of passing cars. Ten minutes later, the couple arrived back at their house and the lights in the living room were forgotten in their rush to the bedroom.

Now out of sight, Apple unfurled its arms and legs and peeked out of its strange foamy clothes. Annie had placed Apple down on a table made from a single slab of cedarwood. A myriad of different sized brushes and penciled paper was scattered across the counters. From its place in the centre of the room, Apple decided that the room was certainly spacious, for one apple or even a hundred dozen apples to fit comfortably. Dusty cupboards lined up and down the walls like some sort of wooden jigsaw puzzle. Some containers were jammed with books, others held coloured tubes and bottles. Different furniture and boxes were at various stages of unpacking beneath curtained windows. So many interesting shapes, so many colours. Apple’s beady eyes were as wide as they could be. It tiptoed out of its foam padding into this new world, ready to claim it all for itself.

That’s when Apple noticed two other fruit sitting to its left on a raised wooden block, both with their arms and legs carefully tucked in and blinking at Apple with mouths at varying stages of openness.

“What are you?” asked the Long Yellow Object. “I’ve never seen a fruit with a colour like yours before.”

“It’s an apple,” the Round Orange Entity squinted and scanned Apple up and down with the same intensity as Annie had in the car. “Probably a Gala, maybe Ambrosia? Definitely not a Granny Smith.”

“I’m an apple, I think, just a normal apple.” Apple reddened just a bit more than its normal hue; it didn’t even know its own name.

“You came from a grocery store, right? I came just yesterday myself,” said the Long Yellow, bringing its arms out and using them to rock itself back and forth. “Name’s Banana, Cavendish Banana and this is my friend Orange, Navel Orange.”

Something about Banana’s enthusiasm made Orange scowl. 

“I just met you yesterday and am certainly not your friend.” Orange turned to Apple instead. “How was your coming home trip? See anything interesting? Ever been to a place called IKEA?”

Apple looked down onto the floor and held back some tears; it was the unluckiest of its entire tree. While its tree-mates were able to glimpse out through the gaps of shipping boxes, this poor apple was always tucked out of sight. Cargo ships? In the middle. Cardboard boxes? In the middle. If it hadn’t been for Annie’s insistence on digging through the pyramid of Galas for half an hour, Apple would’ve stayed buried forever. In all its short fruity life, Apple had seen only red, round shapes of fellow apples. It never got even a glimpse of the outside world.

“My trip was nothing interesting,” Apple stammered. “How about you two? What have you seen?” Surely, these smart fruits had more interesting journeys than it. 

“Oh, don’t even get me started!” Orange popped its limbs out and trekked back and forth across the board, as if trying to express the extent of its emotions in walking distance. “What a tumble I took, falling from assembly lines to trays to boxes to trays again. Horrific, absolutely horrific.”

“I, well I came from a very hot place.” Banana had such a soft voice that Apple had to scoot a bit closer to hear it. “I had many siblings, and we did everything together. I’m pretty sure they came here with me, but yesterday, the lady took me—just me—away from my bunch and brought me here to this room.”

“Ugh! I’ve been seeing bananas coming for weeks; they always start browning after a few days and then get taken away soon after,” Orange huffed. “Knowing you banana lots, your family has probably been spoiled and ugly beyond belief.” Banana started to say something, but one look from Orange made Banana’s stem droop. It trudged off of the board and went to sit behind a vase filled with pebbles and dry moss.

Apple’s eyes followed Banana’s wilting figure.

“That fool will get over it by morning. Don’t mind it.” With Banana gone, Orange was suddenly so close to Apple that it could almost see its reflection on Orange’s waxy skin. “Now I want to ask you something. Do you have an idea in mind for how you want to go? You must have one, right? Your special ending?”

“How special would it be?” Apple asked. “We are fruits, so there’s only one thing people want to do with us, and that is to eat us.”

“I don’t trust them to be the conventional kind. The other morning, I saw that man mix honey in water and drink it for breakfast.” Orange shivered. “Deranged individuals. Such crude treatments of food! I’m not going to leave my fate up to them; they’ll throw me in the compost for all I know.”

Philosophy on life and death was never Apple’s strong suit. Being eaten was all the other apples in its crate talked about, but that wasn’t really what this particular apple wanted. It thought for a few seconds.

“I would want to see the outside,” Apple declared. “It doesn’t have to be anything special; I’ll make it special. I just want to see something.”

Orange’s expression changed.  

“You want to go outside.”

“Well, it’s just an idea.”

“You better stop that idea,” said Orange. “The only thing you’ll see out those doors are the insides of racoons and seagulls. That kind of recklessness will get you caught, and we’ll all be in trouble. It’ll be best—for all of us—to lay low.”

Orange said more things regarding consequences and responsibilities that night, but Apple didn’t really pay attention. Fruit don’t really fall asleep, but Apple dreamed that night. A dream of patterned leaves and soft pollen, being caressed by spring winds under warm sunshine. That night, Apple began to plot its escape.

First and foremost, Apple needed help but Orange didn’t seem happy with the idea of escaping. So, Apple spent the next morning shimmying up curtain strings to the cupboards, where it found Banana sorting through some jars, its thin figure weaved behind and in between coloured boxes and pencil holders.

“Come with me, Banana,” Apple said. 

“To where?” Banana asked. It found and tossed away a dirty eraser.

“To the outside: we are going to leave and see the world,” Apple said. It saw Banana freeze.

“Outside, you mean out of this room?” Banana stuttered. “You can’t. Orange said so. Besides, my family could still be here somewhere. What if they are looking for me?”

“I saw other bananas in the car,” Apple said, “when the lady brought me home yesterday. A whole bunch of them.”

“Really?” Banana jumped up, the brown stub of its stem hitting the cupboard roof, making the glass jars next to it clink together like bells.

“Yeah! They were asking for you and said they missed you.”

“How wonderful! I knew they didn’t mean to leave me alone like this. But how should we get out?”

“We might not have keys, but we do have limbs and opposable thumbs.” Apple picked up a pencil and pointed it up like a sword. “We’ll find a way.”

Turns out, finding a way was easier said than done. All Apple remembered was that it came from one of the three doors last night, but neither it nor Banana could remember which door it was. The pair spent an afternoon chasing ant trails that led to nothing but a couple of cracked window sealants and an exiled bottle of molasses. 

“We are getting nowhere. Let’s head back for now,” Banana nudged Apple for the fifth time. “Orange is going to notice us, or the lady.”

“Not yet.” Apple glanced at the sliding door near the windows. “There’s still one more place we haven’t checked.”

There was a little office tucked away in the corner of the living room. It only had enough room for a writing desk and a bookshelf that held everything from murder mystery books to Star Wars Lego instructions. What was most abundant though, were magazines: dozens were open on the table. Many had dog-eared pages detailing tall and short chairs, round and square sofas from a place called IKEA. One magazine identified types of apples by colour, and another one was flipped to kitchen appliances. Atop of the mountain of magazines, there was a grocery list where the word “Juicer” was written in wobbly blue letters beneath Eggs and Shampoo.

“Are the humans getting a … whatever that is?” Banana took just one look at the shiny metal blades of the Juicer on the magazine cover before it scrambled back. “It looks scary.”

Apple examined the magazine. Its red heading screamed “March Only! 50% off Juicing Appliances ONLY at Walmart!” Then it showed examples of different fruit being juiced to showcase its power. 

Hell no. Apple thought.

Apple grabbed a pen nearby and scribbled out “Juicer” from the grocery list.

Suddenly, the pit-pat sound of slippers came into the living room and quickly approached the office. Apple grabbed Banana’s hand and swung them both into a half-open drawer. They saw Annie holding a nylon bag in one hand and swiping the grocery list off the table with the other. She raised a brow at the frantic scribbles covering the last line, shrugged it off and left with it to do her weekly shopping.

Apple and Banana, hiding in the drawer, breathed a sigh of relief.

Orange, who had been resting in the same drawer, felt exactly the opposite of relief.

 “You idiots! What did you just do to my list?” Orange screamed, waving its arms around. It was holding a blue permanent marker in its left hand. The very same shade of blue that wrote Juicer on the shopping list.

 “Do you know how hard it was for me to learn how to write?” Orange bounced around in the cramped drawer. “Weeks of waiting, days of planning, and you two had to poke around and mess my plans up!”

“You were the one that wanted the juicer?” exclaimed Apple. “Why would you ever want to do something like that to yourself?”

Orange closed its eyes.

“I’ve been in this house for three weeks,” it whispered. “All that time, that woman just kept staring at me, putting me everywhere around the house like a toy. I don’t blame her; no one would want to eat all this bitter rind. But if I juice myself, I’ll be in my best form—silky and tart—and she’ll finally see my worth!” Orange swayed to a rhythm only it could hear, holding the marker and caressing it like a doll. “All she needs is a little convincing,” said Orange. “I will get her to buy that juicer thinking that the honey-drinker wanted it, and you two just ruined one of my few chances!”

“But if she gets the juicer, who says she is only going to juice you? What if she decides to juice all of us?” Beside Apple, Banana was shaking.

“Well, there’s no hope for you, Banana: you don’t have any juice in you; it’s your nature.” Orange fixated its gaze onto Apple. “But, you! You are much more inquisitive than other apples I’ve seen. Got a real knack for persuading fools too. Just what I need.” Orange held out a hand. “So, what do you say? Want to be 100% pure with me?”

“You are rotten.” Apple took a step back from the madness. “I would never do anything like that. Banana and I are going to see the world, whether you like it or not.”

“Are you still believing that nonsense? Stop trying to defy fate. All we can choose is our ending, not the story.”

“Come on, Banana, we are wasting our time here.” Apple pulled hard on Banana’s hand, who followed Apple without another word. They trudged back to Banana’s cupboard, both not knowing what to say to the other. Banana was especially quiet, so much so that Apple started to worry.

“Don’t listen to it,” said Apple. “You are better than that.” But there was still something eating away at Apple’s core.

“I lied to you,” Apple blurted out. “I never saw your family in the car.”

Banana stopped fidgeting with its hands.

“But once we get out, we will find them, trust me.” Of that much, Apple was certain. “We wouldn’t leave without them.”

“I lied to you as well,” Banana replied softly. It pointed at the door next to the cupboards. “That white door on the left is the right way out. That’s where I came from.”

“Great! Then we’ll just have to find a way in—”

Banana stopped Apple with a hand raised in midair and after a quick glance around for any sign of Orange, then bent down and whispered.

“I’ve been chipping away at a piece of plywood behind the pencil holders, the part where it’s connected to some plastic pipes is really loose. The opening is not big enough for us yet, but I think if you help me, it’ll be finished in a few days.”

Apple blinked at Banana.

“Did you really never wonder why I spent so much time in the cupboards?”

“No, it’s just, why are you telling me this now?” asked Apple. “I lied to you.”

Banana leaned forward and gave Apple the very first hug an apple had ever received from a banana.

“I don’t know how apples work,” Banana said, wrapping its arms tighter around Apple, “but Bananas don’t hide things from family.” 

They didn’t talk with Orange after the Juicer event and would be glad if they never saw each other again. But they were forced together by Annie every night. She seemed to really enjoy arranging their positions on furniture and holding them in the same place for hours at a time. Apple and Banana decided to just let it be: pretending to be good fruits during the day, and working away in the cupboards at night. 

But Orange was planning something else entirely. The nature of citrus-kind is always sunny and welcoming, but a drying heart always welcomes evil. One day, Annie had placed them down on a wooden barstool. Under warm lights and propped on a comfortable cushion, Apple was nodding off in a daydream. Annie had left the room and when Orange was sure she wasn’t coming back soon, it stretched out its arms and shoved Apple off of their wooden platform. The movement was so swift and precise that Apple didn’t have any time to react and plummeted down to the cold marble floor.

Banana, who was very much awake, rushed to the edge of the barstool, looking down at its broken friend with horrified eyes.

“You better stay put,” warned Orange, “or I’ll push you down as well. Pity the fall may not smash you, but it will definitely bruise you.”

As Banana looked down at Apple, it knew its friend was truly gone. Banana felt cold, but at the same time, braver than it’d ever been.

“Well, I don’t care! I’m going, bruised or not. Alone or not,” declared Banana. It ran for their escape hole behind the cupboards, the tiny squeeze between the walls scraped and rubbed against its tender sides. But Banana endured the pain and pushed forward, wriggling its little body bit by bit until it popped out to the other side of the wall and dropped down and down.

It was at that very moment that Annie returned from her snack break, ready to start her painting session for the day. These fruit really were the best models; all of them were as beautiful as she imagined them to be.

With a gasp, Annie picked up her fallen apple from the floor. The sides of its rosy skin were split and squishy and a halo of apple juice had splattered on the floor in a sticky mess. The prettiest apple in the whole market laid there in her hands, no longer fit for painting. She knew that apples were never alive, but still allowed herself a moment to grieve. She had loved it. Annie looked around and found her banana missing as well and, putting two and two together in her head, promised a very painful death for Not Important and his gluttonous hands.

Not having the heart to look at Apple any longer, Annie took it to the backyard garden and threw its pieces into the compost bin.

Banana, who just fell from a height of two meters, found itself in another room. A place smelling of something sweet and powdery but still surrounded by walls. After all their hard work, the tunnel they dug hadn’t led to the outside, but to the kitchen. Banana walked over to a mixing bowl and saw its reflection, scratch marks darkening with oxygen. Even if Banana sees its family now, they won’t be able to recognize it.

On the table, Banana saw bunches of other bananas blinking at it.

“What are you?” Banana couldn’t recognize any of them.

“We are bananas,” said the bananas.

“I am also a banana,” said Banana. “May I join you?”

“Of course, of course. You are family now, and family stays together!”

“Yes,” Banana cried. “Yes, families do! But I’m so bruised. I’m not beautiful anymore.”

The bananas’ laughter sounded like a dozen clinking bells.

“We are all a big, bruisy bunch, eh? Don’t worry about keeping up appearances. You are just perfect for us.”

That evening, Banana joined the rest of its new family and was baked into a delicious loaf of banana bread. It would be shared among Annie and her family; a happy occasion for all.

In the weeks after Apple and Banana’s disappearance, Orange tried again and again to change the shopping list, but Annie never looked at its Walmart propaganda. Instead, she began to paint Orange more. It quickly became the centerpiece of Annie’s work: the survivor, the messiah, the protagonist. Orange slowly began to dry out into a hollow and rigid husk, emptied of all of its goodness. After the paintings were finished, new fruits were brought in and Orange got promoted to a decoration on the kitchen table among other fake foam fruits, occasionally visited by a few disappointed fruit flies.

Apple’s life ran a different course from Banana and Orange. Bathed in compost muck, it waited. Days and weeks went by, and it could feel itself slowly changing. Something hopeful pushing and reaching out through a little crack in the bin. As Annie took the trash out one morning, she noticed a tiny sapling reaching out for the sun. In a spur of the moment, Annie grabbed a shovel and planted it in her backyard. The young sapling grew stronger with rain and tougher with hail; within a few years it was taller than the house. When friends and family would have parties in the backyard, many would marvel at the magnificent tree and its healthy blossoms. The owner of the house was pestered for the secret to growing such a healthy apple tree.

“It grew from a store-bought apple … no it’s true! Just a normal apple.”

LILY YU is a current undergrad studying Professional Writing at the University of Toronto Mississauga. She has worked in the student-run Vision magazine and had another creative writing submission published in March. At this moment, she wishes for summer vacation and caffeine.