We set off via bikes somewhere near the
where some imposing factories clad in tan aluminum
yield a smooth trail along the railroad tracks.
We cross a pond, tires cutting a swath in murky low water,
heading for the orchard with promise of cider
and half a peck to shoulder for the trip back.
I keep to a low gear, for her, the novice cyclist, to stay close
as we pass snapdragons and wildflower. She diligently points this out.
I notice the lonely brick smoke stack labeled Gougler,
how it rises above the trees, like a tattooed finger making some point
that no longer matters.
I take her back to the water tower, covered in graffiti, chipped, and bruised,
like me falling over a bump in the path. With palms raw and face red,
I let her know these things happen when I’m excited and on a bike.
We don’t climb it, only look up and reflect on a time when the tower
may have had some use. A time when it was not broken glass,
charred pit. Time before a tribal drum pled people to throw railroad ties
into the fire, though they didn’t burn the whole way through.
We decide that water towers and railroad ties and fire pits are not apples.
We began for apples and apples it is to be, so we leave that place.
We bear East toward
like crab apples to spill to the side and cause us to bob up and down.
On our seats we list back and forth, as if about to fall,
But I am careful not to do so again. I am not meant for cider.
I tell her to brace on the pedals to absorb the shock a bit.
She does and the ride goes smoother, though the rocks increase,
pile upon pile. We reach the orchard, where a gravel lot greets us
before approaching the wood store, whitewashed and sharp.
A boy sells chocolate bars at the elbow of a wraparound porch.
His face puckered by a day’s worth of retail, sales, and barter,
I ask him his favorite and his eyes glaze. They scan Kit-Kat, Twix, Reese’s,
then he looks at me. He says, “Kit-Kat,” determinately, as if
he’d been asked that by all his customers. I see her toss back her hair
in his great big round glasses and tell him we’ll be back.
Inside the Beckwith store, we browse piles of fragrant apples, some red,
some green, some both. I inquire as to the best for making pies,
keeping in mind I like my apples tart. “McIntosh,” was the answer
according to the sign and the woman behind the counter.
“Good for baking, great for eating.” To hell with that.
I try a Devine, spindled skinless from some apple-shearing contraption.
With freshly sticky hands, I paw through the bin of McIntoshes,
trying to look like I know how to select a half peck of apples.
Really, I have no idea, and rest my hand on one, arbitrarily,
scooping it up, and carrying toward her for approval.
At the cash register, I habitually call out, “cider,” a necessary fluid of Fall.
It is a half gallon of crisp air and decay but mainly of sweetness;
that tenuous point between ripe and rotten.
She and I step outside and buy that Kit-Kat, supporting the kid
and his Catholic school. We sit on the wooden steps outside,
pulling on the cider, content to save the half peck and the chocolate.