There was once a boy who lived 15 years without ever tasting an apple.
Oh, he knew what apples were. They were everywhere. Apples on billboards and bumperstickers, t-shirts and magazine covers. The lady on the car commercial was holding an apple. The hero of his favorite movie had a thing for apple pie. But the boy had never seen an apple in real life, much less tasted one himself.
The boy’s parents ate apples in secret, and the boy knew it, but in public the boy’s parents pretended that apples didn’t exist. The boy wanted desperately to know more about how apples grew and what they tasted like, but he was afraid to ask.
The boy looked to the internet to satisfy his curiosity. He saw pictures of apple orchards and apple festivals, candied apples and hot apple pie. He found recipes for applesauce and stumbled upon a close-up video of people eating apple crisp. He became so obsessed with apples it was all he could think about.
Eventually the boy saw an opportunity and stole an apple. When he bit down, he was surprised that it could be both sweet and tart at the same time. He liked the apple, but stealing it made his stomach sour. Still, that first taste left him hungry for more, so he stole another apple, and another.
Pretty soon the boy made himself sick on apples. The slight sweetness wasn’t enough to satisfy him any more. What he really wanted were the apples he saw advertised on TV–juicy and sugary-sweet in perfectly glowing shades of red, yellow, pink, and green.
The apples around him weren’t like that. Some had worm holes in them, others were bruised, others had irregular shapes. A few had the right shape and hue, but they were too sour. None of the real apples lived up to his expectation of them, but he drooled over the ads just the same.
Then one day, the boy met a girl. She was–different. She was interested in apples, but she wasn’t consumed by them, and she wouldn’t let the boy tempt her to steal them with him. She seemed convinced that growing their own apple tree was the only way to truly enjoy apples. So the boy left off stealing apples and married the girl, and they planted their own apple tree inside the picket fence of their backyard. They worked hard to tend the ground and water the tree and give it plenty of sun. Their tree produced the best apples the boy had ever tasted. The boy and the girl canned applesauce and baked apple pies and roasted cinnamon apples and dipped apples in peanut butter. They ate their fill of apples and delighted in their bounty.
Eventually, a drought came and apples on the tree were scarce. The boy’s mind went to the candied apples and glowing, sugary-sweet apples he had seen years before. However, instead of shopping for apples elsewhere, the boy worked to prune the tree, then he poured what little water he had left onto its roots. With time the tree blossomed again, and apples grew in abundance, sweeter than ever.
The boy knew the girl had been right: tending their own tree was indeed the very best way to enjoy an apple.