Addi walked with great-grandpa down the flat path into the Planter’s orchard. His hand was light but steady on her shoulder. The sky was blue and trees were green and the light was the golden rays of an evening sun. Everywhere she looked, her family owned the land. It was a good day.
“Pappy, why’d you name it Planter’s?”
“’Cause I planted my seed!” He cackled at his joke. “Got the land from the Planter family.”
She helped him settle into his Adirondack chair. “Good?”
She sat with her back to an apple tree and dug the toes of her claret sneakers into the ground. This was the first orchard. Pappy had planted it himself. The start of the family empire. Apple supplier to the world! Or just Michigan as it had worked out.
“Tired today,” Pappy said.
“No, I didn’t work too hard.”
“No you! Me, idiot.”
She grinned. “Aw, Pappy, you’re no idiot.”
“Hah! Trying to beat me at my own game.”
“Can’t. You have 110 years experience.”
“And I still got most of my teeth.”
“Let me see,” she said peering at his mouth.
He waved her off. “Don’t be looking in other people’s mouths!”
She studied the Honeycrisp color of the inside of his mouth and did see a few teeth in there. She settled back against the tree and looked up at the leaves. A fair number had maroon tips, even though it was September.
“Early autumn,” Pappy said looking at the same leaves.
“It’s just the tips, not the whole leaf. I don’t think the adage applies.”
“You sure don’t think.”
She looked at him and he had his eyes closed. There were dark circles beneath them. He did look tired. His nose was still a cherry, even though his cheeks were pale.
“I have a secret,” he said.
“Your not actually 110.”
“That’s not the one I was thinking of. How’d you figure it out?”
“You’re birth certificate.”
“Why are you snooping in my papers? Never mind, just don’t spread it around. It’s not widely known that I’m actually 112.”
She guffawed. “Like two years makes a difference after you pass 100!”
He smiled. His lips had lost their carmine color and were barely blush.
“Look,” he said and tried to lift his hand and point. Instead it just slid off his lap.
He was more tired than usual. Addi would have to call her brother for help when it came time to go back to the house.
“I’m looking, but all I see is an old man.”
A smile touched the pale rose lips and he said, “I need to set things right.”
Addi waited, but nothing more came. She studied him. Had he fallen asleep? His chest was still rising and falling, but there was a pause between the rise and fall. Did he usually breathe like that?
“Pappy?” she said sitting up straight.
“Mm, still alive, child.”
She leaned back against the tree. He was their patriarch and had survived a pandemic, three wars, no phones, no cars, no planes, no plumbing, and planting hundreds of apple trees. A bit of tiredness wasn’t going to cause him trouble.
“You have a good life?”
“Of course. Because you started it. Our family had more each generation and I have the most.”
She watched his even breathing and relaxed in the garnet-tinged sunlight. “You don’t need to worry about me.”
“Don’t. You’ll do well. The others…”
She knew he was talking about her dozens of cousins. The ones that didn’t actually work in the orchards and yet expected an inheritance. “They will too. They have the same advantages I do.”
“Because I stole it.”
“What?” The sun was low in the sky and it blazed crimson.
“Yep. From the Planter family. They had been slaves and had been the cotton planters. Moved north and got land here. Good land. Planted good trees. Good life. Better life than an escaped prisoner could hope for. Black man like that couldn’t keep the land when a white man said it was his.”
Addi gasped and her lips went numb. Dementia. Yes, clear of mind all these years and now dementia had set in.
“I’m sane. Find ‘em and make it right.”
“What the fuck!” She shot to her feet.
Pappy’s chest was motionless. The light was fading and the hollows of Pappy’s cheeks were malbec shadows.
Today’s prompt is to write something that incorporates the color red.