Rotten Apples

Chapter 8 – Pies With Lies

Back in my hometown of Ellijay, Georgia, one of the rare occasions that I ever even got to visit the main village, or any village for that matter, was when my mother, Shannon, and I would participate in a special event which was hosted every month by the county. This event was a gathering which enabled household & homemade goods and foods, which met certain qualification guidelines, to be advertised and sold to any and all members of the county, state, and passing buyers of the main road. I only went with her to these events a few times, but, I helped her every single time to prepare all of her goods in advance.

Aside from our Orchard’s apple Butters, Ciders, and other sold items, apple pies were my mother’s number one specialty, pride, & joy; this was not only because we were the caretakers and owners of the actual Forbidden Fruit Fields Orchard, itself, but because the recipe that she created, executed, and successfully duplicated was what county state fair judges called and ultimately deemed to be ‘top notch’ of the area and business. My mother entered multiple food competitions, 4 to be exact, and she won the number one Baked Goods award for the entire state of Georgia, 3 times in a row with these pies. She never changed them. She never tried too hard to show off and always stayed true to our apples, themselves. And, that ultimately awarded her 3 1st prize Georgia Blue Ribbons, 3 bottles of champagne, 3 cash prizes, and a dozen red roses each time, all of which were completely stolen and burnt away when half of our house burnt down. The only things left on our award mantel, were two chard bottles of once filled champagne that she was awarded, which now, sat on top of our new house’s dining room china set, something new comers wouldn’t understand as to why they were even there on display, but, we all did, especially, Shannon and I. We knew how much value those bottles had. That’s all she had left. That’s all that remained of her physical reputation of an award winning state champion. She loved them. Even with half burnt labels that were left scarred, charred, and blackened from the fires which corrupted our lands, they had more value & meaning to her than any other physical object in that house.

___________

We were explained by Ms. Lizette during that class period, that the school had actually dedicated two classrooms which were connected for this class, the one we were inside of, and another one which was directly behind us that was accessible through a door in the back of our classroom which held & played the role of being the classroom’s pantry that held refrigeratorated goods, various products, condiments, & ingredients that were available to us & the class to use. These items would tend to vary based on the school’s budget, &/or what the actual scheduled recipes would be assigned to us to make, when the time came. One day of each week, which was every Friday, our class time would be extended from 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2 1/2 hours & whatever class we all had that followed, would be cancelled in accordance to this scheduled extended class time, which all of our other teachers were notified about ahead of time; this enabled us to ensure that we had enough cooking time for certain assigned recipes and other future events, which was something that everyone, myself included, was ecstatic about.

There was a lot more politics involved when holding courses like this, especially, for students our age. In fact, 4 cooking/bake sales would be held by the school, annually, that we would all have to participate in to generate money for the school & half of the earnings would go to the “No Kid Hungry” organization. Some of us would also be assigned to help prepare the school’s lunches according to whoever Ms. Lizette believed would fit the requirements and standards in order to properly do so. We would all have to learn about legal food safety, way younger than most. Some might believe this to be unothordox. However, there were no laws against anyone under 18 holding a Serve Safe Certificate license if the state mandated it. Interestingly enough, unknown to us, if the class didn’t undo and makeup the budget, financially, that the school had spent on it, it would inevitably be cancelled next year as a failed political and economical program and deemed a liability to the school board’s funds and would be purged from the scholastic school curriculum. To better prevent this, the school raised all tuition for all students by $350.00 to better be able to provide for these specialized programs, something the parents would all learn about at the first parent teacher conference. It was perfectly legal. And, overall made sense.

This period was the first extended period we would have, so I had more than enough time to prepare & execute my chosen reicpe. The things that I needed in order to correctly make & bake my apple pie were all basic ingredients, so, I was able to obtain everything that I required from the pantry. It was stocked, on this particular day, more than usual by the school, as a proactive way to introduce the course to us and give the kids the ability to more easily cook whatever they wanted, according to the teacher’s instructions.

Apparently, Donny was creating and cooking some sort of a Ravioli dish which was authentic to his country and region where he grew up. So, he brought a giant bag of flour and plopped it happily on the table in between Sascha and I. Then, he proceeded to the back of the room where he grabbed a giant pot, most likely, to fill with water from one of the three sinks, which were located in the back of the classroom, in order to properly cook his dish. As he was in the back, I reached over with my hand, holding a measuring cup, not looking at the actual bag, itself, to grab the correct amount of flour I needed from the bag that sat on the table in the middle; I knew Donny would not mind that I took some from how large the bag was and that we were friends. At the exact same time, however, Sascha proceeded to grab flour from the bag with his hand as well. Neither of us intentionally reached for the bag or it’s contents at the same time as the other one did, but, the moment my hand was inside of it, as well as his, and we felt each other’s skin we, instantly, looked at the other person. We stared at one another for a bit and, then, all of the sudden for some foreign and strange reason, we fought for that flour with our hands. God have it, it was like our lives were in that bag. I tried to grab it, and then HE tried to grab it with both of our hands still inside, wiggling and jiggling it’s contents, violently, spilling flour all over the table and eventually on our clothes. We slammed the sides of our bodies right next to one another, literally pushing and shoving the other’s body weight to fiend the other boy off. I felt him on my right side for the very first time, fully pressing on me. He was touching me. He was literally ‘touchable’. It was the first physical contact that I ever had with him. Interestingly enough, Sascha was an inch taller than me, which was something, that I never would have expected until I was right there next to him, being, as close as I was.

“Ugh.. what eh’ you….. DOING?” He said.

“What are YOUU DOING?” I replied.

We, then, turned our heads and glared directly at the others eyes as we continued to press our bodies against the other as we struggled to both push against the other to win the ‘fight’ of flour. Our faces were just 2 inches apart. He stared at me; I stared at him as we shoved. We looked at each other and saw the annoyance and anger from the other. It was obvious. Anyone looking at us would have seen two boys fighting over flour like lunatics. But, we weren’t. We were fighting each other for much deeper reasons than that. We were shoving the other for WHATEVER personal and hidden purpose that the other one had. It was strange, random, and, yet, it was inevitable by nature. Like a pair of wolves growling and howling at the other to mark and protect their territory, we were both being ‘territorial’. We were both just… ANGRY.

“Eaagh…ugh.” We made grunting and struggling noises as we continued to stubbornly fight the other. Flour was getting all over his nice dark blue shirt, since, for some reason, he didn’t put his apron on, yet. And, flour got on my black fitted pants.

“Move OVER.” He said.

“Ugh.” I didn’t respond. I just continued to try to force my hand deeper into the bag as he scrunched his fingers around mine to grab the flour. Then, due to the force of us pushing the other, he spilled my already measured and prepared bowl of sugar all over the table by making me bump into it by mistake.

“UGH. My Sugar!” I said mad, that my station was now a mess.

“YOU knocked it down.” He said.

“Because, YOU’RE pushing me.” I replied.

“No, YOU’RE pushing ME!” He spat out. We continued to struggle until I heard and felt a hand on my back and shoulder.

“Hey HEYY HEYYYY.” Donny said concerned. He literally pushed us apart and we finally broke free from our deathold that we were under, from fighting the other, and stood about a foot each from Donny on either side. Flour was all over our arms that were inside of the bag. Donny stared at us for a moment probably wondering what the HECK was going on. “What ‘eh you guys doing?” He said, almost as if he was more disappointed and shocked, than, angry. It was almost as if he didn’t like seeing us being ‘mean’ to the other and that we should know better. But, Antonio DIDN’T KNOW the whole story of who Sascha really is… Or WHAT he really is!

“He knocked my sugar down.” I said, immaturely.

“No, YOU did.” He said getting closer to me.

“Because, YOU pushed me.” I walked closer to him. Donny’s eyes began to widen.

“No, YOU’RE pushing me and hogging the flour.” Sascha said.

“I only needed a few cups! You kept pushing ME.” I said, defending myself.

“Because you’re in my way.” He said.

“You’re in MYYYY WAYYY.” I growled at him finally.

“Grrrrrrr.” He hissed at me, getting closer.

“GRRRRRRRR.” I hissed back, even louder, as we started to fight again. This time, however, Donny had placed a clear glass of cold water onto the table for his Ravioli to be formed and we accidently knocked the entire thing down on the floor, causing it to splash and scatter glass all over the floor making an extremely loud sound.

*CRASH*

The entire class turned around and looked at the three of us, including Ms. Lizette who had recently just walked in who was talking to the next door teacher about something important.

“HEYY. What’s going on?” she said, glaring at the three of us.

All three of us stood up straight and loosened our body muscles as we calmed our energies and faces down and replied in unison. “Nothing…”

Before the teacher could even request it from us or I had any full realization of what was going on, Donny had already grabbed the broom and shovel and began to clean the mess up off of the floor. Sascha grabbed a towel and dried the floor and when Donny was done cleaning the mess and got the last bits of glass from the floor as he got up with the shovel in his hand, he gave me a look that almost said “What’s WRONG with you two?” But, he didn’t understand!

When everything was cleaned up, he said “You can BOTH use the flour I brought.” He took his required share, allowed Sascha to take his amount needed to complete his recipe, and I eventually took mine.

“Thanks.” I muttered. I heard Sascha say his form of gratitude to him as well.

__________

That pie meant alot to me. It was like the solution and resolution to everything bad that had happened to me in my life since my vacation, earlier that year, in the summer. The entire time that I was assembling the ingredients and concentrating on its’ formula, my brain swirled and twirled like a violent hurricane all of the echoes and voices of my bullies and haunting memories. I heard them laughing at me, making me believe that I was inferior to them and everyone else in that school. I remembered my Orchard and kept imagining it being on fire, suffering as much as it did, while we were all happily on our vacation. I kept hearing the taunts, the giggles, and above all, the lies that Sascha and them had brainwashed my innocent mind with. I remembered my Diet Coke when Liam began to teach me the truth; he taught me I was being brainwashed. I actually started to tear up as I made that pie.

The moment I thought about that Diet Coke, I looked up with tears in my eyes and saw Ms. Lizette sip a Diet Coke that she had on her desk and placed it back down while she was sitting & doing some important paperwork for the class. It was like a sign. That Diet Coke was a sign. This PIE WAS a sign. It was my way of fighting back. I put every negative and positive thought and emotion that I had into that pie. I used it to relieve me. It may sound crazy, but, it was like I put every single weakness & lie that I had ever been told into it, folded the top and sealed it’s strips of pie dough shut inside, like a Pandora’s Box of hatred, and when I shoved it in the oven, that was my way of destroying them. And, I remember staring at that oven with my head up as it was cooking with flared nostrils, it was like I was cooking them. I WAS cooking them.

I wanted to show this school and my peers what I was made of. At about 70% of my pie’s cooking process, I took it out and placed it onto my table’s cutting board with a hot plate underneath. I began making the mixture my mother had taught me to put on her award winning pies that creates the extra sugar coated, buttery, & crispy crust that would be on top of the eggwash that I had already applied prior to the neatly folded strips which made up the top. I sprinkled the mixture of brown sugar, white sugar, some salt, cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg on top of each strip, carefully.

Ms. Lizette walked up to me curious and asked me. “My, that looks beautiful… But, what are you doing?” As she had never seen someone do this to a pie before.

“A trick.” I said with my head bent sideways and my tongue out in concentration as I sprinkled the topping on that I had to properly finish cooking my pie with, the rest of the 30% of its’ cooking time.

“Hmmmm.” She said with a grin as she liked my answer. And walked away speaking to the class. “Now, class remember, I’m going to taste each and every one of your dishes. You all may pick only TWO dishes of your fellow classmates to try in order to avoid confusion, mess, and any cross contamination.” She said she she continued to walk back to her desk in the front. “The cups that will be placed onto your tables grant 6 forks for each to try food. They enable each of you two clean forks. No double dipping, please. If you want more, you may ask the cook to ladle it properly and place it onto one of the small paper plates next to the cup to help yourself to larger & reasonable portion.”

At one point, during the first stage of my pie’s cooking process, I let Sascha use the oven as well to place a large cookie sheet which held some sort of triangular shaped perfectly cut looking pastry items underneath my pie on the lower rack of the oven. Each table only had one oven directly under the six burners that it had, so, we had to share.

Finally, my timer went off, and I took my pie out. It was perfect. Golden & honey colored brown, bubbly, & sugar coated crust. Just like how I’m used to seeing it. This was the first thing I cooked since my Forbidden Fruit Orchard burnt down & was the first one of these pies that I had seen being made since I was back in Georgia, before August of 2020.

“WOW.” Donny said, marveling at the elegant simplicity of my dessert. He smiled at me and said, “I definitely try yours, kay?”

“Okay.” I smiled back.

When the time was finished for everyone to finally taste, I looked at Sascha and Donny’s dishes. They both looked far better than I originally anticipated or expected, especially, from my bully who’s looked like and was displayed like an actually CHEF presented it. They both impressed me as well as a few other student’s dishes. It was the truth; they both impressed me.

I decided to try my two partners’ dishes, out if the rest of the class, despite, how impressive some if the others looked. I chose Donny’s because he was my best friend. And, I chose Sascha’s because I was really curious to see if he was capable of anything productive other than being a trouble maker and being someone who was, honestly, well… ‘pretty’.

Donny’s was expectedly good. Fresh Ravioli with a light basil & butter sauce & sauteed from a boy who grew UP in Italy and was passionate about cooking? It was beyond delicious.

Then, I cautiously walked over to my enemy /slash/ partner. “Can I… have one?” I asked him.

“…Sure.” he muttered and stepped back. His was a finger food so I just picked it up and placed it into my mouth. I had never tasted anything quite like it before or seen it. It was definitely ‘foriegn’ for some reason. Like it came from somewhere else. But, I couldn’t put my finger on it.

“What’s this?” I asked him, marveling the foreign flavor.

“Shh-thsgeh.” He mumbled.

“What?” I asked him as I couldn’t hear him.

“It is called, Öçpoçmaq.” He said. “It’s usually stuffed with minced meat and potato or whatever you like. it’s from… Shfiem.” He mumbled off, again.

“It’s from where?” I asked, as I couldn’t hear him, once more.

“It’s from Russia, …my country.” He said.

“You arrr’ frrrom Russia?” Donny said. “Wow. What nice country. My PaPa enjoys they’re bakeries, here.”

“Thank you.” Sascha said, softly.

“When you move here?” Donny asked him.

Sascha looked at me and, then, at him. He replied “I was 6 or 7.”

Wait a second… Sascha wasn’t born here? I thought. He gave ME so much trouble about me being a foreigner and having an accent… And, yet, HE was even more foreign, than, ANY of us were! I couldn’t even believe it. Come to think of it, he DID talk with just a tiny tint of an accent that was probably alot more washed out & polished off than it originally started off to be when he first moved here. He probably took classes to get rid of it as he learned to speak English when he was younger. He didn’t even grow up speaking english or in this country for that matter. What a Hypocrite!!! I thought. What a… LIAR. He made me believe I was the foreigner, WHEN HE WAS the real foreigner.

After Ms. Lizette had tasted a few of the dishes she wanted to start off with, mine was the 4th and she said to me, “Now…. Class….” She looked around. “I’d say that’s what I call a ‘pretty pie’, yes?” She asked them. And, a bunch of them nodded, smiled, and AGREED! “May I?” She asked with a grin grabbing a fork.

“Yes.” I said with happy nervousness.

She took a bite and looked almost shocked and grossed out and covered her mouth in thought. Oh, god. Oh, GOD. SHE DOESN’T LIKE IT!!! I almost wanted to run away.

“Billy…” She started. “This…” Then, she shook her head. “No, no, no… This can’t be right.” I was so stunned. I felt like God struck me with lightning and also froze me in time and I couldn’t move. “How does a kid like you do something so simple …. And, yet, make it taste so complex?” She asked me. “Billy this isn’t good….” My mouth was opened. “This is amazing.” She shook her head looking at it. “I’m honestly shocked.” She said. “Can I have a full slice, please? Goes with my latte’ up there. Please?” She asked me. WOW. I smiled so wide.

“Sure, okay!” I said.

“Can I have some?” A random girl said.

“Yeah, me too!!” That boy Jamie said.

“Yeah!” His friend said.

And, almost everyone walked up to my table and I was serving them all my pie. I couldn’t believe it. I was getting so much love from my peers, that I was literally shaking from some shyness as I served them all.

“Wow, Billy. This is great.” One boy said.

“Mmm, YEAH.” A new girl I met, Sabrina, said.

“Thank you, Billy.” One of them said to me.

“Yeah, thank you, Billy!” Another boy replied.

Then, Sascha walked up to me, and asked me if he could have some, softly, not making any eye contact with me, but, looking at the ground. He chose ME as his second dish. That… That like means something, right? He didn’t HAVE to choose me. But, he wanted to.

“Uhh. Sure. Okay.” And, I let him taste it.

He placed my mother’s pie of love into his mouth and just stared into nothing. He didn’t make any noise. But, he mouthed with his mouth to himself, “Wow.”

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