saturdays are apple picking days, part iii

written by A. E. Stover
this version is not edited







 Saturday, 6 October 2012
8:50 AM


Naruto sat himself at the top of the tree and reached over to pluck a round, red apple from the branches. He tossed it down to Sasuke, who caught it and dumped it into the plastic bag. Naruto reached for another one and tossed it down. Sasuke caught it and packed it away.

Pluck, toss, catch, pack. Pluck, toss, catch, pack. It was done in a rhythmic manner, the silence surrounding them a comfortable one.

Their bag was filling up quickly with juicy red apples, thanks to Naruto’s meticulous selecting. Sasuke caught each fruit that flung in his direction. He didn’t seem to have a problem with Naruto’s haphazard throwing. He decided that he’d much rather deal with that than sit on top of a tree like an idiotic monkey plucking and flinging fruit to the ground.

In a matter of minutes, they heard the grass rustle and branches creak. Splotches of red and pink moved closer and closer, and Sakura soon emerged from the foliage — with a bag full of large, plump Jona-Goldens.

“Where’d you find those?” Naruto asked incredulously. “I’ve been looking everywhere for them.”

Sakura set the bag down on the grass and pulled up her hood. “Over there, on the other side where we parked our car.” She shoved her hands into the front pouch of her sweatshirt.

Naruto scowled, in mid-reach for another apple. “There weren’t any apples in those trees,” he said matter-of-factly.

“The colors blend in with the leaves ― you had to crouch and look carefully.”

“I did look carefully.”

“You weren’t even there for five minutes.” From her tone, one could guess that she was growing impatient.

“How would you know? Weren’t you in the van?” Naruto jumped down from his perch on the tree to join his friends on the ground.

Sakura’s only response was a withering look.

Naruto pouted again, sticking his face in Sakura’s. “Aw, Sakura-chan,” he started, “don’t be so mean to me. We’re here to have fun, right?”

There was a snap in the comfortable atmosphere with the tense silence that followed. Elsewhere, families and groups of friends went their ways, chatting and walking with ease in a world that seemed to be outside their own. The trio stood in the orchards stock-still, Naruto and Sasuke staring cautiously at Sakura, who started to develop an unnatural glint in her eyes.

“Fun?” she finally echoed quietly.

Naruto wisely stepped back from her.

Sasuke maintained his good distance away from the two, feeling the last strings of relaxation snap and pull away. He focused, instead, on a lone bee darting back and forth from Naruto and Sakura’s bright hair. Should he tell them, he wondered?

“Have fun?” Sakura grabbed the front collar of Naruto’s shirt.

Probably not, Sasuke told himself. At least, not now.

“I have midterms this week!” Sakura continued hysterically. “And is being chased by cops on the highway your idea of having fun?”

Sasuke cleared his throat, but he went ignored. Despite her erratic arm movements, the bee had begun to gravitate closer and closer to Sakura’s bright pink hair. It landed on top of her head, and started to trek its way down before sinking beneath the folds of her red hood and her hair.

“Why would you even do one-twenty in a sixty-five zone? And I didn’t even get to straighten my hair properly because you dragged me out of the house at six in the morning! Who goes apple-picking at six in the morning?”

Sasuke cleared his throat again. “Sakura.”

Sakura whipped her head back to glare at him. “What?” she hissed.

“A bee just flew into your sweater.”

Sakura yanked her hoodie off with a maddening scream. She howled furiously and beat the ground with her sweatshirt in a frenzy, the two boys watching soundlessly as she collapsed on the ground in hysterics.

There were people all around them, all of them silent and frightened by the hysterical tantrum Sakura had thrown. Though used to the girl’s flaring temper, Sasuke and Naruto couldn’t help but feel disturbed at her psychotic episode and exchanged uneasy glances.

Sakura sat on her shins on the ground, in nothing but a thin, white long-sleeved shirt and faded blue jeans. She was breathing heavily and staring at the red sweater turned inside-out on the grass, watching as a bee crawled out from underneath and dizzily flew away. Slowly, she collected whatever was left of her composure and stood up to fix herself up as best as she could.

Just as Sakura brushed off the dirt and grass off her clothes, Naruto opened his mouth to let his stupidity fly out of it; “Are you on your period?”

Sakura ripped her hair clip off and hurled it at Naruto. It hit his face and he yelped, reaching with both hands to  his forehead with a whine as Sakura picked up her sweatshirt from the ground, shook it free of dirt and grass, and left the group to head back to the car.

Sasuke silently picked up both bags of apples― the red and yellow ―and followed Sakura.

After coughing with embarrassment, Naruto quickly followed suit.





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