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“I’m Lucy Harper.” “Yes.” “I wonder if you wouldn’t join us this Saturday. For the apples.” “Yes, please.” “I don’t know whether my husband has mentioned it.” “He has not.” “I thought not. Still, you will come.” “I will. Thank you.” “Good.” Lucy turned back toward the lobby. “Would you like some coffee? Before you return?” A pause. “Thank you. But no. I’ve a kettle on my own stove.” “Yes, of course.” The autumn sun pressed at an awkward angle into the packed earth of the square as Lucy Harper hurried back to the cool of her parlor. *** The night before the harvest, however, many townspeople came to the hotel for dinner, perhaps too busy with preparations for the next day, or perhaps simply because it was the last Friday before the real work of the season set in. All the day’s bread was soon gone, and the woman dashed between the dining room to serve bowls of stew and the kitchen to pull batches of baking powder biscuits from the oven. She didn’t speak to be heard above the clamor of chatting neighbors, but she seemed to smile, was perhaps slightly flushed, and sometimes pushed a strand of hair away from her forehead with the back of her wrist. The women remained at the tables over coffee while the men gathered at the bar, leaning across to draw themselves mugs of black ale, until someone called for whiskey and John Harper went behind the bar to find the bottles and the cork puller. *** That Saturday, the apples hung blunt and heavy among the leaves. Their blush timed with the first frost. John Harper, coming to fetch the woman from the hotel, met her in the square. “Mrs. Harper has asked you to come.” “Yes.” “Our house is this way, then,” turning back, heading up the narrow lane. They walked silently, between houses and yards and vegetable patches tattered by the late summer harvests. Up a gentle rise, she first saw the apple tree, bulging with fruit, then the trim little house, whitewashed clapboard, with Lucy at the center, waiting on the wide porch. She waved when she saw them. Kenny Gordon

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Permafrost Magazine Summer Issue, 36.2  
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