The Ladel's Throat
Ian Wrisley

John sweats in the cold Washington sun.

It is an anguish he'd rather die than leave.

She is the root of his pain. She's the redhead over there picking apples. Rebeka. She doesn't have to pick, not like John. She's the orchard owner's daughter. John picks apples for cash, a nickel a bushel.

John is sweating despite the late October chill. He sweats because of her. Her red hair is a fire. He sweats for her heat, her laugh, her kindness, despite the chill.

Rebeka sees his sweat, slick and salty. She can feel his eyes like a breeze. His gaze is an icy river crossing her skin in waves. She shivers, despite the work.

When the work is over, they all stand around a bucket and drink from a ladle. John and Rebeka are the last to drink. When their hands meet on the ladle's throat, they both gasp, caught as by a sudden change in altitude. Throats constrict. Hearts pump. Ears roar like the Columbia. Electricity is exchanged in that briefest instant.

There are joys ahead. And sorrows. Four years hence, John will be wounded in a Great War whose origins no one can unravel, with stakes beyond his imagining. Daughters and sons first. Life and death. In thirty years they will begin sending those sons back across the sea.

Today in the orchard they'll someday own together, light fading, sweating and chilled, electric and rushing, they plant that life.

First published: August, 2004
comments to the writer: Knob'