Golden Apples
by Linda Williams

"Don't use more than two squares of the toilet paper or else ole Snaggletooth'll come and get you." Grandma’s cackle followed her words, reaching Carrie’s ears as she sat on the toilet, wide-eyed with fear. She looked down between her legs and through the clear water into the porcelain bowl. Nothing. Still, she tinkled as quickly as she could.

"And don't flush it till you tinkle again, no need to run up the water bill."

Carrie jumped off the toilet, barely wiping herself with the allotment of two tiny squares of the rough paper. She stuck her hands in the water basin and dried them quickly with the towel hanging on the rack above. 

She ran to the adjoining room, where her grandmother sat at the table in the room that served as the kitchen, dining and living room of the tiny house. She was combing her floor-length hair. This was the first time Carrie had seen her hair free of the painful braids she always wore pinned up in ovals above each ear. She didn’t dare comment on her hair. The only thing she could think of to say right then was, ‘My what big hair you have, Grandma!’ But she was smart enough to keep that to herself.

Carrie studied her carefully, she didn't trust her and she was halfway sure she was lying to her about the witch named Snaggletooth.

"Grandma, can I have an apple from Mr. Duncan's apple tree?" She plopped down in a chair at the end of the table. Her sweaty legs stuck to the vinyl seat covering and made little squeaking sounds as she scooted back.

"Snaggletooth took them all, none left out there under the tree." The old lady cocked an eyebrow, squinted one eye at her and pressed her thin lips together.

Carrie heard the comb pulling through the long multi-colored locks and she marveled at how anyone's hair could possibly grow to such a length. She thought Grandma's hair was like an old tree, once felled, the rings showing the tree's age. She noticed how the hair had faded into different colors over the years, ranging from a lively strawberry blond at the ends to a pure whiter than white at the roots. This observation made her think that people should not cut their hair ever! How else could you really and truly know how old someone was?

"How can Snaggletooth take the apples? How does she get them?" Snaggletooth must not only be ugly, she was stingy.

Grandma thought for a long moment, then replied, "She ties a tiny dart to a string, see, there's a hole in the end of the dart, kind of like a sewing needle, only bigger. She spears the apple with the dart and she drags it to one of the holes and pulls it underground. Remember those holes you saw in my back yard and Mr. Duncan’s back yard? That’s where she takes the apples. She lives under my house, you know."

Carrie's eyes widened at the thought of the big stash of apples Snaggletooth must have right there, under the house.

"Can I go out and look? I just know there must be one apple left, surely she didn't get them all!"

Her mouth watered at the thought of sinking her teeth into one of the crunchy fruits. Usually, when her family made their weekly jaunt to the grocers on Friday night, her older brothers and sisters had inhaled all the snacks and goodies by Saturday night. Being the youngest and by far the smallest, she pretty much got the dregs.

"You can go out and look, but make sure you don't bring in any bugs on anything you find out there."

Carrie scurried through the combination living-dining-kitchen to the combination bathroom-laundry room, almost colliding with the old wringer washing machine. It reminded her of a robot and its stare was menacing; she gave it as wide a berth as possible.

The rusty screen door uttered a metallic screech as she pushed it open and slipped out onto the concrete block steps, tiptoeing her way cautiously down to the backyard. She kept a keen watch for Snaggletooth, just in case.

She darted across the small backyard to Mr. Duncan's place, jumping over what she had always thought were mole holes or snake holes. But if Grandma was telling the truth, these were the openings to Snaggletooth's underground home. She thought Snaggletooth must be tiny; or maybe she possessed the power to shrink and get big again. After all, she was a witch; she could do that.

She scanned the ground under the tree with high hopes; but all she found were apples long fallen to the ground, which even old Snaggletooth didn't want. She surveyed the tree; the top was full of sun ripened golden apples, glistening and winking their promise of sweetness between bright, green leaves shivering in the summer breeze.

She knew she would get her butt blistered if she let it be known she even thought about climbing the tree.

Five minutes later, she was sitting at the top of the tree; Grandma screamed and yelled at her from below. "Get down out of that tree and I don’t mean do it tomorrow!"

Carrie smiled and waved. "You see, what happened was old Snaggletooth the Witch came out of one of her holes and chased me and I had to climb the tree to get away from her."

Carrie thought, how could she say I'm lying?  "Here, catch these so they don't get all bruised up!"  She pulled some apples from the surrounding branches and tossed them down, with Grandma yelling all the more as she dodged the yellow barrage.

She climbed down the tree and dropped to the ground. She began gathering up the apples; Grandma's angry glare was boring into her back.

"Get those picked up and get inside the house right now. You're lucky if I don't blister your butt for climbing that dang tree, young lady, now get!" Her hair flew about wildly as she stood there in her faded, paisley print housedress. Exertion and anger painted her face a bright, splotchy pink.

Pretty soon, Grandma was bustling around the kitchen, washing the apples in the white porcelain sink that must have been thirty years old, but looked brand new. She never failed to wipe it or shine the chrome faucet after each use with the clean rag she always kept hanging on a nail above it.

She placed the apples in a bowl on the table and took an old wooden handled paring knife from the dish drainer and sat down at the table with Carrie.

Carrie thought this must be the sharpest knife in the world as she watched her select one of the apples and begin peeling it. She held the apple in one hand, strategically placing her fingers and thumb where she could get a start on the peel.

Carrie watched in awe at the paper thinness in which the peel began to come off as she turned the apple round and round in her hands, removing it all in one long curly piece. She placed the apple on a napkin and cut it into quarters. Then she picked up each quarter and removed the seeds, slicing each quarter in half. Carrie was a captive audience; her eyes followed every move, wondering if she would be punished and not get an apple, after all. Grandma hadn’t spoken a word to her since they’d come back into the house.

She arranged the slices neatly on a plate and went outside to the porch swing with Carrie sitting beside her. Carrie's eyes were glued to the freshly peeled fruit, knowing these must be some of the tastiest apples in the world. The way Grandma peeled and sliced them would make them taste even better.

Grandma smiled, watching Carrie's struggle to eat the apples with her two front teeth missing, ‘She'll never guess where I got the name for Snaggletooth the Witch.’

Linda lives in the beautiful Ortega Mountains of southern California.  Her work has been published in T-Zero Magazine, Real Eight and Long Story Short.  She is currently working on a novel and her first romance/comedy screenplay.  Contact Linda.