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An Apple A Day

"Apple?" the old woman asked.
She stood alone in the market, near a darkened alley. No stall. Just her and a basket of apples. She held out the basket as Lisa walked by.
"How much?" Lisa asked.
"Oh," the old woman cried, "Free for a beauty such as yourself."
Lisa eyed the apples in the basket. The one at the top of the pile was absolutely perfect. It was a deep, shiny red, and even had an adorable little leaf sticking off of its stem. Lisa took the one next to it.
"Ah," the old woman gasped, but bit her tongue.
Lisa took a bite of the apple. It wasn't absolutely perfect, but it hit the spot.
"Thanks!" Lisa said, and left the old woman pouting in the shadows.
A few days later the old woman was back. As Lisa approached the alley, the old woman hopped forward, blocking her path.
"Apple?" the old woman asked.
"No, thank you," Lisa said, and tried to sidestep, but the old woman was too fast.
"Maybe one for later?" she asked, and thrust the basket toward her.
Lisa stopped involuntarily, and looked at the basket of apples. Each one was absolutely perfect. They practically sparkled in the sunlight.
"I suppose," Lisa said, and placed one of the apples in her bag.
The old woman followed her once she was almost out of sight. She watched and waited. Waited for the moment Lisa would take a bite of her absolutely perfect apple, and collapse in the middle of the market square. That didn't happen.
Lisa didn't see it coming, but the old woman did. A carriage ran into her, knocking her to the ground. Lisa's bag went flying, and with it, the apple. It landed on the other side of the street where another carriage ran over it, filling the bag with a sticky, stinking jam.
The old woman was back bright and early the next day. She had a sour look on her face, but perked up when she saw Lisa.
"Apple?" she asked, shoving the basket forward.
"No, thank you," Lisa said.
"Are you sure?" she asked, shaking her basket temptingly.
"Yes, but thank you anyway," said Lisa.
She went to leave, but turned back to the old woman.
"Do you get a lot of customers?" Lisa asked, "Standing in this alley all day?"
"Yes?" the old woman said, looking around nervously.
Lisa frowned.
The old woman was there the next day, and there was not an apple in sight. She looked like she might cry. Lisa saw her, and waved to her. The old woman waved back limply.
"No apples today?" Lisa asked.
"No," the old woman croaked.
"Too bad," Lisa said with a laugh, "I missed breakfast today, and was looking forward to one of your apples."
"Too bad," the old woman repeated, looking down at her empty hands.
Lisa turned to go, but the old woman put a hand on her shoulder.
"Listen," the old woman said, "you wouldn't happen to be in the market for a spinning wheel, would you?"
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, June 10th, 2020
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