This week's Red Writing Hood challenge gives us 450 words to explore in fiction or creative non-fiction, any meaning of the word Core:
1 the earth’s core: center, interior, middle, nucleus; recesses, bowels, depths; informal innards; literary midst.
2 the core of the argument: heart, heart of the matter, nucleus, nub, kernel, marrow, meat, essence, quintessence, crux, gist, pith, substance, basis, fundamentals; informal nitty-gritty, brass tacks, nuts and bolts.
the core issue: central, key, basic, fundamental, principal, primary, main, chief, crucial, vital, essential; informal number-one. ANTONYMS peripheral.
For this prompt, I felt compelled to return to my main character from last week's challenge titled Fairytale Ended. I wanted to give Tracy a little closure.
I offer the following in response: A Poisoned Apple
Morning sunlight filtered through the trees, casting lacey shadows on the earth, as Tracy reached her intended destination. The secluded orchard aged quietly, nestled in the hollow; a labyrinthine haven from the ills of life. As a child, she scampered about the uniform apple trees like a sprite among sentinels, unaware of passing time. These trees had a way of leeching troubles from her soul.
She brought Kevin here last summer to share with him her most treasured patch of sacred ground. Blinded by passion, she failed to notice the warning signs. Marry me. It wasn’t a question. Kevin commanded her heart like a master puppeteer, twisting the strings to his own ends. She shut her eyes tight as if to drown his betrayal in darkness. She wanted to see her beloved apple trees cleansed of his taint.
“Tracy,” exclaimed an earthy, familiar voice. “Never expected to see you again after you brought that feller around.”
“You know I can’t stay away from this place for long, Appleginny,” she replied, opening her eyes eagerly. Ginny was older than Tracy remembered, shriveled like an apple-doll baked by the sun. The woman was the wizened recluse that every mountain community told tall tales of. Locals called her the Apple Whisperer or sometimes Ginny Appleseed but never with malice. The superstitious still believed in hexes.
Dark eyes narrowed. “He stripped some innocence from you, didn’t he?” Ginny soothsaid finally, hobbling closer. “I knowed that boy had Watercore through to the peel the moment I met him. These apples have it too, sadly. One rotten apple, maybe he spoiled the bunch.”
Appleginny reached up with her cane, skillfully knocking a Braeburn into her practiced hand. “Looks flawless from the outside, eh?” She pulled the Swiss Army styled garden tool from her belt and halved the apple with its blade. Glassy white flesh was scarred by a brown sunburst at its epicenter. “But the inside…”
“But the inside…” Tracy repeated, the painful recollection of her ruined wedding bubbling to the surface.
“Severely deficient,” the woman smiled wryly. “Not that it’s a lost cause for eatin’, mind, just an acquired taste. Oft makes them alkyholic tastin’. Some folks’ll even covet them, callin’ them Honeyed Apples. I’ll use them for applejack, not much else.”
“Is there a cure?” Tracy asked, hopefully.
“Watercore‘s brought about by too much nitrogen poisoning the soil. Suffocates the fruit. Easy fix for next year’s crop with a bit of time, sweat and good fertilizer.” Her smile faded. “In humans, though, the cure’s not as straightforward. Best you leave that feller for thems what has a taste for it, eh?” She tossed the halves unceremoniously to the ground. “Scavengers need food too.”