Just a note, before coming to the end of Corey’s story: Some children are content to learn to speak, but others make up words very freely. Chowmega is the name of a wood that belongs to family lore; you needn’t look for it anywhere else. But as Pooh might have said, it wanted to come into the story, so I let it.
#12 Gaspard’s Apple
It was a perfect, friendly day on the asteroid. Gaspard was sitting at a low table, quietly fletching arrows made of his own chowmega shoots, beautiful red-streaked, pale golden wood, straight as ash, strong as cedar, light as bamboo. His feathers were deep yellow, occasionally streaked with red; their spines seemed to attach very readily to the arrow, as if they belonged there. Corey watched him for a while, then set himself to shooting from the equator to the northern daisies and back again while Gaspard watched.
Afterwards, they had lunch, wonderful French baguettes with bright yellow butter, and the same deliciously winy drink as before. As they ate, Gaspard told stories about his childhood. Not all were happy stories, but it was clear that the orderliness of mechanics and of the universe had comforted his soul during many of the disorders of his beloved France. This was a human view of mechanics that had never occurred to Corey.
Indeed, he got so involved in Gaspard’s stories that he wasn’t even thinking of his bow when Gaspard finished the last bit of bread and said, “So you want to see my apple tree eh?”
“Oh please,” answered Corey jumping up. “I would like it very much.”
“Well, and then you could shoot yourself a few apples, of course,” continued Gaspard.
“So then, Monsieur Coriolis,” Corey said, feeling a little strange, “you do really have an apple tree? For I have never seen it.”
Gaspard smiled, wiped his hands on his white cloth napkin, brushed away the crumbs, and stood up. “But of course!” and he led the way through the sunflowers and turned left. For a while, they walked along the gardens, past many beautiful plantings that Corey couldn’t quite remember seeing before. Everything seemed a little different from what he remembered. The roses were redder and the daisies more delicately petaled; the peppers hung long and tapered and the squash lay ribbed and streaked… At first, he thought it was a trick of his memory or of the light, but then – well, then he saw the apple tree, just its top.
“It must be growing on a hill,” he thought, “like the peaches. A real hill, not just a round-the-asteroid hill.” The tree was still very far away, with apples so dark they were almost purple, but there was no mistaking them. A moment later, the ferns came in sight in a little dip of the land, and, remembering the peaches, Corey thought perhaps the apples were at the same latitude; he did feel he had walked a similar distance from the equator. In fact, he meant to ask if Gaspard had two gardens, but even as the question formed in his mind, his bow seemed to lift into his hands on its own. He looked at the apple and aimed very carefully six inches to the left, just as with the peaches.
Something was wrong.
Gaspard came alongside him and stood perfectly silent.
He lowered his bow.
The sun was wrong. It was going down on his right instead of his left. Suddenly, he realized why. He was in the southern latitudes!
“Why! We crossed the equator,” he cried out half-accusingly. Gaspard smiled and bowed slightly. Corey raised his bow again, aimed six inches to the right of the topmost apple, and, as his arrow curved beautifully left, brought it down with a thwack and a rustle that could be heard a mile away.
“Alors! Tu as gagné ton arc et des fleches,” smiled Gaspard. “So! You have won your bow and arrows.”
“Merci, Monsieur Coriolis,” answered Corey with a bow. “Thank you! Oh, and voici! I have brought back your pine nuts – roasted!” He reached into his quiver and handed Gaspard the little bag, lifting his hand to shade his eyes from the setting sun and also to brush away sudden tears.
When he could see clearly again, the afternoon sun was sparking through his own trees. His bow hung at his side, and the quiver on his shoulder was heavy with red and golden arrows.
But if you want to start over, go to Corey’s New Bow.