What’s Apples all about?:
Weaving together loss and anxiety with fantastic elements and literary sleight-of-hand, Kevin Brockmeier’s richly imagined Things That Fall from the Sky views the nagging realities of the world through a hopeful lens.
In “Apples,” a boy comes to terms with the complex world of adults, his first pangs of love, and the bizarre death of his Bible coach.
What did I think?:
There is no denying that Kevin Brockmeier is a master of words, and the third story in this collection “Apples,” shows off his beautiful way with language yet again. Our protagonist is a young boy called Jeremy and the story is set in the fall of his thirteenth year where he finds that huge events in his life seem to be happening together. He wins the school spelling bee the same day that his parents sit him down and tell him that they no longer love each other, he has his braces removed and is chased to his front door by a stray dog, he answers the phone to an obscene caller the same day his mother goes to live with a “stranger,” and crucially for this story he shares his first kiss with his crush Allison Downey on the same day that he watches his teacher, Coach Schramm get killed by a bucket. Yes, it gives the phrase “kicking the bucket,” a whole new meaning!
Coach Schramm is not only as the name implies, the school sports coach, but is also their Bible coach and on the day of the tragic incident, he is lecturing to the class from the book of Genesis, when God made the world. His class are quite inquisitive little souls, and one boy enquires quite innocently where the dinosaurs came in. Coincidently, Coach Schramm exclaims “God Almighty, can’t we give the dinosaurs a rest?” and a bucket crashes through the window knocking the teacher to the ground and killing him. Jeremy wonders about the irony of him taking the Lord’s name in vain connecting with his death, but it gets his classmates all talking about their own experiences of death, for Jeremy this is his first.
The other strand of this story is first love, for Jeremy it is almost instantaneous from when he sees Allison in school assembly and feels strangely compelled to pick a strand of hair off her clothing.
“She was careful and muddled and dreaming and lovely.”
They are brought closer together as they wait to hear news about their teacher, although Jeremy is fairly certain that he has died.
The story is called “Apples,” as Jeremy’s father who now seems to be raising him on his own after splitting with his mother, is worried about his nutrition and packs a shiny apple amongst his packed lunch every day. Jeremy always manages to eat everything else but the apple although he always has good intentions to eat it later, but it ends up hidden in the bin, to avoid upsetting his father. The story ends with Jeremy coming home to find that his father has discovered the week’s worth of apples in the bin. When I finished I have to admit I was slightly disappointed by the ending, but looking back on it, it was probably the best way for it to end, as it left the reader wanting more, and perhaps heralded new beginnings for Jeremy in being able to communicate with his father better? In general, this is a beautiful story about a young boy beginning his journey into the adult world, and learning about the important themes of love, death and loss which can often be shielded from us in childhood. I also enjoyed how the author combined both the happy and the sad instances to give a well rounded account of what life can really be like.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: She Was Looking For This Coat by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You