Adam’s Apple

Ali Mckenzie-Murdoch


Blood seeps through the white cotton bed sheet, bleeding into a crimson web. We lay the bloodied bundle in the hole we’ve dug. It weighs less than a bag of sugar. Hidden within the cloth, my placenta is a primordial colour, unlike the pillar box red of the one swollen apple on the tree we’re planting. The fruit looks out of place, a garish bauble from a Carmen Miranda headpiece. We free the roots from the hessian sack and arrange the sapling on top of the package, the shovel clinking against rock as we replace the soil. In the spring sunlight, we toast baby Adam with flutes of champagne. Proud dad Pierre swings the baby in his arms. Adam’s heartbeat pitter-patters and cradle cap cakes his scalp. An empty bottle of Veuve Clicquot lies in the dirt.

Later that afternoon, I walk under the cherry trees which line both sides of the street, their branches rising toward a pale china sky. Frozen in their march towards summer, they appear heavy with snow, not blossom. Dark shapes dance in my peripheral vision. I imagine Adam tumbling from a bridge into the lake or a car dragging his pram along the street. Beneath the endless canopy of white blossom, a red tram flashes past. Red! Birds might peck the apple. Maggots could burrow into the flesh. Once home, I drape netting over the tree. Pierre calls me hysterical as I look down into the garden where a veiled bride sways in the breeze.

The next morning I pluck the apple. Bare feet wet with dew, my lips brush the polished skin. I want the crunch crack of my teeth piercing the surface, juice dribbling down my chin. But the apple is for Adam and Adam only. Back in bed, Pierre is still asleep, his mouth open, alcohol on his breath. Baby Adam lies between us, his porcelain skin like raw pastry. At lunchtime, I cut the fruit. Half expecting it to bleed, I remove the core, but the flesh remains pale. Adam cries, my breasts leak milk and I leave the slices uncooked. When I return, a blush of tawny brown taints the surface.

When Adam is six months old, I defrost the apple puree. Pierre promises to help, but he’s not answering his phone. Adam twists away from the silver teaspoon. Beige lumps and saliva slither down his chin. He spews out every offering, his mouth contorted, his cheeks russet red. Both our faces are sodden. I place the gunk on my tongue and a sour taste fills my mouth.

The forecast predicts Sahara sand, orange skies and blood rain; winter comes early instead. Ice crystals dust the baby-fisted buds, clenched tight on the apple tree. The trunk, no thicker than a walking stick, casts a pale shadow on the snowy ground. We try to have a second child. I make deals with the universe; if the tree flourishes, maybe I too can bear fruit. But when spring comes, the leaves curl as if cowering from the invading black fly I spray with soapy water. Phantom apples burst on the branches.

Adam squeals and runs and kicks footballs so I pile rocks at the base of the tree. But it’s Pierre who trips and falls backwards, snapping the spindly trunk in two. Shedding tears, I struggle to cobble the parts together, binding the severed limb with black electrical tape, dripping candle wax onto the damaged stump. It continues to grow, but more than the tree has been broken.


Ali Mckenzie-Murdoch (UK) lives in Zürich, Switzerland. Her work appears in JMWW, Fractured Lit, Flash Frontier, Bright Flash Literary Review and others. She is a Fractured Lit Flash Open Contest Finalist, was shortlisted for the National Flash Fiction Day 2023 Micro-Fiction Competition and received an Honourable Mention in the 2023 Scribes Prize.



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