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“The Fourth Apple Tree” is the coming-of-age story of Joe. Set in the summer of 1968, eleven-years-old-going-on-twelve, he finds himself, once again, on the run. It’s late at night, in June, and, not only are the bad guys moving in, but the whole world seems to be against him:
“Then, I made a rash decision: I turned on to Dogwood Circle and started running again. I just had to get out of there – fast. But Dogwood Circle?
What am I doing? There’s a reason they call this a circle – because it’s a circle! There’s no way out! It’s a trap! But there I was, headed deeper and deeper into it, with absolutely no idea of what to do now. I did the only thing I could do: I kept on going.
The blackness of night was finally closing in on me. I had to keep on struggling with immense desperation. There was only one possible goal left, now – I had to get to the top of the circle… I had to get under the street light.
What? Of all the dumb things I’m doing, this is the dumbest! Going under the light? I must be crazy – they’ll spot me for sure. I know hiding in plain sight is sometimes a good strategy, but this is ridiculous! Oh, well… I couldn’t even think straight anymore. It really didn’t matter if I was stupid or crazy – I was done. I finally reached the top… and there was nothing left to do. Nothing.
I was finally there – like a total dolt, standing under the street light. All the bad things over the last week just washed over me like waves at the seashore: Brian was leaving… running into the Fryman twins…Phil’s bike was stolen…hiding in the Apple Trees…can’t hit… can’t field… can’t throw… losing to the Mets… the Evil Santa Claus… being It in Kick the Can…knocking over Kools… the Phillies losing to the Dodgers… getting chased all afternoon by The Skeleton and his gang… Kools in front of the store… losing to the Giants (of all teams)… having Terry Weston mad at me…being abandoned by my friends… getting chased again… This had to be it! This absolutely had to be it… No more. I heard another group of them walking past the opening to Dogwood – I almost wanted to yell: “Come and get me! NOW!”
But then… but then…