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by Rachel Lister

Today my mother is trying to sell apples. At breakfast she presents me with a fan of slices, each one golden with a scarlet trim. I know why this is. She “stumbled across” an apple core under my bed last night and is thrilled that I relented, if only for a second. So she will go to town on the apples. Over the next few days there will be apple salads, apple sandwiches. I must be careful. If I humor her, she will go too far. She will begin to add pastry, a food stuff that perseveres, that sticks to my sides. She sits and watches me as I nibble at the heart of the smallest slice, turn it into a cashew nut. She clears her throat and takes a breath, like a child at a recital.

“Aren’t apples wonderful? You can peel them and make rings of fire. Cut them in half and you will be greeted by two faces, peering at you in perfect symmetry. They captivated our greatest artists. Think about Cézanne’s startling apples, red like a sumac tree. And consider their role in mythology. It was a golden apple that started a ten-year war. People say it was the beauty of a Spartan queen, Helen, but it was the apple that did it, really. Three goddesses competed for it. And look at the goddess who won it! The goddess of beauty and sexuality competed for food.”

She has certainly done her research but unfortunately for her we have covered this in school. I manage not to roll my eyes but gently inform her that the golden apple was purely symbolic. “It wasn’t even a piece of food, Mom. It was an apple made of gold that bore an inscription: for the most beautiful. That’s what Aphrodite coveted. Proof that she was beautiful. Even goddesses need that, Mom.”

I have not been this pleased at anything I have said since this whole battle began. This was my most deadly riposte yet. Even Aphrodite needed validation. She was probably on a diet the whole time. My mother heaves herself from the table, so I place my hand over hers and cast her a look of gratitude. She has in fact done what she intended. She has emboldened me. She has helped me to see things as they really are.

Rachel Lister lives in the northeast of England and teaches English literature. Several of her short stories have appeared in publications such as Thema and Mslexia.