My grandmother, Deborah, whose openness and freeness of spirit I loved dearly, was not known to be the most direct of women, and she was legendary for her frugality. But she also had more fun in life than anyone else I had ever known. As she was dying, she gave me a thick envelope, telling me that I was only to open it if I had retained my virginity until the age of nineteen. She said that it contained something of real value, but that if I was not still a virgin on my nineteenth birthday, I was to turn the envelope over to my cousin Candace. With a conspiratorial smile, she had then said that she sincerely doubted the bubble-headed Candace could keep her legs closed to men a day after she discovered she had breasts, but that the proviso didn't matter then Candace would be in dire need of what was in the envelope with the men she was likely to couple with.
On my nineteenth birthday, with trembling and moist hands, I tore open the envelope and out fell a card, a stiff legal document, and what looked like a recipe.
I opened the card first, and laughed. Grandmother was her old sharp self beyond the grave. 'If you are the one opening this, Debbie,' it said. 'You are a ninny and have wasted a good year. So, what is enclosed is the booby prize. And if you are reading this, Candace, close your legs for pity sake and find a good female lawyer to register the enclosed deed.'
One of the other enclosures was, indeed, a deed for a small plot of property that had once been out in the countryside but now was close enough into the suburbs to be extremely valuable.
The other enclosure was quite puzzling. It did, indeed, appear to be a recipe, marked off in five steps. Written across the top in larger letters than the rest of the writing were the words 'How to Peel an Apple.' I started reading in fascination.
Before the paragraphs, marked off in steps, started, Grandmother had written in spidery-fine handwriting I knew as hers that she had already taken care of the first three steps, but the last two were mine to take.
Under Step One was written:
1. Go to the county hall of records and read who owns what outside of town.
2. Find a businessman with a nice plot of orchard-ready land protected from the weather from the west.
3. First, make friends with the businessman's wife and then get a job as the businessman's personal secretary.
4. Dress minimally, wear enough perfume to gag a woman and flip open a man's eyes. Volunteer to stay late to work for the boss.
5. When you have managed to stay late with just the boss, work hard for him. Stand behind him and lean into him, with your hair caressing his cheeks, and rub his shoulder muscles while he's counting the typos on what you've just typed for him. When you feel him shudder, ask him what other muscles he might need to have rubbed and tell him you have a few of your own that need rubbed but that he just can't see them until he turns around. When he does turn his chair around, open your dress and reveal it's only you underneath. Unzip something and do some muscle rubbing and let nature take its course. If you don't know what that is, idiot, sit in his lap and impale whatever is moist down there between your legs on what he has sticking up. He'll do the rest.
6. In the office the next day, tell him you want to invite him and his wife, your good friend, over for dinner.
7. File the deed on your new plot of land in the country.
Mesmerized, I moved on to read Step Two.
1. Visit a plant nursery near the close of day in the rain.
2. Make sure you've checked on who owns the nursery and that he's strong and handsome and operates the cash register at close of day.
3. Tell him you want to buy an apple tree sapling and bat your baby blues at him.
4. While he's ringing up the sale, sashay around the counter, perch on top of it, open your bodice up, and spread your legs. When he turns, convince him that the barter system is and has always been the great American way.
1. Wave sales receipt in hand and proceed out to the plant lot in the dimming light of day and look for a hulking young blond stud watering the azaleas.
2. Ask him to show you the apple saplings.
3. As he's standing, his fists wrapped around two saplings for you to weigh in your mind, rub your breasts against his chest, run your hand between his belly and the waistband of his jeans, wrap your fist around his sapling, and then weigh his nuts.
4. When you've got him babbling about planting seed, tell him you have just the place, a nice little spot in the country, where he can plant both your tree and his seed to your mutual satisfaction.
At the end of that step, there was a note from Grandmother to the effect that the deed in my hand represented most of the steps necessary in getting that apple peeled, but that the last two were my responsibility.
The fourth step was quite detailed and I was all atremble in anticipation as I gathered up two bottles of cheap, chilled wine and a blanket and drove down to the bus station in my car. Just as Grandmother had written, there were a group of young men milling around there, looking to cop occasional day work. And just as Grandmother directed, I picked out a dreamy-looking Hispanic man with drooping eyelids and Latin heat and a strong, firm-looking body. He readily acceded to my proposition, and we were soon rolling out to the far suburbs in search of my new land. I found it without trouble, and there was, indeed, a healthy, wide-branched apple tree weighed down with apples, just ripe for plucking, in the very center of the property.
I handed Hernando one of the wine bottles and fortified my nerves and my resolve with the other one as I watched the wine gurgle down his bobbing Adam's apple. Some of it overflowed and ran down his strong chin and his muscular neck and along a line down between his bulging pecs. His shirt was unbuttoned half way down, and I found myself overcome with, and responding to, the urge to see where the thin trail of wine was headed. I reached out and pulled his shirt open, releasing the lower buttons, and pulled the shirttail out of his tight jeans. The trail of purple moisture ran along a line of curly black hair on taut butternut brown skin down across his flat belly and under the waistband of his jeans.
I unbuttoned the jeans and spread them apart and watched the trail disappear through a dense thicket of black curly hair and then reemerge along the top of a thick cylinder and there pick up a channel of blue veining, down, down, down.
I heard an animalistic moan and a garble of hoarse, lust-filled Spanish, and Hernando lifted me up with big, strong-palmed hands under my buttocks and hitched my midsection against him, my pelvis to his. I writhed there for a few moments, my hips undulating against his grinding pelvis, aroused to flowing by the amazing power of him there, and then we fell to the blanket spread underneath the spreading apple tree and I spread my legs wide for him.
After Hernando picked a cherry, he then picked my apples. And Step Four was completed, very nicely and satisfactorily, just as Grandmother had predicted it would be.
For Step Five, I first took the finest of the apples Hernando had picked back to my kitchen, washed it off very well, and placed it on a pristine paper towel on the spotless granite counter. Then, following Grandmother's instructions, I put on a skirt and pull-over sweater, nothing underneath, and drove down to the hardware store. I picked out the best looking male clerk I could find and told him I needed two things. First, could he go up on the ladder and retrieve something from an upper shelf for me? (At this point in the recipe, Grandmother said it didn't make a damn whatever I said I needed, just as long as the guy had to go up at least two steps of the ladder and stretch up.) Then I asked him if there were any apple peelers in the kitchen department and whether he knew how to peel an apple. And, Grandmother said this was a very important part, I was to run my hand up his leg to where his thigh met his butt and jiggle my breasts against the calves of his legs while I was asking about the apple peeler.
From here, Grandmother, in the recipe, said I could go either of two ways. If I really was dumb enough to think this recipe was about peeling apples, I could take the man home and watch him peel my apple. If I understood that she was trying to tell me that life was for having fun and it was time I got on with it, I could just let the damn apple rot and take the man back into the stockroom and see if he had any nice-looking moles up there where his thighs met his butt.
Being Grandmother's namesake, I found out how big and useful the merchandise was back in the stockroom, let the clerk do his peeling there, and left the apple to worry about getting peeled itself.