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'The Orchard' by 'Korky'

This is a story with a seed of truth of it but some embellishment has taken place!

I've changed all the names except my own.

Old Mr. Thompson had the finest orchard we had ever seen but nobody ever seemed to pick the apples and pears that grew there in abundance. Each autumn as the leaves turned from green to golden brown the fruit would ripen and tempt us from over that high wall and every autumn the apples and pears would fall to the ground and become a feast for whatever wild animals could get into the orchard.

It became a rite of passage for the older boys from our school to pay a visit to Thompson's orchard soon after the start of the final term and “slough” the apples and pears in as large quantities as we could stuff under our jumpers and into the pockets of our blazers.

Not being a particularly athletic student and of small stature it was assumed I would act as lookout just in case Old Thompson or the local Garda on his bicycle might pass by. I was having none of it. As soon as the rest of the gang were over the wall I tried to follow them.

Naturally it took me a few tries to scale the wall which was around seven feet high. I scuffed my knee, not to mention my lovely new shoes, but I eventually got to the top of the wall and began to climb down the other side, aided by a gnarled tree nearby which acted as a ladder. It would be a vital means of escape if we were discovered.

I began to walk through the trees to find my friends. I didn't have to wait long. I heard them screaming and saw them bolting across the orchard a hundred yards ahead of me, Mr. Thompson running behind them with a large stick raised in the air, shouting and roaring at the top of his voice. Thompson had the appearance of a bull and seemed to blow steam from his mouth and nose because of the large pipe he smoked.

I was terrified and didn't know what to do. I knew I would be caught immediately if I tried to make a run for it. I counted the others climbing the tree by the wall and over the top. One, two, three…. All five of them were over in moments, but Liam Healy barely made it. Thompson even managed to grab one of his shoes and shouted over the wall “I have me glass slipper now, so I'll be visiting Mr. Looney tomorrow to find me Princess!” Mr. Looney was Headmaster at our school and the thought of him holding a glass slipper contest temporarily caught my imagination, until I realised I was stuck behind the wall and Old Thompson was on the war path.

To my amazement Thompson began walking away, back towards his house a few hundred yards from the orchard. He hadn't noticed me. He still had Healy's right shoe in his hand and was muttering revenge to himself.

The way was now clear for me to escape, but I just couldn't go without taking at least a few apples. The coast was clear, Thompson was happy with his trophy and I had a free run. I filled my pockets with sweet pears and then rolled up my jumper and tied it by the sleeves to make a sack for the apples. When it was full I made my way towards the climbing tree and with difficulty scaled the high wall.

I had just come down onto the footpath when a voice came from behind me. “What's this here? Sloughin' apples is it”. It was Sergeant Rooney from Douglas Garda Station. I froze and couldn't even open my mouth to reply. “S…sorry Sergeant… I…I… didn't….” The Sergeant answered brusquely “And sorry you should be. Now I've a good mind to march you around to Mr. Thompson right away or take you to the station. Then your mother and father would have to collect you”. “Oh please Sergeant…” The sergeant continued. “On the other hand that old farmer in there never picks them apples. I used to slough ‘em meself from his own fawder when I was your age”, he blushed. “So along home with ya now and don't let me catch ya again”, said the sergeant. “T…thank you Sergeant Rooney”, I muttered. The sergeant turned away and began to cycle back towards the local garda station. I was grateful he wasn't going to turn me in and I began to run towards home. On the way home I met the rest of the boys on the school corner, Ryan, Donovan, Murphy, Harrington and Healy, the latter still conspicuous due to the lack of a right shoe.

I produced my haul of apples and pears with a broad smile across my face. Yes, I, the runt of the pack, had outsmarted them all and produced the finest haul of fruit sloughed from Thompson's farm in many a year. I gave them all an apple and a pear each and eventually got to Healy at the end of the queue. “I'm sorry this isn't a pumpkin Liam, because you'll need a bit of magic when Looney comes on his rounds tomorrow looking for someone with a shoe missing”.

The next day Mr. Looney arrived in our classroom carrying a small brown package. “I have reason to believe one of ye is missing a shoe”, he declared. “Old…er, I mean Mr. Thompson informs me that some students in our uniforms were sloughing apples from his orchard yesterday, now which of ye were involved?”.

The room fell silent. Feet shuffled nervously. A few badly chewed pencils were bitten heavily. “What about you Harrington? Do you know anything about it?” Sean Harrington turned white as a sheet but kept his cool. “Me, Sir? No, I was playing a game of hurley with my pals down the Boggy”. The principal chewed his lip but slowly walked on until he came to my desk.

“And I suppose you know nothing about this Jefferies?”, he said. I was terrified of giving the game away but before I could open my mouth to reply he had already moved on to the next desk. Apparently he didn't see me as a successful apple slougher. Across from me sat Healy, wearing an old and worn pair of shoes. Looney had been closely studying our footwear and would surely spot Healy's old shoes, one of which had its heel hanging off. Suddenly Shamey Murphy nudged me and handed me his own shoes. “Pass ‘em over to Healy”, he whispered.

I tried to get Healy's attention but he was motionless, like a rabbit caught in a car's headlights. He was so frightened of being found out that he was sitting bolt upright but in a world of his own. All that I could do was to throw the shoes over to him as gently as I could. Unfortunately the silence caused by Looney's threatening presence meant that even the slightest noise sounded very loud. The shoes hit the floor at Healy's feet with a thud. Looney shot around to the Healy's desk like a scalded cat.

“What's this Healy? Two pairs of shoes! Now I wonder who's missing his shoes?”. Feet shuffled again as the Master walked around the room scanning the boys' footwear and looking for a pair of unshod feet. It didn't take long to find Shamey Murphy, his big toe poking out from his left sock.

“Ah, Master Murphy!”, exclaimed Looney. “Been climbing Croagh Patrick again? Now are you going to tell me who else was involved in this escapade?”.

Murphy gulped and tried to talk but nothing would come out of his gaping mouth. Mr. Looney turned away from him. “Alright, Healy and Murphy are in detention this afternoon and if I find out who else was involved they can join them there”, he said.

Moments later the bell rang for the end of school and the pupils began to file out of the classroom. Looney called on the two unfortunate boys to follow him to the staffroom and was just passing me by when I lifted my schoolbag off the ground. The bag wasn't zipped up properly and out rolled two sweet green apples right in front of Looney's feet. “Jefferies!”, he exclaimed, “follow me to detention”.