Author: Brooks C. Mendell

“Happy birthday!” said the spectral dame in a form-fitting doctor’s gown standing at my door one hundred years ago. “This is a milestone for you.”

“More like a millstone,” I said, leaning on my staff.

“Feeling weighed down?”

“I feel ready to feed worms. I can’t catch my breath,” I said. “But no one listens to raspy prayers from withered souls.”

“Not so,” said my visitor. “I’ve brought you a rejuvenating gift.”

“Birthday apples!” I said, taking the basket piled high in sparkling Granny Smiths and Gravensteins. Then I paused. “The price?”

“Nothing unusual. It’s the standard agreement” she said. “Enjoy a century without physical torment, and collections are a lifetime away.”
Who worries about the future when rapture awaits? “Agreed. Now, I’ll get these to the cellar.”

“Don’t bother,” she said. “These won’t spoil.”

“Thank you.”

“And remember,” she added, turning away. “Just one per year!”

Since that day, my birthdays became gleeful ceremonies rather than morbid memories. I’d uncover the basket and select an apple before sitting by the fire to eat it, core and all.

Today, I am an age that best remains unspoken. While others say old age isn’t for sissies, I did not get that message. Each year, I feel and look younger. Today, I seem 21, ready and legal for my first taste of the King’s wine! Anything else is spinning yarn.

This year, having eaten the final apple, I feel anxious. The empty basket sits on the table. Did someone knock on the door?

“Happy Birthday!” says a hideous hag wrapped in a soiled, doctor’s coat. “I’ve come to get my basket,” she growls. “And you.”