A VICTIM of the exotic virus starving the tribe of its livestock and its fruit trees, the stunted, sickly apple tree in the cemetery at the edge of the village quivered with infestation and grew grayer with the fading of spring.
But thanks to Jesus and his donkey and their twice-daily trips to the river for the water the tree required to weather its summer of infection and hobble through autumn and winter, bucket after bucket after bucket, the tree somehow survived, and when in spring the battered tree blossomed, the blossoms were so dewy with nectar they silenced the thirst of the bees. Jesus wept.
Jesus poured himself into that apple tree, and his devotion buoyed its branches, nurturing the crop of blossoms into the promise of rose-colored fruit. He even slept on his back on his donkey every night under the branches of the burgeoning tree, one eye closed, one eye open, a broomstick in one hand. No raccoon could outsmart Jesus.
One crystalline summer morning the apples announced their ripeness, and the walls of the cemetery resounded with the singing of songs of thanksgiving. For the fruit too high to be reached from the back of a willing donkey, it was Jesus who hugged his way up to the tip of the tallest branches, long after the sun had sunk and the harvest moon had risen, to pluck every apple with gentleness at its moment of optimal flavor.