Surviving the Applewhites


“Jake hadn’t been more than two years old when he found how certain words affected people.  It had surprised him considerably, since his parents used those words at home all the time…”

Jake waited in the Applewhite’s porch with 13-year-old E.D. Applewhite while his grandfather, social worker, and the adult Applewhites discussed the terms of his placement (and, they hoped, education).Surviving the Applewhites
Jake pulled a cigarette out of his tee-shirt pocket and ignored E.D.’s information that all 16 acres of their place was smoke free.  When the adults came out of the house:

“The oldest of them, a wiry old man with white hair and a droopy white mustache…headed for the rocking chair in the corner of the porch.   On the way he snatched the cigarette out of Jake’s hand so fast Jake didn’t know what had happened till it was being ground out on the porch floor under the old man’s shoe…

The old man stretched out his hand toward Jake. ‘Zedediah Applewhite… How do you do?’

Jake looked at the wrinkled, spotted, knobby old hand.  He was not about to shake the hand that had snatched one of his last precious cigarettes.

But he didn’t have a choice.  The old man grabbed it and shook it in both of his, nearly crushing Jake’s fingers in an amazingly powerful grip…

When the old man let go, Jake shook his hand to make sure the blood could still get to the tips of his fingers.  Then he said a few of his favorite words, just loud enough to be sure they were heard.

Zedediah Applewhite didn’t so much as blink.  ‘You ought to spend a little time with Cordelia,’ he said.  ‘She’s taught my parrot the French for that.  Spanish, Italian, and German, too.’”                                          Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan.