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Under the Apple Tree
by Jerry Guarino

“Sorry, my grandma doesn’t have a wireless signal; she has dial up.” These are two of the saddest words in the English language, along with no signal.

“No wait” said Jeff, looking at his laptop. “There are three networks showing. Must be the houses around us.” Jeff tapped the pad. “Well, two of the signals are locked, but here’s one that isn’t. It’s called apple.”

Ann knew Jeff might go a little crazy without an Internet connection. “Oh, try that,” said Ann.

Jeff tried to connect. “There, it works! Wait, it dropped.” Jeff’s facial expression mirrored the rise and fall of the connection. “Damn.”

Newlyweds Jeff and Ann had come to visit her grandmother, who couldn’t attend their wedding in San Francisco. “I’m so glad you could visit. I’m making you a special dinner.”

Ann held Jeff’s hand. “We’re happy to be here Nana.”

Jeff went through the house looking for a place where the computer would connect. He started at the basement, then the bedrooms, kitchen; he even tried from the bathrooms. No luck. The signal would catch for a minute and then drop.

Ann found him in the pantry. “Any luck dear?”

Irritated now, he was sweating from the search. “It has to be in one of these houses. I’m going outside.”

Ann looked at her watch. “OK, but we’re having dinner in thirty minutes.”

Jeff went out the back door. The hot Minnesota summer was oppressive, martins grabbing mosquitoes out of the air and the wind wheel spinning slowly colors of red, blue and green. The backyard of the house was in the middle of three other houses. “One of these must be the apple node.” Jeff held his notebook at eye level and walked around.

“Where is this router? Jeff said to himself. Tired and frustrated, he sat down on the lawn chair under an apple tree and closed his eyes. “Ping.” Suddenly, he was online! “Let’s see.” Jeff checked a couple websites. “Steady.” He checked his email. “Ah, working. Ann,” he called out. “It’s working.” No response. “Ann, I found the spot.” Jeff looked into the kitchen. The light was on and he could hear someone getting out plates and utensils. “Guess it’s time for dinner.” He took his computer into the kitchen.

“Ann? Grandma? Where are you guys?”

Two women turned around and screamed. “Get out.” Jeff didn’t recognize them. “Lisa, call 911.”

Jeff turned and left the house quickly. “I must have gone into the wrong house.” But when he got back to the yard, the other houses were gone. He checked his computer. The connection dropped again. He went back to the chair where he started. Jeff heard a police car siren in the distance, getting closer. “C’mon, faster.”

The two women were waiving the police car into their driveway, pointing to Jeff.

“OK, let’s go. There’s the node.” Jeff clicked on the network and he was online again. The siren from the police car shook the tree above him. As the police rushed toward him, something dropped into his lap. It was an apple. He held it out to the police as they handcuffed him.

“Jeff, wake up. It’s time for dinner.”