Johnny surveyed the orchard full of naked trees and sighed. Every year, the harvest was less, the waste more. The apples of belief bloomed each spring, swelled in summer, ripened in fall, and hit the ground to rot before the first frost. Months of back-breaking work for nothing.
He spent the day clearing the ground the old-fashioned way. For their anniversary, Demeter had bought him a fancy cart off Amazon that sucked them up automatically as he walked, but it stayed in the garage. Some things needed doing by hand. Besides, ten acres was nothing compared to what he used to work.
As the sun dipped below the branches, Johnny threw the last bag of mealy brown apples into the barn and himself into the armchair in front of the fire. He reached for his phone and the red-labeled bottle on the end table, opening both.
“Yeah, D, I think this is it for me. Nobody quests anymore, especially not for enchanted produce.” He took a swig from the bottle and grimaced. “Time to retire to the big orchard in the sky. Two hundred years is a good run, right?”
He paused for another pull. “Good gods, this is terrible,” he coughed. “Why do people like it?”
As Dionysus expounded on the wonders of scotch, Johnny’s attention faded. Something about the red label and the burning in his sinuses stirred up an idea.
“Hey, D,” he interrupted. “What do you think about Johnny Appleseed’s Hard Cider—‘So Good, It’s Magic’?”
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