It only takes one misstep to ruin an apple-picking trip for everyone. Why not brush up on these apple-picking rules so you don’t end up in the Punishment Orchard?
1. Don’t climb the trees: Apple trees are for picking, not climbing! Fail to heed this rule and you might just find yourself stuck in the cruel autumn shadow of the Punishment Orchard. Swinging from a tree branch in the regular orchard won’t seem worth it once you’re lashed to a hayride and dumped in the middle of this sprawling, 100-acre wasteland where the fog never lifts and the apples are all way too hot to pick.
2. Twist, don’t pull: Heads up: Pulling an apple can inadvertently knock down other fruit and risks damaging the tree. Better to carefully twist the apple upwards than be consigned to the Punishment Orchard’s sea of wet, beige trees with no end in sight. Keep this rule in mind and you will never get trapped in the pitch-black sap oozing out of all the trees, nor will you be driven mad by the winds that constantly whisper a summary of Dale Earnhardt’s death.
3. Don’t waste fruit: The stench of bleach and pennies will be the surefire sign that your decision to just toss imperfect apples onto the ground of the normal orchard has landed you in the wicked, seething grove of the Punishment Orchard. A chorus of middle-aged men shrouded by crude scarecrow masks will taunt you with their vexing rhyme: “We are the men who have picked before / Your hands are bags, your days no more.” Looking down, condemned travelers will realize the infectious verse has replaced their hands with reusable grocery bags and they can no longer remember important birthdays.
4. Don’t eat the apples until you’ve paid: You’ll want to pay up-front if you don’t want to wake up in the wicker prison at the base of the Tree of Despair, a beige monstrosity whose sprawling tendrils lie directly under the approach path of the regional airport. You must sit in your atonement basket while the depraved, orphaned children of the Punishment Orchard throw scalding apples at your head as part of one of their simple-minded religious rituals.
5. Don’t pick outside the designated areas: Follow the clearly posted signs in sunny and cheerful normal orchard and you should be fine! Wanderers will have their names recorded on the Punishment Orchard’s Ledger of Bad Deeds, a shameful blight that nearly cost William Rehnquist his appointment to the Supreme Court in 1971. Then they will be given incorrect directions which will only send them deeper into the bowels of the Punishment Orchard, where the Cider Warden bathes himself in bleach and spare change. Even years after a stay in the Punishment Orchard, the smell of either of these items will send you into a vivid Vietnam flashback, regardless of whether or not you fought in Vietnam.
6. No running: It’s natural to let the excitement of apple picking get the best of you. Just don’t be surprised if you draw the ire of the Punishment Picker. Setting aside his chisel and cigar, he will take an afternoon off from making sculptures of Mussolini having a great time in order to make a sculpture of you getting stung by a bee. Your cries of remorse will be drowned out by the children of the Punishment Orchard cheering “Gather your coins, friends! The Punishment Man of the forest has taken a day off of sculpting a happy Mussolini in order to immortalize a delinquent being humiliated by a bee!”