Ah, Brother Doug. We don’t agree on much, the reverend and I. He thinks witches should be shunned, I used to date them. He believes Halloween is an unholy time, I take the week off each year and revel in it. He burns books, I write them.

Brother Doug Taylor is like the anti-Mark and we quibble all the time. Yet I admire his commitment to that in which he believes, and I recognize that the man has an eye for mystery.

Say hello, to the latest mystery.

For the past nine months, someone has been hurling apples onto Brother Doug’s porch. Stranger still, each apple hurled has a bite taken out of it, one bite to symbolize whatever message the irksome vandal is trying to impart.

Let’s get something clear. The reverend is not a skittish man. In past years, he has been greeted with a variety of iconic things left at or near his home. There was the time a burned Bible showed up in the mail. There was the time his home was pelted with condoms.

Brother Doug has been victimized by egg hurlers, and let’s not forget the time the window of his Jesus Party van was shot out.

But those were obvious shows of aggression. The apples with one bite chomped away with sly ceremony marks another kind of stalker.

“This certainly will go down in the books as one of the classics since I’ve been in the inner city,” Brother Doug says.

Why? Why, oh why an apple with one bite taken out of each?

Here, Brother Doug and I disagree only a little about what it might mean.

“These apples are tossed in a manner that you have to walk over them or remove them from the entrance of my home,” the reverend begins. “This gives me the impression someone is enjoying watching me bend over to pick them up or in some sick way, that I am bowing down to them. To me, this is some kind of pagan ritual, religious practice or more likely, a cultural insult, given the neighborhood I’m living in.”

Always with the pagans, that one.

But even I can’t deny the biblical tones to this harassment. Although you could opine that a person who secretly flings once-bitten apples might be staging a protest of Macintosh and its products, the circumstances suggest a display of religious conflict.

Eve tempted Adam with an apple, you know. It says so in the Bible, and also in one of Bruce Springsteen’s more popish hits, so it’s got to be true. That one bite of the forbidden fruit doomed us all to sin and now a representation of that is landing at the feet of Brother Doug Taylor, who admittedly suffered his own problems with temptation before he stepped to the side of Jesus.

But it’s all speculation. Perhaps I’ve seen the movie “Seven” too many times and I see symbols in the most prosaic objects. Brother Doug has whittled the mystery down into a more pragmatic form.

“It seems that more apples are tossed my way during the summer months than the winter months. It leads me to believe that the culprit is one of my neighbors because, how far are you going to walk with an apple in your hand?”

The apple, in other words, does not fall far from the tree.

He believes the fruit flinger is an adult and that the apples are not purchased in a store. More likely, Brother Doug suspects, they are obtained for free at a church or mission.

He has surmised other things about the perplexing produce prowler, but I’ll not reveal them here. The reverend is taking pains to catch the fruity fiend and I don’t want to impede that. Brother Doug would like the downtown version of Johnny Appleseed to reveal himself, and perhaps voice his concerns or disagreements – you might say they have differences in their core beliefs – in a less messy way.

“If this whole thing is about my bold stands concerning my convictions, the sad thing is that this person could write a letter to the editor in opposition to me. They could take out an ad challenging me, or even protest me at one of my gatherings, or here at the church for one of my services.”

Say what you want about Brother Doug Taylor, the man is not afraid to confront a loud difference of opinion. I watched him tear apart copies of the Harry Potter books in Kennedy Park while a large group of counter-protesters screamed their rage. We’ve all seen him repeat an opinion even after the entire community seemed to turn against him.

A few bushels of fruit are unlikely to sway Taylor from his beliefs. He’s been at it too long. When life hands him apples, he makes apple pie.

Brother Doug might be unflappable, but me, I’m a wreck. I’ve just got to know what it means, these never-ending apples with their biting statements. What are you trying to communicate, Apple Dumpling? Call me, write me, send me a clue by wire. Confession is good for the soul.

I like to think that the mind behind this madness means no malice; that it is only another restless spirit struggling for a medium of expression. But there remains the possibility that the fruit symbolizes something more sinister, and that it portends something darker to come.

The sweeter the apple, after all, the blacker the core.

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