The sun may set behind mountains without a true sunset; but in the morning rainbows are more common than in level countrysides. And strange things grow in mountain soil, raised from the depths of the earth by unimaginable forces.
Once there was a young woman who lived in the shadow of a range of mountains. Many people said she was beautiful, especially men, whose glances lingered on her face and body, slender as a young tree, longer than propriety, and sometimes her comfort, allowed. She wore clothes of colors that hide between those of the rainbow - pink and green and brown and turquoise mixed together - despite or because of this.
One morning in early spring she looked out her window and saw a rainbow arching even higher than the mountains. It ended in a stand of trees low on the mountainside. It looked like a pleasant spot to hike to, so she pulled on some clothes and set out.
The stand was apparently an old abandoned apple orchard, surrounded by a little stone fence so decrepit and weather-worn and overgrown by grass and flowers and weeds that she wondered that there had been people on the mountain long enough ago to have built it. Cold waterdroplets pinned the gold of the morning sun to the brown branches, which were covered by new-opened blossoms. She broke off a branch about as long as her arm to take back to her apartment.
That night there was a terrible storm. As the young woman lit up a last cigarette before going to bed, she noticed the smell of apple blossoms and told herself she should put the branch in some water the next morning. She fell asleep listening to a wind-tossed tree limb tapping against her window.
The next morning she awoke shivering, and her right arm was numb. She thought to herself, Must have left the heater off and Must have slept on my arm. She sat up and started rubbing her arm, noticing at about the same moment that the window had blown in during the storm and that her right arm was gone and in its place was the apple tree branch.
After a moment of thinking that she was dreaming and a moment of panic, she realized that the bark was warm and she could feel the pressure of her left hand. She found that she could move the twigs along the branch a little. She got up and awkwardly swept the floor, which was covered with broken glass and dirt and apple blossoms.
She soon became accustomed to the branch, which gradually became more flexible and useful; she enjoyed the feeling of sunlight on its leaves, and was always surrounded by the perfume of apple blossoms - she had had to give up smoking. She wore sleeveless dresses and received more glances than ever, but fewer stares.
One day she heard that a man who had gone to chop some appletree wood for carpentry had come back from the mountain terrified; he said he had been about to cut down a tree when a human arm reached out from it and took his ax from him. The young woman returned to the grove and walked up to the tree from which her old arm, now become thinner and longer and sprouting small flowerbuds, waved in the sun-filled, windless air, and took its new hand in hers.
The sun may set behind mountains without a true sunset; but in the morning rainbows are more common than in level countrysides. And strange things grow in mountain soil, watered by rain from rainbows.