Shannon had no sooner pulled off the dirt road and put the car into park when the first drops hit the windshield. We were there to pick blueberries, but the thunderclouds rolling overhead questioned the wisdom of the endeavor. Her three girls listened to a cartoon movie in the back while we pondered our options.
“Think it will pass?”
“Sure. Eventually. But how long do we want to wait?” Shannon was always thinking in terms of attention spans and knew that Strawberry Shortcake could only hold sway for so long.
I watched fellow pickers running from the field as the drops increased. “I’ve got an idea. Let’s double back to the Arby’s, have some lunch, and see if it will blow over.”
“Works for me,” Shannon said, pulling back onto the sandy road.
Meal selection at Arby’s was a challenge. Shannon’s middle child, Sydney, has a distinguished palate and won’t abide by inferior cuisine. Chicken nuggets and French Fries of the natural variety are acceptable, but roast beef and potatoes of a curly nature are suspect. After several moments of Shannon offering menu items that were substandard, Sydney finally agreed to a ham sandwich as long as they didn’t contaminate it with cheese. Unfortunately, once we were seated and the preliminary bite was taken, the meat was pronounced hazardous and further consumption was prohibited.
Shannon let out a sigh that warned her child that she was reaching the end of her patience. “I’m not buying you something else. The girl at the counter bent over backwards to get you something you wanted, so if you don’t eat that, it’s tough cookies until we get home.”
“I can’t stand it,” Sydney said, picking up a slice of meat with an expression one reserves for road kill.
Shannon shook her head. “Just think of all those starving children in Africa.”
“No you just didn’t,” I said to her, and we both struggled to hold back laughter.
“I’ll pay for that one later tonight because she’ll remember every one of those children in her bedtime prayers.”
Currently Sydney was unmoved by the plight of children several continents away, so she cleaned up her spot and took the offending product to the trash. We piled back into the car and struck out for the blueberry patch.
After grabbing buckets and scattering down rows, we set about the task with gusto given the clouds over our heads were the color of eggplants. I lost myself in the pleasure of picking berries that require neither bending nor a pound of flesh, unlike the blackberries from my childhood, but as my brother reminded me when I asked why we had wasted so much effort on cantankerous fruit, free berries in your backyard trump easy berries any day of the week.
As we worked I grew accustomed to the sounds of nature: crickets, the gentle hum of bees, periodic bird calls, the shrieks of little girls who have just stumbled upon a stink bug . . . All was bliss until heaven’s water table relocated to earth. We exited the rows like children from a Stephen King novel and deposited our money before finally squishing back to the car.
“Ice cream?” Shannon asked, as seatbelts clicked into place.
“As long as we dry off before we get there. I can see a freckle on my leg through my pants right now.”
Shannon turned the thermostat to warm and put the blower on full throttle. By the time we reached the ice cream parlor, the fabric on my legs had returned to a level of respectability.
Once we were seated with our single scoops, Shannon’s girls started telling jokes.
“I bet I can make you say the color black, Traci.”
“Oh yeah? Go ahead.”
“What color is your shirt?”
“What color is your hair?”
“Before or after highlights?”
“See! I told you I could make you say yellow.”
I cocked my head to one side. “But the color was black.” And they all dissolved into giggles.
“One more, one more!”
“There’s a bear, Traci.”
“HA, HA, HA! You said underwear!” They danced about and did fist pumps in the air.
Oh, well. I’ve said worse in public. It’s just normally in a foreign language. One thing you can say about Shannon’s crew: those are some fun girls.
© 2013 – Traci Carver