And None Returned...
from the mulberry bush
"Hey, goose." My mom reached down to ruffle my wild curls and handed me a plastic yellow bowl. "Why don't you pick some berries for dinner?"
I laughed and turned tail without responding. My bare feet, already green from grass stains, slapped against the hard wood and then rough dirt as I burst out the back door. Clutching the bowl to my chest with one hand, I scrambled up the rock garden wall. I ignored the stairs, obviously. Even at eight-years-old, I wasn't a wimp.
While the garden was sad and malnourished (my mom, an ex-professional surfer, could never count gardening among her many talents), the entire backyard was full of fruit trees. Along the fence stood an overambitious plum tree, scrawny branches doing their best to tickle the clouds with purple leaves; a reliable pear tree, already overloaded with unripe fruit; and a worm ridden apple tree (I had only once successfully found an eatable apple on it). On the other side of the yard, silhouetted in the sun, was two saplings, a cherry and a plum, and a mountain ashberry tree with beautiful gray split trunks perfect for encouraging children who liked to pretend they were good at climbing.
But my destination, as I cleared the wall and the nearly empty garden, was the very center of the yard. My favorite tree. Or bush. Tree? I don't really know.
It was five times my insubstantial height, with a knotted and dark trunk that split at the top into thousands of minute branches that hung to the ground, their thick leaves providing curtains all around the trunk to create a hollow space in the middle. I shoved through the leaves and hugged the trunk, feeling fallen berries squish between my toes. I wonder, which is a better fate for a berry? Staining my feet, or going in one end and out the other? Is there such a thing as an honorable death for berries?
I took a deep breath of the cool and shaded air. The leaves completely blocked the late afternoon sun. Then I stepped back and began picking berries.
From the outside of the bush, the leaves served as a shield for the berries, hiding them from view. But I, the stalwart child, had penetrated their defenses, and began my attack on the exposed underbelly, where hundreds of berries were visible, albeit tangled in the branches.
My work was slow. Mainly because every berry I picked, I studied thoroughly. The largest were the size of my thumbnail and made up of tightly knit smaller balls, that burst red or purple juice at the smallest disturbance. Their pale green stems would also release from their branches at any provocation, so, I lost many casualties to the dusty ground.
The sweetest berries were dark amethyst purple, with no hint of another color and a light glistening sheen to their skin. My siblings insisted they were too sweet. Because of this, I felt no guilt as I redirected these berries to my mouth, rather than the bowl. I also liked to smear a few on my lips, the bright stain that was nearly impossible to wash off was basically makeup, right?
My family's favorite was when each purple ball was ringed by a rich red. Still sweet, but not mushy. I dropped a few dozen of these in my bowl. But they took up so little space, it just looked sad. So, I ate these too. And felt a dozen bursts of perfect juice on my tongue.
If the red was bright, or even pink, the berry would be tangy. I considered them unripe, so if I accidentally picked any, I would just eat them. The completely red ones were quite sour and made my lips pucker and I would need to pick a few more sweet ones to get rid of the taste in my mouth.
The white and green ones were completely unripe, a promise of more berries through the summer. I mourned and sniffed at each one that fell loose off its branch through my picking.
Then my mom called. Dinner was ready. So, I was forced to shove back out of my leafy cave into the blinding sunlight, bringing home nothing from the mulberry bush except stains and an empty yellow bowl.
About the Creator
”Some days I feel like playing it smooth and some days I feel like playing it like a waffle iron.” -Raymond Chandler
Bits of fantasy and poetry and whatnot here, comedic comics on Instagram @mostlymecomics
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