This story was submitted to the Write it Your Way Competition in July, (for the theme of “summer”), but unfortunately it did not make the final cut. Rather than view it as a failure, I’m choosing instead to see it as another step I’ve taken towards my 2012 writing goals. I like how his story turned out, so I thought I’d share it with my readers as you have all given me so much encouragement and support. Thanks for always reading and I hope you enjoy my little snapshot of summer in Northern Wisconsin.
- – -
I grab my blue metal cup and race outside. The gravel crunches beneath my feat and I can hear Addie isn’t far behind.
“I’m going to get more than you!” she calls.
“No you won’t. You’ll eat all of them on the way back.”
“So what! I’ll still pick the most.”
“If they’re not in the cup, they don’t count.”
We disappear into the trees. Oak, maple, and pine surround us on all sides, green leaves rustle overhead. The forest is so thick the sun barely punches through to the ground. Whippoorwills call in the distance and chipmunks scurry as our clunky steps rattle the thick blanket of leaves from last fall.
“They gotta be around here somewhere,” Addie says.
“I hope the bears didn’t get them, first.”
We scan the ground for smooth oval-shaped leaves and a speck of blue. I look around the base of stones and large trees. Berries like to hide in cool, damp places. My mouth waters at the thought of eating summer’s first blueberry!
Horse flies buzz in circles and I see Addie waving her hands around her head. Those things drive her crazy and I hope she doesn’t go running back inside. What’s the fun of a blueberry-picking contest if I’m the only one playing?
“I hate flies!” she yells.
“Just put your hood on and hold your breathe for a few seconds so they can’t smell ya!” I holler back.
I start to get excited when I see juneberries hanging from a small tree. If a bear had come through, he wouldn’t have left a single edible thing behind. That means there must be blueberries, too!
I pick a few juneberries just for the heck of it, but then decide there’s something much more fun to do with them. Addie isn’t too far away, so I take aim and throw them at her.
“What? I saw a fly on your shoulder and I tried to hit it.”
“You better run!”
She comes tearing towards me armed with acorns and I take off. Small tree branches hit us as we run and ferns wrap around our legs. We’re laughing so hard we can hardly breathe, but we keep running wild and free.
The ground goes from flat to a steep hill and we come to a stop. Addie drops the acorns and sucker punches me in the arm.
“Ow!” It doesn’t really hurt and I know I deserve it, but little sisters aren’t allowed to win.
She sticks her tongue out at me and I laugh. We plop down on the ground to catch our breath. Who cares if we get a little mud on our jeans! I can tell by the way the trees have thinned out that we’ve ended up in a spot near the lake. Sure enough, I can see blue water peeking through baby popple and pine trees. Last year, this was a great spot for blueberries!
Both of us get up and bolt to an area thick with ferns. I lift the feathery leaves, hoping to find blueberry goodness. Small patches of bushes dot the ground and the leaves are the right shape!
“I see green ones!” Addie squeals.
Where there are pale green berries, there are ripe blueberries waiting to be picked! As I move leaves and tiny branches, I spot green, green, green and then a little shade of blue!
“C’mon! This way.” I motion to Addie to follow me a little further down the hill. Sticks snap under her feet as she heads my way.
My eyes stay glued to the ground. I see the red berries I know are poisonous, little white flowers, the leaves that make me itchy, and then . . . BLUE!
My fingers lightly pinch the plump blueberry and I snap it off the bush. “I got one!”
My sister dashes over and squeals, “It’s huge!”
“I know!” My blueberry makes a very satisfying ping as it hits the bottom of my metal cup.
“You’re not going to eat it?” Addie asks.
“No! Not until I have a few more.”
Pretty soon both of our cups are pinging back and forth as we find more and more blueberries. The further we explore, the faster we fill our cups.
When the berries start rolling over the rim, I decide I can eat one or two and still win the game. I grab the biggest one and pop it into my mouth. Juicy and plump, sweet and sour, it’s like we’re out here to pick candy!
Addie is on her knees, still picking berries. I run over to her to see what she’s got and I’m not surprised to see her cup is only half full. A blob of blueberry juice stains the corner of her mouth and I know she’s eaten most of her haul.
“You dork,” I laugh.
“They’re so good,” she says.
I don’t need to rub in the fact that I beat her fair and square, so I join her on the ground and pick berries to fill her cup. Every third berry or so, I catch her sneaking another one into her mouth.
With our cups overflowing, we hold the berries in with our hands and take off towards the house. Grandma put a big bowl on the back stairs so we’d have a place to dump our cups. Empty cups in hand, we go back to the sweet spot and pick more berries. We scour the ground from the lakeshore all the way to the neighbor’s house.
Many trips later, Grandma’s bowl is full of beautiful blueberries. My sister giggles as she swipes a handful and stuffs them into her mouth.
“You’re going to get sick!”
“Worth it,” she says, while still chewing.
“Ewww! Your teeth are purple.”
The next day, Grandma sets up the kitchen with freshly cleaned mason jars, a large stew pot, wooden spoons, and our bowl of blueberries. We picked so many, the only thing to do is make jam! She gives me the job of rinsing the blueberries, while Addie is in charge of telling us when the “magic mixture” starts to boil.
Grandma and I pick out the shriveled and green berries that somehow got into the bowl until only the best berries remain. We eat a few along the way and laugh every time my sister doesn’t notice.
“The bubbles are here!” Addie announces.
Grandma hands the bowl to Addie and I so we can pour it into the pot. Just as we put the lid in place, a knock sounds at the door. We keep watch over the bubbling blueberries, while Grandma goes to see who it is.
“Hi, Terry. What brings you by?” Grandma asks.
“I was just out berry picking and thought I’d stop and say hello.”
“Well, I’m glad you did. How goes the picking?”
“You know, I can’t seem to find a single berry.”
- – -