Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
BlackberriesI remember when I looked forward to the time the sun dropped, before someone told me it was the earth turning instead; when I wore rubber boots in public without feeling self-conscious. I was just a little girl, and no on expected me to be all feminine yet.
I would pull on my rain boots and chase my brothers down to the wooded clearing behind the house where we’d built our fort, sloshing through the mud during spring time. It was carefully hidden, and well-stocked with all the old pottery and abandoned trash we could find, except for the green flower-pot that wasn’t there, because we’d used it to bury the dead blackbird we found. There was always plenty of junk in the woods.
For us, the place was its own kingdom cut off from the world, with tangled branches instead of buildings, and blackberries taking the place of money. There was a patch beside the fort, a little way down the embankment that we picked clean daily, as soon as the berries were ripe. It never really lasted long as currency, because we became poorer and poorer the more we ate, but none of us minded much.
My brother John was the oldest, and got to the patch first, so I never felt the need to share my spoils with him, even though I picked faster and usually ended up with more. I would give some to Avery though. He was six years old, tow-headed, and still shorter than me, and I felt like it was my job to take care of him, hold his hand sometimes, make sure he got around okay. It was a good feeling when he relied on me – it was something different than the way John treated him.
One time he was especially slow, and we were all done picking and on our way up when we passed him, carrying his little cup our mother made us use, because she thought our fort dishes were germy and gross. I suppose I felt sorry for him, but at the same time I was struck with a feeling of importance that I had picked all the berries on my own, and didn’t owe him anything. I had worked hard – I’d pricked myself many times, and deserved a treat. I waited for the blood to stop before I started eating and covered my fingers in juice. John and I sat in the fort on a low-creeping branch, stuffing our faces. The first time I tasted blackberries, I was surprised at how purplish their juice was – somehow I expected it to be black, after their name. The juice stained my shirt and shorts, but I didn’t mind.
Avery was crying. He was probably jealous of us. It wasn’t my fault he
couldn’t run fast. John never shared with me, so I had learned to take care of myself, even if it meant getting dirty.
I remember when Avery came up around the hill out of the patch, tears streaming down his face. I didn’t look very hard at first. Perhaps he’d found some berries after all – there was reddish juice on his hands. I was surprised for a moment – and the next moment it hit me that it was blood. He’d fallen on something rusty and sharp in his hurry, and held his bleeding hand in the other, as he looked at us on our perch together, with an expression I could never forget.
Avery wasn’t whining or angry or cheated at all. He was genuinely surprised at what had happened – it wasn’t our earnings that he wanted. His finger was sliced open, and he couldn’t see straight anymore. Something in the rust got him infected, and he was in bed for a long time. He didn’t die. I didn’t have to deal with that kind of loss yet. But I felt like I’d lost something else from him instead, because after that we all grew up, and then he didn’t need much from me anymore.
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