The Grandmother and the Berries Back Home
My grandmother had a fat bulldog whose jaws drug the ground. It laid outside in the sun by the sliding glass door and grunted and shuffled in the pine needles. There, once, that dog drug up a chicken leg swiped clean off a fresh chicken. Grandmother showed me how to pull the tendons to make a chicken’s claws move individually. She accepted the offering from her yard dog, and sent me out to work.
A walk outside was sleepy hot and smelled a little like stolen chickens, kitchen soap, and a thousand rotten pears dropped from the tree.
I stayed out there in just my underwear, conscious of pine cones and fire ants on pears, and Grandmother would pull her car around back and set out a pot full of hot water, Palmolive, and torn-up t-shirts. The water from the hose was always freezing after the first few spits of what the sun had warmed. I made that water brown with driveway dirt off the tires. Long blades of chiggered grass would break off and stick to blond-haired skin, like beggar’s lice on a winter coat.
With pruned fingers, once, she let me eat strawberries from a basket, and they were red straight through, and my elbows were sticky, and I wasn’t so sleepy – the sweet louder than the whole crow-cawed backyard. I prayed and said “thank you Jesus for Strawberries.”
And I remember saying that prayer many times over. I think, too, that my grandmother was a Summer Girl like me, always bragging about what used to be her red hair. I’ve seen pictures of her gorgeous legs posing from a majorette suit.
I need to call her, Alabama girl, where my Mama and I got our green eyes, need to tell her thank you, too, for the berries. I sure wish I had some right now.
Tomorrow I drive to Alabama. My daddy has venison waiting. I’ll soak it in buttermilk before frying the game out of it. It’s not strawberries, but it’ll eat, and my sons will record a million smells there. One winter, twenty-five years from now, they’ll sit down to get some work done, and they’ll remember it all out of the blue, and they’ll want it back.