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Blackberry Summer

Posted by Les Becker on May 30, 2007 in The Landlady |

Taken May 2, 2007
with Canon PowerShot A550
©Les Becker, 2007

I have a “Landlady” excerpt. No, I still haven’t got my first funny Landlady Story written yet, but that’s because I’m going to end up with a based-on-a-True-Story kind of piece; which pisses my landlady right off, to tell the truth.

I told her my plan, to take her funny memory of her barmaid job of fifty-odd years ago, change her name and the rest of the characters (to protect the stupid, mostly), and change the ending. Her ending was too boring; it just was. She will, henceforth, be known here as “Ruby”.

Tonight, the crossword puzzle was too difficult for either of us, even armed with two different dictionaries. It was hot, it was humid, and we were almost out of cigarettes. We had no beer (I was pleased to learn, a few months back, that Ruby is not adverse to a cold beer or two on a hot summer afternoon. It’s gonna be a good summer.). So, Ruby did what she always does when we run out of crossword: she started to talk.

I don’t have a story tonight; just a little bit of a memory, but it’s a nice way to introduce her to you, I think…

“Must have been in the 30’s, I guess – I was just a little wee kid anyway – my mother and I would walk up the railroad track to pick blueberries…”, Ruby said.

I reached for a notepad and a pen. Ruby scowled at me and stole a cigarette from my pack.

“I’m gonna quit talking to you, if you’re gonna make fun of me on the internet!” she said, and lit the cigarette. “There! I forgot what I was gonna tell you!”

In her own words, Ruby has “no use for computers or the dang internet, whatever that is. Invasion of privacy, that’s what that is.” I pushed the pad of paper away from me, wishing I’d brought my digital recorder. She doesn’t mind the recorder so much, maybe because I’m not scribbling furiously, instead of listening raptly, laughing in all the right places. I think she might even forget it’s there once she gets talking, even though it sits in the middle of the table, blinking at her; silent witness, non-interrupting.

“I know, I know – I was telling the wrong story from the start. It wasn’t about me and my mother picking blueberries up the railroad track at all. It was about my brother and the blackberries.

Every summer, my mother went away for a few weeks to a month to visit her family. The blackberry summer, I was about 11 or 12, and I was the one in charge of the meals while she was gone. That’s where my hate of cooking came from, I think. Isn’t it a hoot that I grew up and ran a restaurant for all those years?

That year, there were more blackberries than anybody had ever seen. They were everywhere! Well, every dang day on his way home from work, didn’t my dang brother pick his whole lunch-pail full of blackberries?! I swear, his fingers were purple all summer! He did it on purpose, too, the bugger, ‘cuz he knew I’d have to put them up into jelly. It was the only dang thing I knew what to do with them! I was only 11 or 12… but I could make blackberry jelly, I’ll tell you, and just as good as my grandmother made it.

Well, one day he comes home, lunch-pail just all a-brim with blackberries, and I was sick to death of blackberries, and blackberry jelly, and my brother, the bugger. I was half set to pitch those berries out the kitchen window, but I thought better of it. We didn’t have much back then, and most times we didn’t even realize it, but I knew I’d feel pretty bad if I pitched those blackberries, so I just set to work on that jelly.

By the time the jelly was in it’s pail and setting, I was still slamming around the kitchen and stomping my feet. I was probably swearing under my breath, too – I was that ticked at my brother – and I turned too quick and knocked that pail of blackberry jelly right off the counter! I saw all that hot work turned to nothing, and was wishing I’d just pitched those blackberries out the window after all, but wouldn’t you know it? That pail of jelly landed flat on it’s bottom, right-side up!

And the whole batch of jelly flew straight up out of the pail and hit the ceiling! I swear, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry!

Well, by the time my mother came home at the end of the summer, I had more blackberry jelly put up than any one family would ever use up in two years! No preserves, no jam, just blackberry jelly. She was some mad! She’d have been a lot more mad, let me tell you, if she’d looked up at that ceiling. If you went in that house today, I’ll bet you two cents you could still see the blackberry jelly, even now.”

Well, whad’ya know…? There was almost a whole story in there, after all. Almost.

Random Song-for-the-Day: “Chasing Cars” – Snow Patrol

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