Pa wanted berries so he could make his home made wine.
Summer was nearly done and most of the bushes picked over. A few pea-sized berries were scattered around this late in the season. Not nearly enough to fill even half a bucket. I was ready to go home.
Until I heard whistling and saw a boy emerge from the trees.
“Hey, Helen. What are you doing out this early?”
“Pa wants these buckets filled with...” I stopped when I saw his pail brimming with plump, ripe berries. “Where’d you get those? I’ve been out here since the sun came up and this is all I’ve got.”
Joe grinned. “I’ve got a special place, not too many people know about. I don’t want people messing it up.”
“Can you take me there, Joe. Please? If I come back with empty buckets, Pa’ll be mad.”
“How do I know I can trust you not to tell?”
“I like knowing there’s a special place nobody knows about.” I could tell by the look on Joe’s face that he knew what I meant by secret places. I looked him in the eye and said, “It will just be our secret.”
Joe’s look was so intense, my stomach suddenly felt quivery. I was glad he stopped staring and said, “You have to promise that if you come back here, you come alone.” Joe spit on the palm of his hand and held it out.
I set my bucket down, worked saliva around my tongue, spitting a glob of it onto a palm. We pressed our palms together and slid them across the sticky surfaces, smiling at each other.
“Follow me,” Joe said.
We hiked about a half mile, through the bushes, into the hills.
I stared with amazement. “There’s enough here to fill ten buckets.”
“They’re a lot sweeter than the ones down below.”
I stuck my tongue out and he dropped the berry onto it. “Yummy.” I dumped out the small, hard berries I’d gotten below, and began filling my pail with the perfect ones.
“Give me the other pail and I’ll fill it for you.”
In no time at all we filled both buckets and looked as if we’d barely touched the bushes.
“What does you Pa want these for?”
Joe looked at me, a sudden spark in his eyes. “Do you know how to make wine?”
“No.” I shrugged.
Joe set the bucket down and untied his shoes.
“What are you doing?”
“Do you want to make wine or don’t you?”
“How can we make wine here?”
“Take off your shoes.” Joe laughed when I turned up nose as he wiggled his bare feet. “I saw this book once about Italy. They made wine by smashing grapes with their feet.” He smiled. “We could do the same thing with the berries. You game?"