Somewhere along one of those gravel backgrounds of my memory, blackberries are growing thick and heavy in the fencerows. The ground gravel dust crunched from the tires of passing cars drifts up on a hot summer day and settles onto the vines. Grasshoppers scramble over the leaves, jump and fly away in their crazy jags and swoops, tumbling to what seems like a purely coincidental landing. Tassel flies and sweat bees hover, occasionally settling onto my arms, neck, face, then begin their itching explorations. Corn grows thick and tall in the field while clumps of fescue cover the ditch bank, hiding the small trough that runs beneath, alongside the road. I feel for it with my feet, find its edge then take a long step across.
Somehow, I have stepped into another place, another time. A place and time that have always been and yet have never been before. The dust is gone, the bugs are gone. The leaves shimmer and the berries gleam, huge and sweet. A woman who looks like a much younger version of my Grandma Bazzell is picking berries. Most of them go into a small tin bucket. Every now and then, she hands one to the young cotton-haired kid beside her. “Here, Charlie,” she smiles, “you can have another now,” and hands him one the size of her thumb. He reaches out with purple-stained fingers and grins at her. “Thank you, Mama,” he says.
I watch them for a while, afraid the wind of my breathing could rip through the fabric of this vision. Something makes me turn. I look up the road and see a man about her age, tall and strong, walking up the road. He yells to them, lifts up a stringer of bass. She waves, gathers up her pail and takes the kid by the hand. “Come on, Charlie,” she says, “time for you to meet your Daddy.” He grins again and her face is beaming like hope on a morning you thought you’d never live to see.
“Well, Cletus,” she laughs, “looks like you found some fish.”