Summers in the country required personal initiative since we lived miles away from the interesting parts of civilization. When I woke one morning, having a fruit stand wasn’t the first thing that came to mind. But I was bored, and I made the mistake of telling my father there was nothing to do.
“Why don’t you pick those blackberries in the pasture and sell them on the highway?” he said, brimming with delight at his great idea. The adults in our commune had instant boredom cures available at any time of the day or night. They always led outside and had no connection to television.
I pounced on his suggestion – not because I agreed, but since I knew the second choice would involve weeding the garden. I wanted an excuse, and tried to look exhausted, but he wasn’t swayed and handed me a bucket. Sometimes my best efforts at diversion didn’t have the tiniest impact.
I climbed the wooden pasture fence and walked across the field. My quarter horse Nipper followed me as I walked. Every few steps he rubbed his face against my back and shoved me forward a step. He stood beside me as I picked, reaching into the prickly branches to eat the berries. From time to time he stopped and stared as if waiting for an inspirational comment.
When I filled my baskets, I walked the mile to the end of the road and sat at a cardboard table and with a hand-written sign. I was directly across from the rock quarry where the cranes gouged the ground and dust made it hazy gray. My first customer was my neighbor, Mr. Louis, who stopped every time. He was about 100 years old and moved in slow motion. He had his own berry patch and it was within his power to have thousands of his baskets at any time. But he bought mine because, “They taste better when I don’t pick them myself,” he said. He always paid with change.
My second customer was my classmate Ronnie who lived down the highway at the place with the old cars. It looked like a parade that froze midstream and all the vehicles rusted in place. Ronald was different than the other kids and built rocket models from the metal parts strewn around his lawn. He was quirky, but we all knew he had a big heart. Once he found a kitten on the highway and he raised it to adulthood with nothing but an eyedropper and baby blanket. He carried his cat in back pack everywhere he went. He talked about velocity and E=MC2 as if the rest of us got it. But he bought four baskets and gave me $2.
After an hour, the berries were gone and my pocket was full of dollars. My father arrived at that moment and loaded the table in the car and drove me home.
“It wasn’t that bad, was it?” He asked.
I pretended to mull it over. I thought about how hard it was to predict certain outcomes and that maybe I didn’t know the formula for a good morning, since here I was, not dead from boredom. My mind flashed to Mr. Louis and his quarters. I thought of Ronnie and his cat and our conversation about interstellar travel. I didn’t want to tell my father that maybe this was a perfect morning. Instead I looked at my purple fingers and gave my dad a thumbs-up.