I fill my mouth with summer, lips purple from the juice of tart blueberries I pluck from the bushes. Just past the ripening tomatoes my mother bends down to harvest a perfect cantaloupe. The smell of green is heavy in muggy August air as we amble from our garden toward the modest split level we call home. I follow my mother through the screen door and into the kitchen, where the mustard yellow linoleum cools my small bare feet.
My mother places the melon in a fruit bowl and smooths black bangs off her serious face. Sensing movement outside the window she peers through the glass.
“Don’t you dare,” she whispers to them, to herself.
On tiptoe I can see above the sill and watch as two sandy-haired teenagers, maybe twins, sun-blessed and confident, stride across our yard and past our garden. On long legs they easily vault our split rail fence and land in the farmer’s field. They will ramble past the rooster, hens, and haystacks, past the old red barn to the creek, where clear cold water rushes over rocks like laughter from boys’ mouths.
My mother jolts into action and grabs her weapons: a basting brush from a drawer and a jar of Sue Bee Clover Honey from a cupboard, where it resides next to her bottle of nerve pills. Armed with brush and honey, my mother pushes hard against the whining screen door and marches outside. I follow this aproned warrior, two steps of mine to each one of hers. I follow her through our yard and past our garden to our fence, where we stop under the cloudless sky.
I sit cross-legged in the grass and watch my mother briskly paint the grey wooden slats with golden honey. She paints and paints until the honey is gone and the fence glistens in the sun. A sickly sweet scent rises in the afternoon heat.
My mother steps back to survey the work and breathes deeply, arms folded over her chest. Beads of sweat wander down her flushed cheeks. I stand up and tug on her thin cotton dress.
“Mom,” I say, “why did you put all that honey on our fence?”
Through a tight smile she tells me the sandy-haired boys will be sorry they ever cut through our yard. “When they come back,” she says, “those boys will stick to it like flies.”
Tess Kelly lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.