He held his squirming four-year-old, who was terrified of needles.
“Remember, afterwards we get to go to Taco Cabana!” he told her soothingly.
“I want to go to Taco Cabana now! Anyway, why do I even have to get a TV shot? I like watching TV.”
“It’s not a TV shot, it’s a TB shot,” he laughed. “Don’t worry, it won’t hurt much at all. And then, enchiladas! And lots of pico de gallo!”
They called her name and he carried her towards the examining room. “I WANNA GO TO TACO CABANA NOW!” she cried.
She was driving lengthwise across California with her father, straight up through the San Joaquin Valley. The highway was dotted with fruit and vegetable stands on the edge of the endless fields of farmland. They pulled over at them for road trip provisions. Fresh cherries and strawberries sweeter than anything she had experienced and starkly white bulbs of garlic eaten straight. Dylan on the tape deck, brilliant blue sky. A stop in Bakersfield for lunch where the waitress told how her nephew had gotten pulled into a hay baler. He threatened to send her to college there, only halfway kidding.
She stood there, a vision in her spotless white dress and bare feet, looking like a fragile china doll with her pale skin and flaxen hair and impossibly blue eyes. “Take them,” she said, holding out the handful of berries to me. I did not know her name. These were the first words she had spoken to me. I was not entirely sure that she was a living creature. Perhaps sixty years ago she had drowned in the stream along this road, and now she appeared, pure and sad, to offer ripe strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, to those who ventured by.
The Smith College girls roamed happily around the orchard, picking low-lying apples and putting them into waiting baskets. It was Mountain Day: a surprise beautiful slice of autumn to have off from classes and use engage in just such outdoor activities. They chatted and laughed in the September sun, the more daring amongst them climbing up into the trees to seize more elusive apples. They were all grateful for this last bit of carefree freedom before the semester began to bear down mercilessly on them, demanding seemingly endless toil. For this afternoon, there was only crisp air and crisp apples.