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Step One: Wait until noon. Enter the lair of the beast. Softly, softly. Sing to it.

“I love you, Ilsa, oh yes I do.” Nothing

“I love you, Ilsa, and I’ll be true.” A low keening starts, like the sound of lost souls tortured far off.

“When you’re not with me, I’m blue.” Allow voice to crack on last word. A hooded eye appears beneath the covers. Make heart shape with two fingers.

“Ilsa, I love you.” Silence.

Announce brightly, “Get up! We’re going berry picking!” Retreat quickly, slamming door to escape blast of fire. Listen to the sound of roaring above the housetops.

Step Two: Retreat downstairs to read text messages. “MO-OM!” “Mom! I know you can hear me! I’m calling you.” “Moooooom!! I don’t wanna go picking today!” “Mom! Dad says I’m grounded till I clean my room so I can’t go!”

Step Three: Placate the beast with coffee with milk and two sugars.

Step Four: Feed the beast a bowl of cereal.

Step Five: Into the car, with unwashed beast and twin brother, also unwashed. Visit new farm that friends have recommended. Decide against it because why does berry picking have to involve politics on large signs, and also because you think, without doing math in your head, that $8/gallon is more expensive than $1/pound at your favorite farm. Turn around. Ask Abel for the 18th time to stop singing the weird rap song that his friends wrote about the youth pastor.

Step Six: Turn twins loose into berry field. Give instructions. They know! They know how to pick berries. You have made a grave error in explaining about not picking green or red ones or mushy ones.

Step Seven: Pick berries. Avoid those that are green or red or mushy. Slowly, slowly, fill bucket. There are still tons of blueberries, happily. This shouldn’t take too long, you think optimistically, with 3 of you. Tell Abel to stop making his phone play the weird rap song that his friends wrote about the youth pastor.

Step Eight; Abel brings you his bucket. He is doing a great job of avoiding green, red, and mushy ones! He is also avoiding a lot of other berries. He dumps his bucket into yours, although he has only filled about 1/10th of his bucket. Maybe this will take longer than  you’d hoped.

Step Nine: It’s hot! Sweat trickles down your back. You listen to the twins bickering and throwing berries at each other. “Ew! That one was mushy!” “Your face is mushy!” “Your boogers are mushy!” “Your mother is mushy!” Point out that you are proud of their wit, their originality. Experience regret that other pickers have to listen to them. No doubt that sweet family with their toddler (Look! There’s a nice one! Reach up high to get it!) are experiencing great fear in their hearts right now as to what awaits them. Think about how you’re probably doing more for population control right now than all the placards and protesters in the world.

Yell at the twins to JUST STOP IT already. They have moved on to throwing water and berries at each other while announcing, “I baptize you!” a la Nacho Libre. In spite of all this, they (esp Ilsa) have managed to pick quite a lot of berries. You decide it’s time to go, about 30 minutes after the twins decided.

Step Ten: Pay. It’s on the honour system now. You guess a bit at how much the containers weigh, since you forgot to weigh them before, write a cheque, stick it in the box.

Step Eleven: Home. Abel talks to a friend and keeps telling you what he’s saying. “Malcolm thinks strawberries make the best jam.” “Malcolm says mash the fruit well.” Me: With all due respect, Malcolm doesn’t live in my house so I don’t care what kind of jam he likes. “Malcolm likes jelly better than jam.”

Step Twelve: Make Abel get off the phone. Turn up the AC and the music. Sit in blissful silence and coolness for the last 10 minutes home.

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