Early one summer’s day, more out of curiosity than hunger, I pulled a plum from a tree on their property. My Mother always said if I did something wrong I would get my due. Of course, she was correct because Mrs. Harris caught me red-handed. She seemed witch-like with her smoky dark eyes, bright white skin, and flaming red hair, and I just knew she would cast a spell on me, or worse, tell my parents. When she spoke, I heard the alarming words.
“Come with me.” She said.
Into the ghoulishly green house we went. She led me into her kitchen while telling me her name was Ann. Once there she handed me a very large steel bowl.
Saying, “Since you like to pick things, I thought you might be so kind as to collect all the black berries along the creek.”
Even by my standard, the punishment fit the crime, and off to the creek I went.
Collecting the black raspberries was easy and fun. Soon I discovered that my hands, clothes, and mouth, especially my mouth, turned a deep purple from the sweet berry juice. In no time the steel bowl, and I, were full, and both happily returned to Mrs. Harris. She thanked me, and as I departed from her, these words registered in my ears.
She said, “Tell your folks that I’ll be over to see them tonight.”
Gulp! A further penitence would be required and I feared it would be in the form of a tanned backside.
After I returned home, in the forlorn hope the Mrs. Harris would forget, I said nothing and went to bed after supper. The next morning my Father awoke me and asked me to come to the kitchen table. As my Mother fixed a pancake for me, the dreaded words came from him.
He said, “Mrs. Harris came over last night and…”
I watched as he reached under the table, going for what would be, no doubt, his belt. Knowing from experience its sting, I closed my eyes.
He continued, “She asked me to give this to you.”
I waited for the sound of the belt cutting through the air.
However, I heard a different sound, such as a glass striking the table. Being curious I looked, and was dumbfounded by a small glass jar containing something dark, but what? My Mother placed a fresh pancake onto the plate in front of me.
Saying, “Mrs. Harris said you are a sweet boy to have picked all those black raspberries for her. She made this jar of jam for you, and I thought it might go well on a pancake.”
It was only black raspberry jam, what a delicious relief.