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'Just a Tich'
Picking, Cleaning and Bottling with Deb and Bob: dateline 9/21/21
© 2021 James LaFond
Bob fished while I picked—he gaining two striped bass for the cooler and me a half-bushel of berries and rose hips.
A quart of rose hips and a pint of semi-dried elderberries went into drying bags [knitted by Deb with drawstrings from the panty-hoes material that Brit said Korean hookers favored] to hang from the grandchildren's trampoline. That left 20 pounds of elderberry, choke cherry, Oregon grape and rose hips in the blue gathersack.
Deb was yet at work.
Bob was suffering from the packing of fishing gear and the lack of auto-lubrication in his various artificial joints.
16 pounds in, after Bob had kept the pain at bay, regaling me with stories of hunting, skinning and bottling, he groaned and had to step away from the kitchen counter. I had placed the bag on a stool in front of the double sink.
To the right I stood.
In my sink was a colandar.
In Bob's sink was a colander.
Behind the stool with the berry bag was the trash can.
We grabbed a bunch of berries and stripped them from the branch into the straining bowl, then discarded the branch in the trash can and grabbed some more.
As Bob retired to the chair and the ice pack with an apology, my romboids tightened and I wondered if I could finish cleaning all of the berries that I had scrambled up and down 70 to 90 degree inclines to bag this morning. Truth be told, it's harder to stand at that sink and strip berries than scramble up a gorge and pick them.
Then came Deb, home from work. Ten hours ago, as Bob was struggling to get out of bed and I was hoping that I was dead, she was blow drying her hair before work. She is retired you know, working to keep busy.
Home form the hardware store comes Deb, sees the kitchen situation and starts cleaning berries. As a Team of Three: Twerp, Goon and OCD Babe, we have now canned together in September for four fine years.
Bob was shot. We just needed him to pour the pot into the 8 cup pitcher, requiring height and strength to keep from burning my hand as I hold the pitcher.
Deb asked me for an estimate, promoting me from bottle washer to manager so she could just keep busy and not have to stretch her math brain.
I guestimated a case of pints and a case of half pints.
I turned out to be exactly right, after we added a bottle of sparkling apple cider and two cans of coke to the elderberry syrup recipe, which usually became jelly.
There was a point where the amount of sugar needed was in question and Deb declared, “Oh, just give it a tich,” and the world revolved a sudden rightly upon its axis.
A tich is Deb's favorite technical term.
We need a two-gallon pot, a half-gallon pitcher, a cup, two colanders, a screen ladle, a spachula, a cake pan of water heating bottles on the stove next to the pot, a sauce pan heating lids behind the pot, four bowls: one for berries, one for mash, one for pulp and one for juice.
We juggled and fumbled and Deb took time to scramble a dozen hen-house eggs with cheese for dinner while I shaved my head and Bob asked us when we would need his meaty hand under the tilted pot...
All of this stiff needed washed thrice while the operation was on, as we were doing multiple “batches.”
Deb encouraged me to eat some “desert chocolate” and wondered at me trying to lose weight. I told her I had a young lady waiting for me in Oakland and she said, “So what is her latest message?”
I opened the flip phone and read, “There is no one like you in the world. I just want to be near you. I love you desperately.”
Deb said, as she whipped the berry juice from the stove while I stirred. “Does not sound like weight is an issue—and you are entertaining!”
At this time while Bob was turning out the hothouse and hen house lights, I got a bad pelvic floor cramp and decided to blame Deb, “Ya'all can pollute your bodies with chlorinated water. But I am practicing sustainable kidney function with Don Q 151! and snorted—yep, up the nose, right to the brain through the mucus membrane—a shot of over-proofed rum and knocked back two!
“Oh My,” said the Mormon matron, “and I thought desert chocolate was hard stuff!”
“Deb, if you ever decide to take that dish of butter and pour that liquid chocolate over it and eat it with a spoon, I'll join you!”
“Well, I don't know,” said Deb, “and since you are relying on that sweet young girl on Oakland to determine your weight by hefting you on her shoulders, I thought you could use Jake's scale. You know, when he was sick, we had to weigh him on a regular.”
The hood rat stepped upon the scale and it read 175.
Bob said, “Well, I normally avoid those things, but I might as well, and scaled...a whole lot of shove...”
I poured a triple shot, and a 24 ounce amber boch, and a lager, and we watched Blade Runner. Then, finding that we had canned perfectly, I stacked both the case of pints and half pints and declared I would stock the pantry below on my way to bed and Deb judiciously made sure the light was turned on so I didn't miss a step down into the cellar.
How a lady with a sense of timing comes in handy.
Hop Along Helen
author's notebook
'Do They Know?'
riding the nightmare
broken dance
honor among men
logic of force
yusef of the dusk
Don Quotays     Dec 30, 2021

The Khan would be proud.
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