Jody Brooks

Strawberry fields stretched between our neighborhood and the movie theater and after an action-packed matinee we couldn't resist. We lined up, one per row, the dirt paths like track lanes on the straightaway, the bottoms of our t-shirts held up like baskets. Mark, set, go. And we ran, grabbing fist-sized fruit, laughing and racing to the end as our shirt baskets filled. We grabbed the juiciest, the largest and firmest—we had to be quick as we scurried from plant to plant, always moving forward, secretly trying to beat each other to the end—while men in splintered wooden towers shot at us with pellet guns meant for rabbits. One of these men had grown tired of our racing game. He had seen us coming, climbed down from the tower and crouched behind a scrub brush on the far end of the field. When he caught Chelsea, she screamed. His hand clamped down on her arm and he pulled her t-shirt down, the ripe berries tumbling into dirt clods. The front of her exposed shirt was permanent-stained red like she'd been gut shot, like some strawberry sweet horror film. We ran to the end of the field and turned to watch, too scared to move, too proud to abandon our fruit. So we watched, one hand holding the bottoms of our t-shirts, the other shoving strawberry after strawberry to our dirty lips, tossing their green tops on the ground, never taking our eyes off our captured friend. We had no way of knowing what he hissed at her, his face too close, his spittle spraying her cheek. After a while he straightened up, lifted the pellet gun and pressed the barrel to her temple. He laughed and then lowered it, leaving a kiss mark on her pale skin.







My high school was built between strawberry fields and a ketchup factory. The strawberries were easier to steal.