When he climbed down, I insisted he sit in the glider opposite me,
"Here," I said, "Wait here."
I scrambled down off the metal swing and a screw that had lost its black plastic safety cover scraped an arc against my left calf...the pink scratch rising red with instant staccato blood.
I pressed my dirt-flecked fingers to the wound and hobbled down the hill to the back corner fence where my mother's grapevine grew. We were strictly forbidden from touching the grapes, which she intended for jelly-making. The vine terrified us anyway, ringed with swarms of pollinating bees...fallen grapes souring the air with their wine scented perfume. I glanced quickly to the kitchen windows--weighing out the odds that she would be watching me. My little brother watched with his warm eyes--gnawing on his fingernails.
"Don't," he warned softly.
Beneath a lacy veined leaf, I found a cluster of grapes already ripened to a vibrant purple-blue...perfect. I knew they'd taste like sunshine and water--warm from the heat of the day. I grabbed the bunch and plucked it from the vine. Then, I ran. D. stared up towards the house, waiting for our mother to yell our the back door or, worse, to come storming out of the house in her pale blue robe, interrupting her chores to chide me for my infraction. I sat down on the glider across from him and, my pulse pounding an ocean in my ears, I waited...the bunch of grapes thrust in my hands between my knees.
"That was crazy," he said, a slight smile blooming on his face.
"Yes," I panted, "But watch. Hold out your hands."
I pulled one grape at a time from the stem and dropped each into his palms, counting.
"How many do we have now?" I asked.
He looked at me, perplexed, his brown hair streaked blonde and falling clumsily into his eyes.
"One. Two. Three. Four." I said.
"I'm four!" he beamed, eyeing the grapes hungrily.
"No," I said, "You're five."
"Want one more grape?"
"Then, you'd have five, right?"
More emphatic nodding.
"What's better--four grapes or five?"
"Five," he yelled.
"What's better--four years or five," I countered.
"Oh," he paused, smiling as I deposited another plump grape in his open hand, "Five..." He nodded, "Five is best."
"Go ahead, eat them quick--" I said, popping the two remaining grapes in my mouth, pleased with myself.
The memory gleams in my mind--D. let me tell you today, your birthday...having twenty-seven grapes is better than twenty-six...each year a little more ripened, a little more flavored with sunlight and time. Happy Birthday... CDS