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“Hey! You should come make me food!” I glanced up from the weed I was working on eradicating from my flower bed and saw my older brother traipsing across the lawn towards me. I sat back on my gardening board and took in his rumpled white T-shirt and faded jean shorts. He looked like he had just rolled out of bed.
“I was thinking it was close to lunch,” I called as I squinted into the bright midday sunlight. “What time is it?”
“Yeah, it’s almost twelve,” Russell said as he peered at his watch. “You should come make me a milkshake.”
I sighed and hoisted myself out of the dirt. I picked my way along the precarious path between my rows of hostas and started towards the house. The poor boy couldn’t make any food for himself, and besides, I was getting hungry. I’ll come back out later this afternoon to finish that part up, I promised myself as I bent under the low-hanging branches of the white pine between me and the house.
“Well, if you want a smoothie,” I stated, “we need raspberries to put in it. Since there are none left in the fridge, I have to go pick some.”
I clamored up our front steps, went inside and found a berry cup, and then headed back out. I heard footsteps behind me as I started up the hill and ducked under the clothesline. I turned around and found Russell following me up the slope. I was surprised; I had figured he would just wait inside for me while I picked us some berries.
After being outside by myself all morning, it was nice having my brother for a bit of company; I rarely ever got any from him outside of the times I ventured into his room. My eyes appraised his pale, white arms that had scarcely seen the sun all summer. They were so different from the deep tan that radiated from my shoulders all the way down to my finger tips. I had spent innumerable hours outside gardening, fishing, or going for walks while he remained holed up in his bedroom when he wasn’t working. Brushing away the idle thoughts pervading my mind, I turned back to the task at hand.
I ducked under the protruding branches of a not-yet-ripe black cherry tree and reached the first of our raspberry patches. We began to pick, and the plump, red raspberries started to fill my cup. I looked over at Russell who wasn’t contributing very many and watched the berries bypass the container and head straight for his mouth. He reached over to my half-filled cup and grabbed some before I could snatch it away.
“Hey!” I shouted at him as I watched them disappear.
He gave me a toothy grin, revealing his braces. “What?” he said, in a voice that feigned ignorance. “I said I’m going to eat more than I pick.”
I glowered at him and went back to scouring the edge of our yard for another patch of berries. Reaching through a tangle of raspberry canes, I carefully avoided the sharp, little thorns, and plucked a particularly big and ripe-looking berry. I plopped it in my mouth and sighed with pleasure as the sweet, tangy flavor rolled over my tongue, making my taste buds tingle. Mmmmm, that tastes so good, I thought with my eyes closed in rapture. A loud crunch and an “Ow!” startled me, and my eyes flew open. I grinned at the sight of my brother as he shook his hand and sucked on his finger. A single drop of red blood welled out of a small cut he had gotten from a tall, nasty-looking pricker.
Trying not to laugh, I said, “Wow, you must have been really lonely up in your cave to come join me out here. Were you starting to get of tired of keeping yourself company and watching Scrubs?”
He shook his head, smiling, as he continued trying to find more raspberries to eat. “No. . . I just got hungry, and well. . . I wanted my milkshake.”
“No,” I said, in an overly sweet voice, “I think you missed me and wanted to spend some quality time with your little sister.”
Russell snorted at my teasing and went back to ignoring me. I meandered through the lush green grass in the upper part of our lawn and eventually filled the cup to my satisfaction. I observed my brother still fighting a new patch of thorny raspberries about ten feet to my left and announced to him, “You can stop now, Russell. We have enough to make smoothies.”
His head shot up at my voice, which seemed loud in the otherwise serene afternoon. “Alright,” he answered, “but I want a milkshake.”
“I don’t make milkshakes; I make smoothies,” I corrected him, retracing my steps across the lawn.
“Fine, then put sugar in it. A lot.”
I shot daggers at him and strode to the house in long angry steps. He could be such a blockhead sometimes! We always had this fight, and it always left me wanting to hit him over the head with the blender. He just never gave it up.
I beat him to the kitchen and set the container of berries down on the auburn countertop next to the sink. Crossing to the island, I opened the middle cabinet on the bottom and squatted so I could pull out the three pieces of the blender I needed. The front door squeaked open and hissed close as Russell trailed in behind me. I commenced my dance around the kitchen gathering all the ingredients I needed and yelled at him to grab the ice cream for me when he went past the pantry. I never used a recipe for my smoothies and simply began throwing fruits, yogurt, milk, and ice cream into the blender.
“Russell!” I shrieked.
I grabbed at the sugar canister he was dumping into the unmixed smoothies and failed to push him out of the way before at least a quarter cup of sugar granules found their way in. I successfully removed him from my preparation area and continued spooning in the strawberry jam. Once I finished concocting my masterpiece and the blender’s loud whirring slowed to a halt, I took off the lid and pronounced, “It’s ready! Bon appétit!”
Russell picked up a stack of cups from the middle of the island and selected the giant Mega Buddy cup from the bottom. I turned around and reached up to select a glass mug with a little frosted snowman on the side out of the cabinet behind me. The smoothie poured out thickly and quickly filled my glass. The pinkish-purple drink had seven different fresh and frozen fruits in it and was permeated with hundreds of tiny little strawberry and raspberry seeds. We leaned against the counter and enjoyed the thick, rich, and oh-so-flavorful treats, me with a spoon and him chugging it.
“You know, Russell,” I remarked as another cold spoonful slid down my throat, “I’m not sure how you’re going to make it without me there to make you food when you go back to college.”
He gazed at me over the top of his half-empty cup. “Yeah, I don’t know how I’m going to survive without your cooking.” After a beat, his toothy grin flashed once again as he added, “Hey, you should make me a sandwich now.”
I sighed as I headed towards the fridge and grabbed a loaf of multigrain bread from the basket on top. A small smile emanated from my lips as I swung open the door. He actually means that! His regard meant a lot to me, as offhand and silly as it seemed. It was no declaration of brotherly love or even an “I’ll miss you” for when he left in two weeks, but it was still a lot more from him than I had ever expected. I decided to take it for what was, treasure the memory, and not expect it to happen again.