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He harasses me awake at dawn, poking me, assuring me I know deep down what a good idea this is, dropping an enthusiastic poodle on my stomach. I am fairly sure none of these constitute a genuine good idea   (dawn? I must have been kidding, that was a funny joke) but I heave up off the couch. Ok, Dad. Ok ok ok.

The woman in the packing shed at the orchard smiles sleepily and gives us ice cream buckets and tells us the season has about a week left in it, so we can eat our fill. Better than letting em go to waste, she says. Dad and I attempt to look as if we hadn't already planned to pack our faces as soon as she turns her back.

We have eight acres of low green plants in rows with muddy channels between them. We have the sun beginning to show up, the sky is every pastel color. We have blackbirds who are not fighting over the fruit because there is so much of it. Everywhere you step there are half-eaten bird-discarded strawberries, strawberries dropped and trodden into the mud, overripe strawberries squashing themselves under their own pulpy weight, and millions, billions of strawberries at the point of perfect ripeness, waiting for us. There is no one else on these eight acres. There are no sounds but birds and wind and slurpy mud footsteps and the rustle of leaves as we hunt for the good ones.

We talk a little, but not much. We are intent. Crouching, I feel my hand close over what I know is the best strawberry ever grown, I know before I see it. I am right. It is immense and firm and the deepest red red. I shake off most of the dirt and shove the whole thing in my mouth. It is warm from the warmness of the ground. It is unreal. Juice runs down my neck and chin and I let it. I chew as slowly as I can, this is the best one of my life and I want to keep it going.

When I open my eyes, I see Dad has found this best breakfast too. Strawberry juice and the first of today's sunshine are all over his face. His eyes are closed. He looks very old in this light but he also looks at ease. I say Wouldn't this be a nice day to die.

He smiles, and he looks at me, and he looks at me, and he eats another strawberry. He says, Yes. Wouldn't it.



On the way home, floorboards crowded with berry buckets, it is still early and there is no one else driving this long straight country road. The sky is doing one of those rare things it can do to make you realize with a crash, if you have any heart at all, that life is just so fucking much. I mean the sky is very blue and full of ridiculously perfect fluffy white castle clouds and the sun is breaking a hole in that creamy cloud cover to send down golden beams over the green green land. I mean it is Hallmarked perfection, which is ok, because it is so perfect it fills us and we need nothing else.

So I lift my eyes up to it and I do not look at the road any more. I take my hands off the wheel. This is not as rash as it sounds; the road is straight, I would feel my tires going off the edge long before anything terrible happened. Still, it would be like my father to fuss or worry, but he doesn't, he is in the same moment too. We let the car take us closer and closer to the source of all rays of light. Flying down the asphalt with the windows down - warm rush of air, crickets - and I hold up my hands as if I am conducting or embracing the world, or vice versa. We do not close our eyes.



When my father does die, I do not know if fate or good timing will allow him to be standing in a strawberry field at dawn. I do not know if an angel will come to help his particles stream upward into a perfect sky. I do not know if he will have the taste of warm ripe fruit in his mouth. I do not know how right I am about any of this. I hope I am very far away from being wrong.

Trapped inside a sea of cars. Flash of sun reflecting off a mirror somewhere, just before the sun is gone and it is a little overcast, to say the least. We've spent the day out of his scene, the city doesn't suit him and I could see frustration in the furrows of his lightly sweating brow.

Here we are now, a fitting end to a day full of strange faces, tall buildings and I am so sure you will only get worse. I glance out of the corner of my eye, you are fiddling with the volume knob on the falling-apart-somehow-still-functioning tape deck and I hear the soft click of a cassette finding its place.

The occasional horn sound, a subtle tension in the air, you don't seem to notice as you hum along to the music.

Cars pass along the dirt shoulder stirring up dust and I hear little stones accosting the side of the van, you shake your head gently, all the while humming. Briefly you step away from music land to suggest that perhaps they are a little too hurried. This is all too silly but not unwelcome from the man who has broken his own heart with a lifestyle not fit for any human, especially not him.

I watch the cars start to edge forward ever so slightly and we mutually note the car-sea is starting to break. I am a little sad but I knew it would come and I watch you grip the steering wheel a little tighter, your eyes fall away. You are thinking too much, again.

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