Twin Berry

Mrs. Stepford is a kindly soul, and a bit of an animal psychologist.

In this unusual heat wave, she has watched her poor dog become more and more lethargic. The once jaunty little Scottie dog had slumped into a funk, barely moving during the day, looking soulfully at Mrs. Stepford as if to say, “Can’t you turn this heat off? Can’t you please do something?”

Mid morning, Mrs. Stepford phones.

“Would you take me to the Primp Dog Spa? Jessica is feeling out of sorts. She needs to be shorn. I’ve made an appointment for twelve thirty. If you can’t bring me back, I’ll get a taxi.”

“Sure, I’ll take you. On condition that I can swing by the blueberry farm to get the blueberries for Dorothy. If there’s time left, we can waste it in some air conditioned store. How about the thrift store on Lougheed. ”

Dorothy is moving. Her house sale went through surprisingly quickly and her move date is on the August 15th.  She hasn’t time to come out to get her berries, and since she has to move her freezer, she needs to ship it empty. Between Mrs. Stepford and myself,  I promised to buy the berries; Mrs. Stepford offered to keep them frozen for a month.

At noon, Mrs. S and I leave for the groomers. We drop the dog off and then head into the farmlands to the red barn. Yes, that self-same farm where I met Mr. Handsome, the strawberry man. Now should I call him the Blueberry man? He’s one and the same person. You choose.

When we get there, the only shady spot is in the wake of the old silo now encrusted in various olive green, black and ochre lichens and strapped every twelve inches with a a thick metal wire banding.  Mrs. Stepford is out of the car and at the weighing machine much faster than I.

When I get there, she is already engaged with Mr. Handsome about the purchase of her berries.  I say hello and mention something about bringing my friends with me. He says hello but he’s not so friendly as last time. Barely seems to recognize me, but he’s friendly still and welcoming.  But something is not right. He’s distracted, which accounts for the disconnect, I figure.

Mr. Handsome is wriggling the connection of the weighing machine to an extension cord that snakes far away across the floor to an outlet somewhere out of view. When that wriggling exercise does not provide results, he tries the connection between the power cord and the electronic scaler, itself. To no avail. It’s not working.

All these efforts have given me the time to look as he bends, stretches, crouches,wriggles the cord in his lean, lanky, athletic fashion.  There is an advantage to getting old. Your eyes can  appreciate without risk of engagement. But this delightful man is also so  socially friendly that he keeps bobbing back, apologizing to Mrs. Stepford about the inoperative weigh scale, then about the delay in finding an alternate solution.

“Ah! I know!” he exclaims.  “We can weigh them on the conveyor belt scale!”

He strides off to the conveyor belt.   It’s organized in an an oval shape with six young migrant workers sitting along the far edge picking off unripe berries, squished berries, twigs, small round leaves Their fingers pluck at the moving belt as if they were encouraging a melody from a well-tuned harp. Their fingers deftly pick out these things to a small band of polished stainless steel at the edge that catches this detritus. The berries amongst it will be saved for the jam factory or other by-products. The leaves and stems will be blown away. Only the firmest, plumpest berries go up for sale to stores and drop-by customers.

There’s something different about Blueberry man today. Since last I saw him, he has grown  a small beard looking much like a punctuation mark, a bold-text dash, just under his lip. It’s jet black.

I point this out in a whisper to Mrs. Stepford.

“It’s got a name. It’s called a soul patch, ” she informs me.  “It’s kind of a new thing. When a man starts to ruminate on some important idea, he’ll take his thumb and index finger and worry at it. It’s meant to signify a person with a deep soul. It’s a thoughtful beard. Expressive.”

Blueberry man was holding onto a ten pound box at the end of the conveyor belt and allowing the berries to drop into it instead of into the large blue plastic container beneath the belt. The box is filling with berries. He pauses to weigh the box. It’s not enough. He returns the box to catch more berries and  continues to hold the it there for the additional amount that will bring it up to ten pounds.

As he does this, Newton comes up to me and says, “How did your exhibition do? ”  I’m stunned. Baffled.

How can Blueberry man be standing at the end of the  conveyor box gathering the offerings of the blueberry gods and be here talking to me at the same time. The man before me has a piece of masking tape on his impeccably white golf shirt with his name on it. He has no soul patch. The other man is standing at the conveyor belt, weighing up his adjusted box. He scoops up a double handful of plump indigo coloured berries from the box below and dribbles them in until he gets to ten pounds.  He turns and comes toward us.

“You’re twins!” I exclaim. ‘You’re not Mr. Blueberry!,” I state looking at the man with the box. “You’re Mr. Blueberry!” I say, pointing at Newton with the scrap of masking tape stuck on his shirt.

Mr. Soul Patch nods with a wonderful smile on his face.  “Yes, some people say we look alike. I don’t see it really.”
“Identical twins?” asks Mrs. Stepford. She always knows the right questions to ask. They nod. Mr. Soul Patch points at his golf shirt with Twinberry Farms embroidered in blue  on his left breast. Two plump berries are embroidered right under the lettering. The significance of the company name fits into place.

Mr. Soul Patch bobs off athletically to get Mrs. Stepford’s change.

I direct my comment to Mr. Blueberry. ” No wonder he didn’t recognized me when I came in. He hadn’t a clue what I was talking about. No wonder he was a bit dumbfounded when I was talking about bringing more customers. It wasn’t the same man.”

“And your exhibition?” he smiles as he reminds me of his earlier question. “How is that going? Can I go see it? I’d like to go.”

I fill him in on the date of the opening. I invite him to it.  He says he would like to. I remind him that I, too,  would like to purchase berries, and he facilitates that transaction.  We bid goodbye, smiles all around.

Mrs. Stepford puts her berries in the trunk and so do I. We get back in the broiling car and drive off to the air conditioned, silky-cool pleasure of the thrift store and then to pick up her dandified Scottie dog.

“That was lovely,” she chuckles. “Double your pleasure! What a treat those two men are!”

“That was lovely. I agree! They are so personable. It’s just how anyone would want to have their sons grow up. Respectful, handsome, intelligent, dependable.  And their mother got two of them. What a treat!”

That was yesterday. Today, Mrs. Stepford calls.

“How’s Jessica, the Scottie princess?” I ask.

“The little monkey!” laughingly says my friend, the amateur dog psychologist. “That hair cut was just the thing. She’s dancing around the place; wriggling with all her lack of hair, begging to have her short hair caressed.

“Must be something like touching a teenage buzz cut,” I reply.

“Exactly. She’s so happy. Such a princess! She has all her energy back. It was just the thing to do!”


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