Chapter 2: The Strawberry Meadow
Then we set out to pick the berries. The only trouble about strawberry picking was – having to go through Shaded Woods. The best strawberry patch was on the other side of the island and the woods were in between.
Giovanni had been freaking little every time we went. I asked him what was spookin’ him. “Those eyes,” he told me. “They always look at me whenever we pass through.”
“Eyes? I’ve never seen any eyes.”
“I’ll show you once we get to the trees.”
Giovanni, Longhair and I lived in a small but pretty cabin on the coast. The best place to pick strawberries was a meadow at the base of a mountain farther inland. The mountain was really only a big hill but it was the highest spot on the island, so we called it Mount Big. I know, really original. We could have named it something else like Mount Overlook or Mount Little but someone sometime had called it Mount Big. The name had stuck and that was that. Like I said, once stuff gets in a person’s head, it pretty much stays there. Anyway.
Giovanni and I entered the trees along the worn main path. Thick leaves overhead shaded the forest and kept the path beneath cool and moist. The air hummed and clicked with sounds of the many little things hidden by the green undergrowth. After a few minutes, Giovanni whispered in my ear. “There they are.”
“What?” I asked.
“The eyes. Look, near that big pine tree.”
I slowly turned and looked. Sure enough, next to the tree but low in the shadows, were 2 small, white eyes.
“See,” Giovanni said.
A few minutes later under a different tree we saw the eyes again. And a few minutes after that the eyes were under another tree, still following along. They didn’t seem like they belonged to someone who wanted to hurt us or anything. They simply kept watching us as we made our way through the trees.
In about a half hour we reached the edge of the woods. We stepped out from under the trees and into the open meadow. It was a beautiful morning in late spring. There were white, red, blue, yellow, purple and just about every other color of flower you can think of. And lots of butterflies and bees and insects of all kinds of shapes and sizes buzzing or fluttering around. Little Giovanni ran into the meadow and lay down. He breathed in deeply and let out a happy sigh. “I really like flowers,” he said.
“Maybe you can pick some for Longhair on the way back.”
“OK.” He gave his usual salute. I saluted back twice and took two steps forward. Giovanni stood up, saluted back three times and took 3 steps toward. We kept saluting back and forth getting closer and closer until we were standing toe-to-toe, giggling.
I handed him one of the baskets I’d brought. We searched through the undergrowth for the bright red berries. It wasn’t long before both our baskets were half filled and man, they smelled good. “I think we have enough for today,” I said.
“Can we pick some flowers for Longhair now?”
“Sure. What kind do you think she would like?”
Little Giovanni thought about it a minute, looked around, then looked at himself. “Mostly yellow. Yellow’s the best color. Modestly speaking.” He set about selecting the ‘bouquet’ – that’s a word that means ‘a bunch of flowers’. He looked carefully over each flower before deciding whether or not it was pretty enough. When the basket was almost full, he said, “I think that’s enough. Do you think she’ll like them?” I nodded. We started back home.
As we approached Shaded Forest again, Giovanni noticed a patch of big, beautiful daisies standing about 50 feet off to the side. “I’m going to pick one more flower from those daisies.”
“OK. I’ll wait for you here.”
He flew across the meadow to the patch of daisies and hovered above the flowers judging which was the biggest and most beautiful. Finally, he decided on a really tall one standing close to the middle and went low to pick it at the base of its stem. Then he saw the eyes – right in front of him. And freaked.