Neil looked under the kitchen sink and found a stack of plastic ice cream pails. “I found them,” he called over his shoulder.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” Jim demanded. “Get them out and pass them around. The berries are waiting.”
Neil grabbed the buckets and stood up. Lynn and Jim were each holding a hand out expectantly. He handed them each a pail. Another hand reached out from behind them and they both jumped. Grandpa grinned. “Where’s my bucket?” he asked.
Neil handed him a pail. “Are you coming to pick berries, too?”
“Just berries?” Grandpa asked.
Lynn nodded. “That’s what’s in season. Later in the year, maybe we’ll pick corn or peaches or apples or pumpkins.”
Grandpa sighed and shook his head sadly. “It’s not like it was when I was younger.”
Neil raised his empty ice cream pail in the air with a cheer. “A grandpa story!”
Lynn smiled. “Are you going to tell us about your garden? It must have been nice to grow everything yourself instead of having to drive out to a berry patch or buy things at the store. We grow a few things in our garden boxes, but I imagine it’s not the same.”
“Oh we grew little things like lettuce and tomatoes and watermelon,” Grandpa said, “but we didn’t grow the best stuff at home, no one did. It was impossible to get the seeds. They were guarded like they were made out of mithril. There’s something you never see around any more either.”
“Mithril’s real?” Jim’s eyes were wide. “Did it really glow?”
“I’ve heard it did, but I never saw any in real life. Just like the seeds I was telling you about.”
“What seeds? What did they grow?” Neil asked.
“They grew the good stuff. Like pizza. And macaroni and cheese. And chocolate cake.” Grandpa put a hand over his heart. “It all tasted so much better than the stuff you get nowadays. They pick it when it’s not ripe yet, you know. Then they send it to the stores to ripen on the way. It just doesn’t taste the same.”
Lynn frowned and put her hands on her hips. “That’s not true. All of those things are made with flour and eggs and ingredients like that. They don’t grow on trees or bushes or whatever. That doesn’t even make any sense.”
Grandpa smiled a sad sort of smile. “Well of course you’d think that. They’ve hidden all the trees and bushes in their factories, and no one ever sees them anymore. Everyone’s forgotten all about it, and thinks they make things with machines or whatnot. As if machines could make a pizza.” Grandpa laughed.
“But Grandpa,” Jim said hesitantly, “we’ve made pizza before here at home.”
Grandpa nodded. “And did it taste exactly like what you buy at the store or in a restaurant?”
Jim shook his head. “Not exactly the same.”
“Of course not. One was grown, and the other was people’s best approximation. They couldn’t be the same at all.”
Lynn stomped her foot. “Stop being silly. Of course they can make pizzas with machines. They make cars with machines and they’re lots more complicated.”
“Are you sure they make cars?” Grandpa asked.
“If cars grew on trees, then they’d always have had them. But cars have only been around for about a hundred years.” Lynn folded her arms across her chest, her pail dangling from one hand.
Grandpa smiled. “I can see why you’d think that, but due to the wonders of cross-pollination and hybridization, they’ve really been able to perform wonders.”
“And you were able to go to a pizza patch and a chocolate cake patch and just pick them and eat them?” Neil asked. “That sounds amazing.”
“Oh it was. Back before they were greedy and kept all the seeds for themselves and burned all the other patches down, you could go out and pick pizzas that had the brightest red pepperoni you’d ever seen. And the cheese! You could cut a piece of pizza and the strings of cheese would follow the piece around like streamers. I once picked a chocolate cake for my birthday filled with whipped cream and raspberry filling. I’ve never tasted anything half as good.”
“Can’t we go rescue the chocolate cake trees? I have a ninja costume,” Neil said hopefully.
Grandpa shook his head sadly. “Not with all the satellites they have spying on everyone now. They’d notice right away.”
Jim sighed and looked at his pail. “Picking berries suddenly doesn’t seem as fun.”
“But mom said we’re going to make pies when we get home,” Lynn said.
“And we can eat some of the berries while we’re picking them,” Neil added.
Jim smiled. “I guess I can live with that.”
“We’ll make do somehow,” Grandpa said. “Of course, since I’m older and wiser than you all, and I have much more experience, I’ll pick the most berries and have the biggest pie.” And then he darted out the door cackling madly.”
“No you won’t!” “I’ll get the most!” “Wait for me!” the three children yelled, and they ran after him, excited once again to go to the berry patch.