Courtney McEunn :: Sour ::

Flash Fiction

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I grew up in the swampy craplands they call central Florida. I ran around the sand roads barefoot, swam in the giant oil puddles they called lakes, went tubing and canoeing alongside alligators and snakes on more than one occasion, and–yes–we owned a 4-wheeler and a pontoon. On the weekends we went to the local mud hole where my uncle religiously fixed up trucks just to destroy them on the land. We moved on to southwest Oklahoma, because of course we thought it was better, and were met with the flat, windy lands pasted with red clay and dead grass. Always dead grass. I saw my first bison and longhorn and almost peed my pants. Somehow I didn’t blow away and was able to come up with something creative in the land of the bleak. (Is Oklahoma even the south? Everyone disagrees) 


Crisp, cool air flows across my face as I stare into my fridge and take inventory of the few things I have left. A bowl of leftover potato soup, week-old take-out from Applebee’s, a half empty can of Red Bull, three Lunchables, and a container of so-called “fresh” blueberries. I sigh, grab the blueberries, and close the fridge. Then I grab my glass of milk-drowned coffee and take a seat on the couch, remembering how I used to love blueberries as a kid. 

I would go to this blueberry farm with my grandparents at six or seven in the morning, before the Florida heat really kicked in. We would spend hours picking pounds and pounds of blueberries, carrying them all in large white plastic buckets. I remember walking along the dirt paths, passing acres of blueberry bushes, and searching for the perfect berries to pick. I would grab handfuls of them, then raise my fists in the air and yell, “Granny, look!” She would always look down at me with a huge smile on her face and tell me what a great job I was doing. She always said I found the best berries. 

I was a pro berry picker. I knew that the perfect blueberries were the large ones that weren’t too firm (those weren’t ripe yet), but also not too soft (those were too ripe). They had to have a specific little squish for me to pick them; that’s when they were at their best. Sweet and juicy, but with the perfect amount of acidic kick. Not too sour, not too sweet. I was very particular. 

After picking, we would take the buckets back to Granny’s house and clean them. Granny lived down a sandy, dirt road, surrounded by trees sobbing with grey moss and a small, gator infested canal in the back. My parents lived about a half mile down the road, so I was always over here playing in the yard and eating all of Granny’s snacks. Occasionally, my brother and I would brave the canal and take a swim, too. We learned much later that it wasn’t as gator infested as we originally thought. Most of my favorite childhood memories were at this house. 

It would take us a couple of hours to clean all those little berries. We washed them thoroughly to get the dirt, pesticides, and microscopic critters off. Then, we would put them in large, gallon-size baggies, after of course eating way too many of them in the process. I used to eat so much on berry pickin’ day. My chubby eight-year-old fingers and lips developed dark purple stains that lasted for days.

We put all the baggies in the deep freezer, making sure they still had some water layered on so that, when they froze, the berries would have a thin layer of ice coating them, giving them a nice little crunch when it was time to snack on them. The hundreds of blueberries only lasted us a week or two. I ate them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all the snack times in between. 

Now I live in Oklahoma. And I hate blueberries. 

There are no blueberry farms, and the grocery store blueberries are never ripe enough, always too sour. 

Sometimes I find myself getting excited when I go to the store and see a package of plump berries. I get my hopes up for the sweet, juicy blueberries I used to eat as a child. But—just like this morning for breakfast—I’m always disappointed. At least they still help me remember my childhood at the farm, spending an entire day picking, cleaning, and enjoying fresh, yummy blueberries with Granny, who I now only see once every couple of years. 

I sip my milky coffee and pop three awfully sour blueberries into my mouth, cringing as I turn on the TV.