Spring’s misty curtain hung over the daffodils and crepe myrtle. An indolent brook flowed past an arbor of tentacles crawling a trellis sagging beneath vines laden with clusters of clinging translucent nipples. To discourage white tail deer from ravaging sapling vines Grandfather snaked a green garden hose through lattice netting, a guise of unpredictable success.
Secluded behind tall pines and fields of wildflowers a stand of cotton wood trees sheltered creeping soft grass and velvety foliage. This sacred canopy was referred to as “the branch”. A rendezvous for lovers, a private place one did not visit unannounced though I did not know why. When I was certain my appearance would not be cause for flustered departures I could walk down, pluck ripe fruit unabashedly and sit by the stream in the hot sun, sweet sap dripping from my lips down my chin.
At the end of August summer exhaled it’s fiery breath and the grapes began to lose their grip on brown appendages, drops of liquid spilled from splits in distended peels. With overstated enthusiasm they were declared ready for harvest. Ruptured with a pestle and filtered, using a method known only to Grandfather, the fruit was processed in secret and stored in ceramic jugs. The result was a sweet, crisp, slightly underdeveloped concoction that was hailed as “phenomenal” but was actually merely palatable.
Rarely did Father materialize from his travels once I had been exiled. Somehow the harvesting of the grapes invoked his presence like a lark at dawn.