“Help yourself,” I always say. “Let me get you a bucket,” I say.

I get a good raspberry crop and I’m happy to share. The neighbors appreciate the berries. Strangers passing by in the alley leave with juicy grins and a sense of there being goodness in the world. Little kids in particular are enthralled by the idea that they can pluck a morsel of delicious right off the vine at eye level. “Don’t forget the sugar snap peas,” I’ll add. “Want some cucumbers?”

It feels generous and good. Everyone is smiling. I’m such a nice person. What a swell neighborhood.

Stay the hell away from my blueberries.

I mean it. That’s why I planted raspberries. Look at the pretty red berries! Don’t you want some pretty red berries? Pay no attention to those bushes over there.

Camilla is a raspberry veteran, at age three. Her little brother Sebastian is just learning the ropes, figuring out the difference between the red ones and the really, really red ones, his jammy mouth working under his wide brown eyes. Camilla turns her perfect face up to me. “Thank you for the rassberries,” she says.

“You’re very welcome,” I tell her. Her mom beams. Camilla may have been pre-prompted, but she came through in adorable fashion. She fires off a string of Spanish to her mother and turns back to me with a melting smile, her hands clasped in front of her.

“Are there any booberries yet?”

Devil child. I smile back. “No, honey,” I say. “You see? They look blue, but they’re not really ripe yet. They’ll be a lot better in a couple weeks.”

And that is true. At least, it was true a couple weeks ago. Camilla looks at the laden bushes, doubtful.

I’m sorry. But this is the kind of behavior you get from someone who doesn’t believe in Hell. I can’t

overstate how much I like blueberries. I love birds, but if I see a bird on my blueberry bushes, I’m going to get a tennis racket and smack it into dice. Camilla toddles off with her brother in tow, and I go fetch a bucket. It’s time to rescue this crop before it gets over-appreciated.

My goal is to freeze enough blueberries to adorn my daily oatmeal until next season. Shouldn’t be a problem this year. The branches are drooping with fruit. They sag like an old woman in an overloaded house dress. I flash-freeze them on a cookie sheet and the berries regiment themselves on it like little geometry geniuses. But nothing beats a fresh blueberry, not even pie. I begin

filling my bucket and do a quality control check with a couple berries. I don’t wolf them. I pay attention to them in my mouth. They say they are lonely. I send in a couple more handfuls for company. Then I divert all the larger ones to my mouth because they’d just mess up the cookie sheet geometry. Pretty soon it’s a party in there. Blueberries always get along with each other. Before long I have an inch or

two of berries in my bucket and am lying on my back under the bush with a large funnel in my teeth

and shaking the branch above me. One fat berry bounces out and rolls away. I go looking for it just like Jesus and the lost little lamb. Yes. I am totally like Jesus. I don’t think Camilla can see me down here.

I believe I might have to buy some cute little Bolivian kid a heifer now.