The sun beat down on Jerry's back. He could feel the strain of bending and twisting all morning. He raised up and sat back on his heels. Looking across the rows of strawberry bushes he absently counted the other pickers.
In the lush, Western Washington State valley, berry-picking was an easy, if tedious, way for teens to make money. Not just teens picked, mind you, unemployed adults and even whole families of migrant workers arrived every summer and moved on to the orchards in the fall. This week a Japanese family had arrived in the field. The parents looked to be in their forties. The younger of the two daughters seemed to be about 15, and the older looked like she was his age (18) or maybe a year or two older. They were both beautiful to Jerry. All the girls in his school were caucasian or black. Not that there was anything wrong with that. He had dated several of them for a time. But these were the first Asian girls he'd had a chance to meet.
Two days before he had encountered the younger girl at the berry shed when he'd gone to trade his full flat for an empty one. Other than lunch and pit stops at the porta-potty, this was the only break they got in the fields. If the foreman thought they were taking too many breaks, he just told them not to return the next day. Berries had to be picked on time or else they'd rot too soon on the grocer's shelf. A farmer needed good pickers to make a profit.
She'd smiled brightly when she saw him looking at her. Her eyes squinted tight as her lips spread in a broad grin. "Hi," she said. "I'm Mariko, what's your name?" He told her and they spoke a while as they stood in the line. In spite of her juvenile appearance, she told him she was 18 and going into her senior year in high school. He also learned her sister's name was Sari, that she was 20, that they were from Modesto, and they travelled every summer and into September, picking berries, fruit and nuts. Then they returned to Modesto and went to school. Mariko said that Sari would be a sophomore at UCLA.
At the end of the day, he had purposely gone over to the family to say goodbye to Mariko. She grinned at him again and introduced him to her family. The look he gave Sari was not missed by the parents, Mr. & Mrs. Mikami. With two beautiful daughters, they were used to boys being swept away by the girls' exotic appearance. At 18, Mariko had her admirers. Mr. Mikami gave Jerry's hand a very firm squeeze -- and no smile -- when Mariko introduced them. The unspoken line was drawn clearly enough, even for Jerry to see.
Still, over the next few days Jerry and Sari seemed to find their berry boxes filling at a surprisingly even rate. Several times they stood together in the trading line and talked. A couple of times Miko (as Mariko told him to call her) was there, too. She made no attempt to hide her crush on him. Still, Jerry seemed to have his heart set on Sari. Miko's youthful appearance unnerved him.
Then something surprising happened to Jerry. He had gone as long as he could stand having to pee. Finally, he stood and stretched his back. Leaving the flat in the row where he was working, he stepped down the field to the porta-potty. But he found the door latched. Damn! Somebody was in there already. He listened and heard the unmistakeable noise of a piss stream hitting the plastic wall of the tub. Scuffing his shoe in the dust, he glanced around the field. Naturally his eyes sought out Sari and Miko. Miko was humped over, busily picking. But he couldn't see Sari anywhere. Just as his eyes went toward the shed, the door to the portable outhouse opened. Sari emerged. She blushed when she found Jerry standing outside waiting to get in. She smiled and hurried back to work.
As he stood there relieving himself, a funny feeling hit him. It excited him to know that it had been Sari's urination he'd heard. It seemed to form some intimate bond between them. And now he was mixing his piss with hers. He found himself hardening, even as he finished draining his bladder. He inhaled the smell of the place.Usually unpleasant, the unit had been replaced that morning. No shit smell, just the perfume of the disinfectant and the smell of urine. He didn't examine the new feelings he was having too closely. He zipped up and went back to the field.
The next day, Jerry was at work early. The morning fog was slowly burning off the valley as the sun topped the hills above it. A brown station wagon (he knew it was the Mikami's) stopped at the end of the drive and he saw the two girls emerge. Then the car drove off. When Miko skipped up to him, well ahead of her older more dignified sister, she told him that their mother had a doctor's appointment and their father had to drive her to the city. The girls would be picking alone today. "Father said it didn't matter much, since the berries are about picked out anyway. We're going to be moving on to raspberries next week, he said."
"That's better. At least we can pick mostly standing up and save our backs," Sari said as she arrived at the shed. She gave Jerry the biggest and warmest smile she'd given him yet. He realized she'd been so reserved before because of the presence of their father. Miko giggled and, in the way of sisters, tipped open the bowl of secrets: "Papa also told Sari not to be too friendly with the 'big boy'!" Sari swung at her sister who danced out of the way. "Are you the 'big boy', Jerry? The one Sari's got a crush on? Or am I the only one who loves you?" This time, Sari bent and picked up a hardened dirt clod. It caught Miko square in the middle of her back. But it hadn't hurt. Miko just laughed and ran off to begin picking.
Jerry and the girls took their lunch bags through the trees to the riverbank, where Jerry always ate lunch. It was the first time the girls had been there. It was cool in the shade of the big Madrona trees. The river cut into the bank here and had eroded a slope away, giving it a beach of soft sand. They ate and talked. Jerry realized that Sari did, indeed find him attractive.
After eating, they went back to the field. Everybody was gathered in the shed. Moving in behind the others, they heard the foreman telling them that the field was closing down. Anything they wanted to pick that afternoon, they could keep. But there was to be no more picking for pay this year. He thanked them, paid out what they had coming, and left in his pickup.
.... There is more of this story ...