CW: mentions of blood
I want to steal a blackberry from the thorns and choke it. Choke it and watch it bleed.
“The tradition of ‘blackberrying’, to scour the summer hedgerows to take advantage of the wild bounty on offer, is still a popular British pastime. During World War One, however, it was considered something of a necessity after food rationing was introduced. Schemes were established to make the most of the natural resources available, and English children were given time off school to pick blackberries for the production of juice and jam that were sent to soldiers fighting on the front line.”
“We’ve decided to go for another candidate that has more experience with children.”
“Get more experience and keep a look out for vacancies on the website.”
There are long branches obscuring the pathway, with blackberries blooming near the root and a sparse amount of thorns threatening to cling onto my blouse when I walk around them. How did I just notice the blackberries?
Closing the door, I immediately took off my brogues to get redressed in less formal clothes. I threw my blouse into the washing machine and turned the dial for the synthetic setting. The fabric dripped in joyful sunlight from the vivid yellow, a blaze of mellow honey in the machine, small tick..tick tick…ticks chimed from the dainty collisions between the plastic gold buttons and the drum. I kept the elasticated leather belt on my navy trousers and tossed them onto my office chair. Not fresh, but not ready for a wash just yet.
I started redressing my fingers with new plasters. I didn’t want the interview panel to think I was messy or clumsy wearing four plasters on my hands. One for a splinter I accidentally got wedged into the base of my left middle finger from smacking the wooden table above the washing machine. One for the deep cut across the right pinky where I was washing dishes and sliced the finger against the edge of a mackerel tin. One on an index finger and one on a thumb to stop me from chewing on the threads of skin that appear at the cuticle. Now home with no employers to perceive my bandages for incompetence, I patched myself up again.
I thought I had that one. I was so confident; they said I interviewed so well and they loved my ideas.
I never noticed the sprouts of thorny branches, the way they planted themselves in the corner between the front window and the door. The way they would soon touch the artificially placed pebbles and overhang across the door. I didn’t see the blackberries find a home in mine. I didn’t see them, but I can imagine the wash of burgundy ghosts between the crevices where fingers meet palm – like a phantom of dried blood that clings to the edges of its parameters and maps out the contours of a stain.
I thought I did well. But now…I’m picking at it, picking at every part when I think, I know, I failed.
Closing the door, I immediately took off my brogues to get redressed in less formal clothes. I threw my blouse into the washing machine and turned the dial for the synthetic setting. The fabric draped in an electric emerald, a cyclone of lavish green in the machine, small tick..tick tick…ticks chimed from the dainty collisions between the plastic gold buttons and the drum. I kept the elasticated leather belt on my navy trousers and tossed them onto my office chair. Not fresh, but not ready for a wash just yet.
I reapply all plasters back to the four injured soldiers attached to my knuckles.
The wild stems crawl out of its corner into the pathway, covering the left side of the doorway and grazing the steep stone steps with plush berries. The friction between the fruit and the stone left juicy abrasions in an angry pink. The cuts in the blackberries’ plump flesh lingered, crimson catching the eye every time I pushed the door to check it was locked.
I saw the beautifully budding berries and wanted to reach. To lean into fond memories of berry picking at the park, to feel the red seep out of black beads. Weeding out handfuls of my youth, plucking away the naive wants, and withdrawing my hands from the scarce thorns that only knew how to greet with bite.
I wanted to inspect the fruit, admire the young buds that have yet to buldge and burst, and slow my leave the same way there are stains on my steps.
I couldn’t, the red on my hands would not have left a good impression.
“The standard of applications was extremely high.
Unfortunately, on this occasion, you have been unsuccessful.
Many thanks for your application.”
“The majority of blackberries and hybrid/species berries produce their fruit on stems (or canes) that grew the previous spring and summer.”
Closing the door, I immediately took off my brogues to get redressed in less formal clothes. I threw my blouse into the washing machine and turned the dial for the synthetic setting. The fabric was enriched in an opulent magenta, a swirl of decadent plum in the machine, small tick..tick tick…ticks chimed from the dainty collisions between the metallic raspberry buttons and the drum. I kept the elasticated leather belt on my navy trousers and tossed them onto my office chair. Not fresh, but not ready for a wash just yet.
The branches were savage, clawing at the concrete, grasping for the sun.
Its saturated fruit was taught, brimming with violent raspberry flesh and a floral scent you could only detect if huddled in the embrace of thorns.
Attempting to push away a feral branch thrashing in the wind, a blackberry breezed the back of my hand. I felt the phantom of rich wine dishonoring the uniform pigment of my skin and settle amongst the wrinkles.
A wretched stain.
A stubborn keepsake for the young berry whose life had spilt onto my wrist. A sun-soaked spot that does not politely wash away the pomegranate paint, like dye blotching the frail fibers of a pristine white shirt.
“You were very strong with your answers.
For example, with one question, you scored a 3.5 and they scored a 4. So, it was close.
We went with the other candidate.”
“Left unpruned, plants will grow into a tangled, thorny mass of stems that are less productive and hard to access for harvesting.”
Mom says she’s proud of me and how resilient I am, but what’s the alternative?
Closing the door, I immediately took off my brogues to get redressed in less formal clothes. I threw my blouse into the washing machine and turned the dial for the synthetic setting. The fabric beamed a brilliant white with yellow and navy embroidery, a billowing of chantilly in the machine, small tick..tick tick…ticks chimed from the dainty collisions between the pearlescent white buttons and the drum. I pulled the elasticated leather belt off my navy trousers and tossed them into my laundry basket. They’re ready for a wash.
All fingers are in solid condition, I don’t need to reapply any plasters.
The wretched stains.
My arms are veiled in long sleeves, but I feel it. I feel where the blackberries want to seep into my skin like water making contact with deprived porous soil.
Pooling in my palms and spilling through the valleys in between my fingers. A blossom of deep blackberry, budding from my dirtied nail beds and branching out in soft leaf-shaped bruises up to my elbow.
My hands are painted in the berries’ saccharine syrup, as if I carried the weight of the world’s fruit in my fists and squeezed.
Bitter lines flared above the sangria red marks, exposing where I tried to drag the color with my fingernails and pull out the blackberry blemishes. Out.
With soap and a disheveled sponge, I flush out the blushed colors and scorn towards my door.
Something must be done about the blackberries, but I hesitate to prune their wicked plumage.
“Overall, you scored very highly, and were a brilliant candidate for the role, demonstrating a great working knowledge, fantastic experience and personal qualities. It's only that on this occasion another candidate scored a little higher than yourself.”
I want to steal a blackberry from the thorns and choke it. Choke it and watch it bleed.
Watch its blood find passage along the small branches embedded in my palm.
I want my fingernails to push and create the same beautiful bruises as the blackberry’s blood until I can’t indicate a difference.
I want one act of defiance, one act where I’m not pristine, I’m not logical, I’m messy.
If it weren’t for the white blouse I was wearing…
I would take a blackberry outside my door and watch its ripe life bleed out.
What’s the point, anyway? I plant seeds that never fruit. I plant again, and again, and again, and again. And they never fruit. They always die. They always fail. It’s not enough to harvest, I'm not eno–
Rushing out of the house, hand in my pocket to reassure myself I definitely had my keys on me before I closed the door to automatically lock, I scrambled with my suitcase and felt my limbs move faster than my racing heartbeat. I had fifteen minutes to get my train. Almost swinging my suitcase off the stone steps, I looked back at the blackberry branches crawling across the pathway to my door. Still wild, still untamed, never pruned.
I gave up applying to the same job at different branch locations. Nothing will be done about the blackberries whilst I’m at Mom’s, nor when I come back. I’ll look for new vacancies when I come back. I can’t be late for the train. I need to keep moving.
The blackberries will remain, still.
Editors: Joyce P., Claudia S.