Mid-July came on chilly and with rain to spare, but month’s end was suddenly dry and warm. That gave the wild raspberries, which usually ripened in early August, an unexpected influx of the mysteriously delicate juice that make them so very different from the fragrant but bland garden raspberries. So the gals, without so much as a word to each other, started making forays into the closest of the raspberry patches that in the past couple of years had run rampant over the felled areas of the forest. After the nearest mile or two had been picked clean, they put their heads together and started going in threes, in fives, because the forest doesn’t care for any tomfoolery.
Only Granny Shura, a cantankerous old biddy with a sharp, spiky tongue that made her nobody’s favorite, still went out alone, for both the raspberries and the wild herbs that should only be gathered after the Feast of John the Baptist. With her old-school ways, she didn’t hold with frivolous attire. She also didn’t think much of mosquitoes, so she swaddled herself up, with a sweater jacket over a flannel shirt and on top of that, a canvas raincoat when it was threatening rain, all of which made her look like something between a mossy hillock and a fir tree withered from the roots up.
The young lasses, both married and single, roamed around the raspberry patches in a cheerful, garish flock, wearing light, gaudy sundresses and eye-popping headscarves that butterflies would settle on. But then there were the rubber boots, always the rubber boots, and that was nothing to laugh at, what with the marshy soil over here and the slithery snakes over there. They scattered across the cleared spots like a merry flight of birds, roaring with laughter and yelling to each other, or they’d suddenly strike up a song – all at once, without a word spoken – and it was always about love gone dismally wrong.
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Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.
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