Start before the sun crests the hill: crack eggs, fry pancakes, toast the toast, slice strawberries, pour coffee, tea, and orange juice. Do up the dishes by hand in the sink as everyone finishes, pull on your orchard-stained work shoes, tie a kerchief over your hair. Put on the harness and clip the wooden six-quart basket to your belly, nestled against the place your babies left scars and folds of extra skin. Fill the basket with cherries. Unclip, fit an empty basket in its place. Repeat until break time.

Run ahead of the summer-hired teens and set out the thermos of lemonade, the cookies you baked in the relative coolness of last night’s evening. Any longer than ten minutes and it’s too hard to get back to work. Clip the next basket to the harness at nine minutes.

Pick, pick, pick. Whoever came up with the cherry-picking idiom has never picked cherries, not on this farm, the way both hands take time to pluck sweet cherries with the stem intact so they’ll last longer in the baskets, in the cooler, on the market scaffolding. If there’s a bird peck or a brown rot spot, throw it on the ground as fertilizer. Endless maroon globes glowing amongst pointed dark green leaves. Position ladders, climb, pick, climb down, reposition, pick. If you can’t reach the tallest branches, whistle to six-foot Carl, or Helen, or Marg. Hold the base of the ladder as they climb up, up, standing on the flat top, tip toes, reach bending branches down, pick, pick, pick.

Lunchtime at the picnic tables in the backyard, the littler ones swinging on the metal swing set, creak, creak, creak, while the others lounge with white-bread sandwiches, water, washed cherries. Watermelon, maybe, if Joanne brought one by yesterday in exchange for cherries.

After the thirty-minute noon break, move over to the sour cherry section, cherry-tomato-red spots on sparser lighter-green-leaved trees. No stems here, pick, pick, pick, no ladders here, pick, pick, pick. Soft and tart, fewer go missing into mouths. Warn your daughter—no! Remember, wash before eating. Do you know what we spray on these? Don’t watch as she moves away to pick dandelions, humming church hymns as she pretend-walks down the aisle, the image of a wedding performance more interesting than the ensuing marriage.

Pick through the heat-stroke hours, adjust your kerchief, try to find shade under the branches of these smaller trees, say a prayer of thanks you are short.

Have your youngest daughter bring you a cup of water from the thermos since she’s not picking much anyways. Drink it down, tell her to get a drink, too. Wonder what it would be like if you had not had to have that hysterectomy, if she was not your last child. Would she be different? Would she work harder? Would she watch the next one in the playpen in the orchard? Ah, she’s young and you have enough hands right now to get these cherries off the trees before the thunderstorms come. Forecast: three days of sunny.

Think of how many cherries you want for your own use. That night, after dinner of peeled and boiled potatoes, fried porkchops, snow peas picked from the garden, sit and pit cherries for the freezer. Flaccid little red balloons. Bake a pie for tomorrow’s dessert, put your feet up for the news on TV.

Your eyes won’t stay open for what’s going on in the little square tube. You can’t deny the actual forecast: cherries, plums, then peaches, pears, grapes, then canning and freezing, baking for Christmas, cleaning and polishing. The pruning of the dormant trees. The tying of the grape branches to the horizontal wires when it’s still so cold, your knuckles chafe, your fingerprints crack into unidentifiable maps that lead to the same places over and over like a revolving door. There it is, out your window, the world laid out in neat rows of fruit trees.