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How raspberry jam got in.., p.1
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       How Raspberry Jam Got Invented, p.1

           Brian Bakos
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How Raspberry Jam Got Invented

  Book 1, Time Before Color TV series

  by Brian Bakos

  cover art: Othoniel Ortiz

  Copyright 2013 Brian Bakos / revised 09 - 2016

  Table of Contents

  Part One: The Last Summer Picnic

  Part Two: Mysteries at the State Park

  Part Three: Uninvited Guests

  Part Four: Desperation

  Next Book in the Series

  Brian’s Other Books

  Part One: The Last Summer Picnic


  Have you ever wondered how raspberry jam got invented?

  Just look at a jar of it in the grocery store sometime. All those seeds staring out like beady little eyes. Somebody at the jam factory must have smashed the berries and stuffed them into the jar, right?

  Maybe that’s how it’s done these days, but the original method was very different.

  1. Mean Preparations

  Melissa turns on her twin brother.

  “No, Davis, you can’t come with us!” she shouts. “This picnic is just for me and my friends.”

  Davis backs away. He seems about to cry any second.

  “All right,” he says in a very small voice.

  Melissa jabs a finger at him.

  “And you’d better not go crying to Mom. Got that?”

  “I won’t,” Davis says.

  He speaks so quietly that I can barely hear him.

  “Good!” Melissa says.

  Davis walks off with his shoulders stooped and his head hanging. The rest of us – me, Tommy, and Quentin – stand around my back yard looking at each other. We’re all terribly embarrassed.

  “It wouldn’t hurt to bring him along,” I say. “We’ve got plenty of food.”

  Melissa waves her hand.

  “Believe me, Amanda,” she says, “we’re better off without him. He’s such a bore.”

  “Even if he is,” I say, “he could have helped carry the stuff.”

  “Come on,” Melissa says. “Why are you always so nice when you don’t have to be? Davis isn’t your brother. I’m the one who’s stuck with him.”

  I shake my head. If I had a brother, I know that I’d be much nicer to him. Then again, if I did have one, if I had to share things and stuff, maybe I wouldn’t be so kind after all.

  My dad always complains about the ‘arm chair heroes’ who want everybody else to go fight wars while they stay behind safe watching TV and drinking beer. Am I just being an ‘arm chair nice person’ trying to be kind because it doesn’t cost me anything?

  Being around Melissa too much can get you thinking in weird ways like this.

  “Are we ready to go – finally?” Melissa says.

  2. Becker School

  You might get the impression that Melissa can be pretty mean and stuck up. You’d be right. So why do I keep hanging around with her? That’s difficult to explain.

  Have you ever kept drinking the same soda pop, even though you can’t stand it anymore, just because you’re used to it? Melissa is kind of like that. Or maybe I think that she’s got a good side – that if I keep looking, maybe I’ll find a nice person under all the angry meanness.

  Or maybe she’s like my donuts with just an empty hole in the middle. Who can say? All I know is that she, Quentin, and Tommy are my oldest friends. I’ve known them all since we first moved to South Allendale.

  Which leads to another question. If we’re in South Allendale, where is North Allendale? Nobody seems to know that, either.

  “So, where are we going – the club?”Quentin asks.

  “Not yet,” Melissa says. “We’ll have lunch at Becker School park first, then we’ll go swimming at the club.”

  “That’ll work,” Quentin says.

  He pulls a bright red yo-yo out of his pocket.

  “How do you like this, Tommy?” he says.

  “Cool!” Tommy says.

  Quentin throws the yo-yo out to its full length; I duck out of the way.

  “Watch it!” I yell.

  “Sorry, Amanda,” Quentin says. “This thing has a mind of its own, sometimes.”

  “It’s probably smarter than you are, Quentin,” Melissa says.

  Tommy pulls a similar yo-yo out of his pocket, only this one is yellow.

  “How many tricks in a row can you do?” he asks.

  “Let’s find out,” Quentin says.

  He runs out my yard, firing the yo-yo in all directions. Tommy follows him, his own yo-yo swinging and flashing.

  “How immature!” Melissa says.

  She grabs one end of the picnic basket handles.

  “Looks like it’s up to us to lug this thing, Amanda.”

  I take the other end of the handles; together, we heft the basket.

  “I’ll get back at them for this,” Melissa says. “You can count on that.”

  We leave through my back gate and start walking down the gravel road.

  There were supposed to be more houses built across from us, and a sidewalk was actually laid out for them. The houses themselves never got put up because the whole area was turned into a state park last year. Just the overgrown sidewalk remains, running to nowhere along the edge of the woods.

  This is pretty cool, actually. The other side of town has plenty of new houses and a strip mall. But here is more like woodsy countryside. You can have the best of both worlds without going too far. There have been various problems at the park, though, and it’s been shut down a couple times, according to the Clarion newspaper.

  After trudging along the gravel road for a while, we turn onto paved streets.

  “This thing weighs a ton!” Melissa complains.

  “Yeah,” I say, “too bad there isn’t anybody else to help – like Davis, maybe.”

  She ignores my remark.

  We really have too much food, especially heavy fruit. Worst of all, a big metal jug of lemonade hogs up much of the picnic basket space. The handle is broken off the jug, so you can’t carry it very easy by itself.

  I brought powdered donuts, but didn’t put them in the basket for fear they’d get crushed. I tote them in my backpack along with my towel and a few other things.

  The backpack isn’t bad, but the darned picnic basket gets heavier with every step. And it’s so awkward! Who designed these stupid things, anyway?

  Finally, we arrive at Becker Elementary school. As we pass the main doorway, a cold shadow falls across our path. The building looms over us like some cheap horror movie monster. The windows are all dark and empty; the entryway looks like a big, hungry mouth. You can almost hear it talking:

  Just one more week, kids, and then you’ll be back in my power!

  “You don’t scare us,” I say.

  Even so, we start walking faster. Soon we are running, jostling the basket between us. Ka-slosh! Ka-slosh! goes the lemonade with each step.

  3. Playground Mayhem

  Finally, we outdistance the doorway and stop running – out of breath, arms aching. I never thought that I could hate a picnic basket so much.

  Now that the ‘danger’ is past, I feel a bit ridiculous. Melissa probably feels silly, too. As is her style, she covers it up by getting angry.

  “Tommy, Quentin!” she shouts. “Carry this for us. Now!”

  “Yeah!” I yell. “Or we’re gonna stay right here and eat by ourselves.”

  The boys hurry back.

  “Don’t do that,” Tommy says. “We’ll help.”

  “What’s the matter?” Quentin says. “Don’t you like my yo-yo tricks?”

  “They’re just wonderful,” Melissa says. “Now start carrying!”

  Quentin picks up the basket, leaning to o
ne side to balance it as he walks. Tommy goes with him while Melissa and I bring up the rear, shaking the stiffness out of our carrying arms.

  “Here’s a good spot,” Quentin says, after he’s gone only a short distance into the park.

  “Yeah, it’s nice and shady,” Tommy says, “ground’s flat, too. Good work, Quentin.”

  “Thank you, Tommy,” Quentin says, all modest like.

  The boys look proud of themselves, as if they’ve just climbed Mount Everest or something.

  “This is very convenient,” I say. “Don’t want to wear out your yo-yo hand lugging that thing, eh?”

  “That’s right,” Quentin says. “I’d hate to disappoint my fans.”

  Melissa rolls her eyes.

  “If he can find any,” she mutters. “Look at him, Amanda, he must think he’s President Eisenhower.”

  “Yeah,” I say, “and that’s Vice President Nixon standing next to him.”

  This is an interesting comparison. Quentin kind of reminds me of the president – always smiling and confident, a leader type. Tommy is darker and less outgoing, like Nixon.

  “We heard that!” Quentin says. “Just remember this:”

  He and Tommy recite the little chant that made the rounds for the election:

  Ike is in the White House,

  ready to get elected!

  Stevenson’s in the trash can,

  ready to get collected!

  “Oh, please,” Melissa says.

  I make no comment. I mean, I like Ike as much as the next person, but I’m not interested in discussing politics just now.

  We spread the food out on the checkered picnic cloth. We have sandwiches galore – some lunch meat, others peanut butter and jelly – bags of chips and pretzels, fruit, pickles. Not to mention the lemonade and doughnuts. It all looks delicious.

  “This is sure worth all the trouble getting it here, eh Tommy?” Quentin says.

  “Yeah,” Tommy says.

  Everything seems right with the world. Warm sunshine speckles through the shade gaps of the elm trees. The smell of fresh-cut grass fills the air. Even the whirs of cicada bugs sound rather pleasant.

  But before we can eat a bite, a hoard of boys in bright uniforms starts flooding into the playground. They toss around black and white balls, bouncing them off their heads and kicking them along the ground.

  “Soccer!” Quentin cries.

  “Soccer?” Melissa says.

  “Yeah, it’s popular all around the world,” Tommy says. “Now it’s starting to catch on here.”

  Tommy’s family is from Guatemala originally, although he was born here. Still, we generally accept his opinion about things that happen around the world.

  “Why don’t they play baseball like normal boys?” Melissa asks.

  “It’s the coming thing,” Quentin says.

  The thing that comes next is a soccer ball, right into the middle of our picnic lunch, knocking over the lemonade jug.

  “Hey, watch it!” Melissa cries.

  Two boys dressed like human bumble bees in yellow and black striped uniforms dash over.

  “Sorry,” one them says, holding out his hands for the ball.

  Melissa kicks the ball hard, sending it flying to the far reaches of the playground.

  “Wow!” says one of the boys.

  “Don’t mess with her,” the other one says.

  They dash off.

  4. More Intruders

  Quentin jumps up. “Come on, Tommy, let’s see if they need a couple more players.”

  “Yeah!” Tommy gets up, too.

  “Just a minute,” Melissa says. “You guys agreed to come on a picnic with us. Now you’re planning to run off ?”

  “It’ll just be for a little while,” Quentin says.

  “I know how that works,” Melissa says, “first it’s ‘a little while,’ then it’s ‘just a few more minutes’ and then the whole day is gone.”

  “Oh, all right.” Quentin looks sadly out towards the hustling teams. “We’ll stay.”

  That’s Quentin for you, always keeping his word. Though I certainly can’t blame him for wanting to get away from Melissa, as she is being more than the usual crab today.

  Then some really unwelcome intruders arrive.

  “Euu, Ants!” Melissa cries.

  While we were busy with the soccer players, a whole army of big red ants has invaded our picnic. They are crossing the checkered picnic cloth like columns of infantry.

  “Quick, put the food away!” I yell.

  The picnic lunch we so recently spread out just as quickly returns to the basket, leaving the ants clueless. They wave their antennae and snap their pincers with frustration.

  “They don’t look too happy,” Tommy says.

  “An endless terror – a nameless horror!” Quentin intones as we whisk the food away. “Kill one and two take its place.”

  “The Sci-Fi Classic of the Atomic Age!” Tommy chimes in.

  “What are you two babbling about now?” Melissa demands.

  “Them!” Quentin says. “We saw it at the Saturday Matinee a couple weeks ago.”

  “You know, the movie about the giant ants,” Tommy says.

  “That sounds just great,” Melissa says.

  By this time we have the food safely packed away again. The boys stand together and chant:

  “Terror Horror Excitement Mystery – Them!”

  “Oh, please!” Melissa says.

  “No, it’s really cool,” Quentin says. “After the atomic bomb tests in New Mexico, these ants mutate and grew to like twelve feet long.”

  “Yeah,” Tommy says. “They wreck this grocery store and kill a bunch of people just to get at the sugar!”

  “How charming,” Melissa says. “These ones are bad enough, thank you.”

  I’d have to agree. I’m certainly no ant expert, but these things are nasty looking, and quite large – for ants, though not nearly 12 feet. They don’t look happy that they’ve been robbed of their lunch, either. We watch the scrambling around the now empty picnic clothe.

  “This has been a really bad summer for bugs of all kinds,” Quentin says. “Ants, flies, you name it.”

  “You don’t suppose radiation has drifted here from New Mexico?” Tommy says.

  “Could be,” Quentin says. “Or maybe the Russians have sent them.”

  “That’s ridiculous!” Melissa says.

  Tommy keeps the topic alive. “You know, I saw this ant show on TV and – ”

  A soccer ball bounces by us. Tommy kicks it back.

  “We can’t stay here,” I say, “or we’ll be eating soccer ball sandwiches along with our ant snacks.”

  5. A Fateful Decision

  “Let’s pack up and go to the club,” Quentin says. “We can eat there, then go for a swim.”

  Melissa rolls her eyes again. “That would be so uncool. Besides, there’s a big tennis tournament going on today. All the picnic tables will be taken.”

  Quentin shoves his hands into his pockets and looks at the ground. He’s found something interesting there and nudges it with his toe.

  “That’s why I thought we could swim for a while,” Melissa says. “We’d have the whole pool almost to ourselves. Everybody else will be watching the tennis matches.”

  Right, I think, that way you won’t have to worry about your fancy club friends meeting a bunch of low class types like us.

  I say nothing out loud, though.

  A sly little smile spreads across Melissa’s face.

  “I know,” she says, “the state park!”

  “The state park?” Quentin says. “The entrance is over a mile away, then another long walk to the picnic area.”

  “So, what’s your point?” Melissa says. “A couple of strong boys like you can carry a little picnic lunch that far, can’t you? There’s supposed to be good swimming, too, by the Willow Creek picnic ground.”

  “I heard there was a problem at the park,” Tommy says. “The natu
ral resources people are checking it out. The place is supposed to be closed for a while.”

  “You don’t believe everything you hear, do you?” Melissa says.

  “Well ... no,” Tommy says.

  We stand around looking doubtful – everyone except Melissa. We aren’t supposed to go to the state park without adults. I’m not supposed to, anyway. Nobody is willing to be the first to chicken out, though. So, Melissa gets her way, as usual.

  “It’s settled, then,” she says, “let’s go.”

  6. To the State Park

  Soon we are on our way. The boys carry the stuff now, and it irritates them a lot. First Tommy lugs the basket, then Quentin, then Tommy again. They don’t want to do the sensible thing and carry it between them ‘like a couple of girls.’

  Finally, they take out the lemonade jug. One carries it while the other takes the basket, then they switch. Both get lemonade streaks dripping down their T-shirts.

  “I told you I’d get back at them,” Melissa says.

  Things get really bad for Tommy and Quentin when three other boys show up on bikes. I don’t like the looks of them. They seem mean – hood types.

  “Looks like the girls have really got you under control,” one of them says.

  “Yeah,” another one says. “When you’re finished with this, stop by my place and take out the trash.”

  Tommy tries to joke back with them, but Quentin is doing a slow burn.

  “That’s real funny guys,” he says.

  He flips open the picnic basket and begins rummaging around in it.

  “What are you looking for, man?” one of the boys asks.

  “A knuckle sandwich,” Quentin says. “I think you need one.”

  The boy seem to turn a shade paler. Kidding time is obviously over.

  “OK ... well ... see you around, Quentin,” he says.

  The three boys take off in a hurry.

  This is so cool! Even Melissa seems to be impressed.

  “Quentin’s quite a diplomat, all right,” she says.

  “I like a man of few words,” I say.

  We start walking again. The nonstop sound of the cicada bugs is getting on my nerves, though. When you hear their whirring, you know that summer is almost over. Another year of school with all its changes and insecurities will soon begin.

  What teacher will I have? Who else will be in my class? Will another war break out someplace in the world – what will the Russians try next?

  Also, I have the oddest feeling that we are being watched as we walk along.

  Don’t be silly, I tell myself, who would bother watching us – why would anybody waste the time?

  But the feeling won’t go away. Now and then I glance back over my shoulder, but I never see anyone.

  “What’s the problem?” Melissa asks.

  “Oh, nothing,” I say.

  But a few minutes later, I’m looking over my shoulder again. Once I think I spot somebody ducking behind a big elm tree, but I can’t be sure. It’s probably just my ‘overactive imagination,’ like my mom says.

  As far as I can tell, it’s just the four of us and our picnic basket moving slowly through the hot air and the cloud of cicada noise.

  We leave the residential streets and move along the dirt road toward the park entrance. Quentin and Tommy get quieter and quieter. Their laughing and joking is replaced with the misery of lugging the stuff. And not a yo-yo in sight.

  Out here, the cicada droning isn’t quite so bad. Maybe the ugly things like the city trees better than the natural forest. But then a new sound begins – an odd scrabbling noise coming from the underbrush. I step away toward the middle of road.

  “Did you hear that, Melissa?” I say.

  She flashes me a bored look.

  “No, Amanda, I didn’t. How long have you had this ‘hearing things’ problem?”

  That’s a snotty thing to say, even for Melissa. The noise comes again, but I say nothing this time. I can’t be certain, but Melissa might have heard it, too, judging by the way her ears perk up.

  Good, let her figure it out!

  Finally we reach the park entrance. The boys drop their loads and rub their sore hands. A chain blocks the road before us, and a sign on the empty toll booth reads:

  Park Closed Until Further Notice

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