Lottery numbers were picked that year in July for the draft. He was old enough to be in the group so his number was drawn. Now, all he could do was wait to see if he’d be called or not.
It was a long, hot summer. The relentless sun beat down unmercifully. The air was wet with humidity, like a sponge dripping. One day blended into the next while the muggy, foreboding air hung thick. Even the occasional breeze gave no relief.
One day while working in the backyard garden his mother turned to him. “That raspberry patch in the far corner needs a lot of help,” she said. “It’s full of weeds. I want you to clean it out.”
He took one look and agreed with her. It was a mess.
“Okay, Mom,” he said.
He removed the dead canes and added them to the compost pile. He weeded and weeded and weeded some more, and then used a pitchfork to turn over and work the ground. He put up chicken wire and covered it with cheesecloth to keep the birds away. He added bags of compost and horse manure to enrich the soil.
With a new lease on life, the raspberry plants flourished and turned green. Flowers formed on the canes and bees arrived. Butterflies too, yellow swallowtails, and red admirals. Then raspberries formed on the stalks, juicy red fruit, plump and ripe and a joy to behold. To him, it was a garden of pure delight.
In the evenings he’d pick some of them.
“Here, Mom,” he’d say after he’d added a couple of scoops of ice cream. “Here’s a bowl for you.”
He’d fix a bowl for himself, and then they’d sit in the backyard in the twilight on old wooden chairs. They’d look at the raspberry patch, marveling at the bees and butterflies circling around, and watch as long shadows crept softly across that special corner of their world. They’d talk quietly together while savoring their freshly ripened raspberries still warm from the sun in spite of the ice cream. They’d chat about what they’d done that day in the garden. By mutual agreement, they put aside the reality of the war ever looming. Instead, they enjoyed their time together, watching the twilight fade to the west and darkness settle in.
After a while, the stars came out and the raspberry patch faded into the darkness, and their fine day of working in the garden would finally come to a close. It was then time for the two of them to stand and go inside. A new day was just around the corner. So was the draft. Would he be called to serve or not? He didn’t know.
But what he did know was he had a garden to tend, and a bountiful raspberry patch to care for. It was something to look forward to. There were also more raspberries to pick, too. Of that much he was certain.
Tomorrow was another day. He was looking forward to it.