The cherries were dark red and plump. They hung in large clusters, gleaming in the afternoon sun. Two tousle-headed boys, dressed in ragged, open-necked shirts and short trousers, stopped in the street and gazed in awe at nature’s bounty. “It’s a good year for cherries,” they nodded wisely. As they stood there feasting their eyes, they both had the same thought running through their minds. “How can we get some of these beauties?” They could taste them now. They imagined popping the plump red fruit into their mouths, the first crunchy bite, the explosion of taste and juices, searching for the stone with their tongues, and then stuffing more and more into their mouths, this was the only way get full satisfaction.
The Baba hobbled into the garden and waved her stick at them. “You can keep your eyes off my cherries you little monkeys, I’ve got a dog you know.” She hadn’t, but she thought it would frighten them away. She hadn’t reckoned with local knowledge. The boys knew every dog in the neighbourhood – the friendly ones, the snappy ones, the vicious ones, and they knew she didn’t have one at all. They giggled, thumbed their noses at her, and ran away, as the old lady brandished her stick again, shouting at them.
How could they get some cherries, it would be difficult to climb the old tree? They could get a plastic bucket from home and one of them could get up in the tree and throw down, the other could collect. They’d soon get a bucket full. But how to climb that tree? Soon they were occupied with other games, digging worms to go fishing, and playing with the other kids in the street.
As the afternoon sun began to dip beneath the horizon, they wandered home past the garden again. They had almost forgotten the cherries. Gazing with envy at the tree they could hardly believe their eyes. A small wooden ladder was leaning against the tree, obviously the old lady was going to collect the cherries. “Hey “said Vasco, “let’s go and get a bucket, as soon as it starts to get dark we’ll shin the fence and get up that tree”. “We’ll soon get a bucket full and she won’t even notice.
They ran home as fast as they could. “Where are you boys going with that bucket?” Maika asked. “Oh, just to get some worms for fishing tomorrow, dusk is the best time you know”. “Well don’t be long it’s getting dark, and I’ve got a stew on the stove”.
The boys crept down the street and gave each other a leg over the fence. Once inside they became a little frightened. Perhaps she did have a dog. Perhaps she was waiting for them with her stick? “Come on don’t be a wimp,” said Mitko. Climbing the little ladder he was soon among the cherries, he could see the old lady’s house, and all was quiet, her sitting room light was on, so she was probably watching television. Snatching and grabbing at the nearest cherries in a hurry, he was frightened, but began throwing down the fruits. Charlie picking the gleaming cherries out of the grass, and soon the bucket was filling up. A few more and it would be full.
Suddenly the beam of a powerful torch was on them, and the old lady was shouting, “I’ll have the police on you, you naughty boys.” Mitko almost ran down the ladder and fell the last few steps in fright. Vasco dropped the bucket and ran for the fence – they both scrambled over in disarray, their hearts pounding with fear, until once more they were in the safety of the street.
A croaking old laugh came from behind them. Turning round they could see the old lady with the bucket full of cherries in her hand, her face alight with mischief. “Thank you boys,” she purred, “At my age I couldn’t climb that ladder anymore and I didn’t want to waste all those beautiful cherries!”