Sarah James/Leavesley – “Strawberry Fields Forever”

Strawberry Fields Forever

It’s the hottest summer so far on Kim’s record. Mom tries to coax Claire’s sister, but Kim refuses to come and pick your own when she can be hanging out with her new boyfriend, Adam. Claire doesn’t know if Mom’s asked Dad, but it ends up just Mom and her.

Claire’s never been picking before. The field stretches away into the distance with row after row of green plants, loose straw and glinting red. Mom tells her not to eat any until they’ve got them home and washed. But Claire can’t stop popping whole strawberries in her mouth and squeezing their sweetness free with her tongue and teeth. Juice runs down her face and stains her fingers.

Mom looks at her, then smiles.

Back home, Mom washes the rest, cuts them in half and offers some to Claire’s dad and sister.

“Later,” Dad says, disappearing into the garage with a can of lager to listen to The Beatles while he fails to fix their broken toaster.

The next morning, his untouched bowl is still on the side. The strawberries’ white-cored hearts have turned warm and squashy. The whole kitchen smells of burnt toast and sickly sweetness.

Sarah James/Leavesley is a poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer. Her latest collection is Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic (Verve Poetry Press, 2022) and she is currently working on a novel(la)-in-flash. Website:

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