“Lazy boys eat bitter leaves,” his grandmother scolds him gently as she rinses the saw-shaped greens he’d hurriedly gathered for their salad. Wanting to please, yet anxious to get back to the golden field of dandelion, he smiles sheepishly as he inches past the kitchen stove and toward the door.
Once outside, he runs quickly past the old wooden garden bench where last night’s rain filled a bucket he’d left sitting there. Here, next to the old bench, the earth is still damp and the moist tongues of the dandelions are juicy and lush. He immerses himself in the field of lion’s manes of gold. With every breath their bitter scent summons his saliva. He picks a flower and watches the milk pearl from the walls of its hollow stem. He picks another. Carefully, he matches the stem to the end of the first. It fits. Pick, match. Pick, match. As he continues building his pipe-like structure, the buzzing of insects around him drowns out the sound of cars and the people, and the barking dogs. The boy submerges one end of his pipeline in the bucket of water on the garden bench. He sucks on the other and spits out the milky, bitter water. A smile steals into his face now as the water continues to flow – a thin but steady stream. He’s done it. He sits and watches with the silent contentment only children possess.
When his grandmother calls him inside to eat, he knows the salad will be bitter because the leaves he’d gathered were too old and tough.