Lifes Coloring Book A column by Suzi Walls for The Daily Herald

As Walzie charged through the door, the sickening sweet smell hit him like a flyswatter on a wasp. He slammed his lunch pail on the counter and leaped the basement stairs two at a time. Stopping just short of the bottom, he surveyed the situation. Slowly, he sat and cradled his head in his hands with overwhelming disappointment. How could this happen? All of his hard work up in … well, let’s just say blown to bits. I guess maybe I need to back up a bit and tell you the beginning of the story.
Long before I picked Walzie up out of the gutter (Although, he claims that it was the other way around.) his beverage of choice had more kick than Diet Mountain Dew. I guess one could still call it “mountain dew”, though. It didn’t matter whether it was brewed with corn, hops, grapes, or dandelion; Walzie was game to try it. But he soon decided that grape was his favorite, and another “get-rich” neon dollar sign flashed above his head.
He thumbed through one of those mail-order fruit catalogs and suddenly, right there on the page, surrounded by those dollar signs, was a heavy-laden grape arbor. That’s it! He’d grow his own grapes and manufacture the sweetest wine this side of Sapsucker Ridge. How hard could it be? Even Lucy did it. He licked the envelope, dropped it in the mail, and waited for his purple treasures to arrive.
During the six-week wait for the UPS delivery, Walzie gathered recipes and instructions from whoever would give theirs up. I can’t say that he was wise to take advice from every wino he met in that gutter, but he claims that at least they knew their stuff.
And so, spring found him hoeing and tilling up fine garden sod and tenderly planting those scraggly vines in nice straight rows. He packed the babies with only the best horse manure – of which he had plenty. He watered them with a concoction of Miracle Grow and white lime. And they grew. The first year was not fruitful, but by year number two – viola, big fat juicy grapes! We’re in the money now!
Walzie happened across a wooden pickle barrel that he knew would work perfectly. He harvested his precious grapes and filled the barrel. Now, who was going to stomp those squishy little devils? Yeah, you guessed it. The Lucy in his life – that other goofy redhead. I kicked off my flip-flops (Notice, I didn’t call them thongs. Didn’t want to confuse anybody.) and Walzie lifted me into the barrel. I sunk to my behind in cold, mushy grapes. I took a step and they squished between my toes like stepping barefoot into cow poo (don’t ask me how I know – I just do). How the heck did Lucy do this?
“Come on, hon,” Walzie coached. “Ya gotta dance on them. Lift those little size 5’s.”
The hillbilly clogging in the barrel lasted until I was nearly thigh-high in juice. Tired, I climbed out brandishing my purple-stained gams.
“Good job, dear,” Walzie praised.
“What’s next?” I huffed.
“We get a jug, pour in the juice, and wait until it ferments. Then we bottle and sell the stuff.”
“Uh, isn’t that illegal?”
“Naw, only during probation.”
“You mean Prohibition?”
“Whatever.”
From his dad, Walzie borrowed a five-gallon glass jug similar to what we buy water in today. He filled it with the grape juice, raisins, a ton of sugar, and yeast. He pounded a cork tightly in the narrow top and caulked it around the edges.
“Are you sure this is right?” I was a little skeptical.
“Hey, old Louie (from the gutter) told me how.”
And Walzie set the jug in the basement.
Now, with his head in his hands and raisins dropping from the basement ceiling, the sweet smell of botched-up success washed those dollar signs from his tear-filled eyes. In fact, I believe that was the day Walzie turned over a new leaf and began buying that green, professionally manufactured Diet Mountain Dew.
Ah yes, the grape arbor? It’s still there, only now it just feeds the deer.

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