art by Shothot Designs
by Tara Barnett
When the first soldier came to taste of Ana's wine, I asked Mama when a man would first taste mine. "Patience, my beautiful daughter," she told me. "Let the wine age, and it will become richer, and stronger than its oak cask." But the first soldier who tasted took my sister Ana away, although her wine was still young and sweet, perhaps because he liked the taste.
It was many years still before a man came to taste of my wine. I had many long days to think, read, and become skilled for the man who would drink of me fully. Every day I seasoned that barrel, breathed in its heady aroma, and adjusted the heat of my father's cellar to best temper my powerful brew. It was my full-time obsession.
When I was born, Mama planted my birth sac at the finest place on our hill, lit by our red sun and glistening at night in the shadow of the four moons. In the ethereal garden of the women, my fruit grew tall over the other girls', bowing towards the closest moon at night. My first home and my family seed grew and flowered and bore fruit, an early and hopeful parallel. The large purple berries shimmered like dewy velvet and were Mama's pride and joy: a promise of grandchildren.
While I was still a girl, I tended my plant like a sick babe, although it was very healthy. It became a spoiled child under my green thumb. It demanded more from me than I could spare, then shrank into distemper when I would not give it. So I learned to give myself completely to this plant, such that I might someday have a proud husband.
When I harvested my plant, I did not drop a single fruit. I cut it down with Mama's silver shears and caught the thorny branches in my hands, such that they might never touch the ground. I twisted each fruit off its vine and smeared its skin with my blood, which gave my fruit the taste of iron. A man can taste devotion in the cask, even after many years.
Mama and I constructed my proud drink before many jealous wives and daughters whose plants were not so strong. I had more than enough fruit to fill the great cask my father had built for me. We gave it just a little sweet rose, to draw in a man, then left its lusty nature alone. When the fruit is good, it needs no spice. Mama said it was the finest wine she had ever seen made.