Mariachi music resounded throughout the apple orchard late one hot summer. Andrew Meyers smiled as he reached up and twisted a ripe red apple from its stem and placed it in the wicker basket between himself and his sister Bailey.
"Dad must be in a good mood."
She snorted with amusement.
The fiesta blared out of a tangerine tiny house with blood orange trim close to the orchard. Steven Meyers dropped down into his rocking chair on the porch and eased back against it with a creak. This was where he could survey the apple orchards, or if he so pleased, harvest blackberries from the brambles behind the small structure.
The Meyers had lived on this plot of land about two years. When Penny Meyers succumbed to the cancer she battled over a year, Steven Meyers could not stand to remain in their hometown. He purchased a tiny house, packed his six children and their cat, and crossed the United States with multiple stops along the way in hopes of putting down roots somewhere.
When they reached California, they started to attend church in the area. The Zabalas welcome them sincerely, and when they learned in their conversations that they had traveled across the country and sought a place to live permanently, they proposed the Meyers park their house somewhere on their ranch, which was over a thousand acres.
"We have more than we can take on," Amy Zabala explained to them. "You can stay on a section of the plot. All we ask is that you help harvest whichever crops are on the section you choose. We can pay you to do this. Right now, we need more hands involved."
And so, Steven Meyers picked the apple orchard section. His two eldest children, at fifteen and fourteen, were able to harvest with him. Right now, the two shook their heads and laughed.
"That eccentric Steven Meyers, at it again," Andrew mused.
"And his house of kids and crazy colorful paintings," Bailey added.
A breeze carried some of the heat away. Dragonflies darted overhead.
"Well, our baskets are packed. Might as well get them to the farmhouse and then eat lunch."
The children wound their way out of the orchard and delivered the baskets to the main house to be processed and sold. Then the two started down the path and across the property to their tiny house.
Steven Meyers rocked in his chair with a cup of creamy something. He raised his cup to greet his children. "Come have lunch! Be sure to get yourselves a cup of milk."
The children stepped into the house and crossed the living area to the kitchen. Andrew pulled open the refrigerator and reached toward a carton of milk. When he examined the label, he cringed.
"This is not milk."
"Yes, it is!"
"Dad," Andrew spun around and shook the carton a little, "you cannot milk an almond."
"Where is everyone else?" Bailey asked as she looked around for their younger siblings. All of the sudden, the plaid sheet over the couch was thrown aside and revealed nine-year-old Megan.
"Sick. But Jesse and Leah should be back soon."
By the time Andrew and Bailey cut themselves chunks out of a BLT sub and seated themselves on the porch, the blond twins arrived and declared that they had picked two more baskets of apples than their older brother and sister. Then they cut themselves and Megan sections of the BLT, and all five children seated themselves on the porch with their orange tabby Siesta.
Jesse swirled an opaque cup and breathed in the aroma of cherry Kool-Aid. He sneaked a glance over his shoulder to make sure his dad had not caught on. Leah crunched into a massive slice of watermelon. Bailey picked the tomato out of her sandwich and threw it around the corner of the house when Steve had tipped his head back to gulp the rest of his almond milk. Megan burped. Andrew sipped his cup of almond milk and cleared his throat.
"This is not milk."
"Shut up and drink it."
He swirled it around and tried another sip. Ahead, a peacock and peahen pecked the ground for bugs.