Doug's dad, who is never given a name other than Father, takes Doug and Tom out to the woods to pick fox grapes and wild strawberries.Doug's having some pretty trippy olfactory experiences as they ride to the forest in the car. According to him, it smells "as if a great and nameless orchard had grown up overnight beyond the hills." Doug's a little hyperbolic like that.
He also thinks he hears a stranger laughing from the woods.
Doug and Tom stop elbowing each other in the back seat and get out of the car with their blue tin pails when they arrive in the middle of the forest.
Doug's dad starts telling them to watch out for bees, but Doug's off in his own world, looking at ferns, and his dad tells him to wake up.
Actually, Doug thinks, they're surrounded… and his dad is somehow in on it and isn't letting on. He gets all freaked out and starts trying to figure out what's surrounding them.
Doug's dad is in total forest-reverie mode, talking about how lacy the ferns are and the "waterfall of birdsong" and "the bee-fried air." Hippie.
Doug, in the meantime, is waiting for this terrifying unseen force to attack them. He thinks the thing is running at him, and he's getting truly freaked, but then his dad and Tom plunge their hands into a bush full of fox grapes and the spell is broken for the moment.
They pick a bucket of grapes and strawberries and sit down to eat deviled-ham sandwiches for lunch. Doug's still tripping on the idea of this Big Unseen Creepy Thing (we'll call it the BUCT) and trying to remind himself that, despite his suddenly heightened senses, sometimes a deviled-ham sandwich is just a deviled-ham sandwich.
As Tom goes off on a bunch of statistics—Tom's a bit of a statistics dork, see, and he loves to talk about how many baseball games he's seen and how many times he's brushed his teeth and how many comic books he's read—Doug realizes the BUCT doesn't actually want to hurt him, but that if he waits, it will come back.
They finish eating and go off hunting for more berries. Tom keeps talking. Doug decides Tom is also part of the BUCT. (If you're a little, "huh?" here, it's okay; we were too. Bradbury's like that—it's cool if you occasionally don't know what's real and what's not.)
Doug wants to tell Tom to shut up, because he's still rambling about how many naps he's taken, but he knows that if he yells, the BUCT will hear him.
He bends over to pick berries instead, and Tom jumps on him, because he's being an annoying little brother.
Doug and Tom start beating each other up. Tom punches Doug in the mouth and draws blood, then Doug grabs Tom and holds him down; Doug has his eyes closed.
Animal symbolism alert: Doug sees leopards running behind his eyes.
When he opens his eyes, "everything, absolutely everything, [is] there."
Doug suddenly realizes he's alive. Which would seem sort of, well, duh, except that this is one of those major epiphanies for our friend Doug, and it's going to be what the rest of the book is about, so it's important.
Doug is all excited because he's twelve years old and is only just now figuring out that being alive is awesome. He's all psyched because he might even live to be "threescore and ten," or, in modern language, forty. (Remember, we didn't have antibiotics until 1945, so people thought making it to forty was a pretty sweet deal back in 1928.)
All of a sudden, Doug wants to experience everything, so as not to waste any of his alive time. He starts with carrying the buckets back to the car and dorking out on the fact that they're heavy and he can feel it.
As he walks, he realizes that it takes half an hour for the feeling of the grass, roots, and rocks that touched his body when Tom knocked him down to fade from his skin.
He also realizes—or thinks he realizes—that his dad brought him to the woods just to realize he's alive.
Bradbury ends the chapter with ellipses instead of a period. He'll do this a lot. It's that whole hazy summer memory thing he's trying to get across.