The Big Orange One

Because there isn't much of an economy in Nowhere folks make do with hunting and fishing (poaching, if you are Cousin Junior and Bump Dion), ranching, and gardening.

Not farming. Gardening. There isn't enough flat, rock-free, treeless ground in Nowhere to farm, so folks garden. Anywhere they can. Any way they can. Often in discarded yeast drums from The Bloated Toad Brewery.

Mother Pearl, for example, gardens on the second-floor porch of The Whistling Chicken Cafe. And the things she grows. . .

Pumpkins, mostly. Big pumpkins. Huge pumpkins. Gigantic pumpkins.

Ugly pumpkins.

Hideous pumpkins.

Horrific pumpkins.

Great blobs of orange, weighing one, two, three, four hundred pounds.

Of course there are reasons for Mother Pearl's efforts. The residue in the discarded yeast drums from the brewery, and her secret pumpkin fertilizer, made of things so disgusting and foul no one would think to ask what the ingredients are.

Now despite their appearance Mother Pearl takes great pride in her produce. Mostly because they take Grand Prize at the Obscure County Fair.

Until this year, that is.

Looking back I suppose things went bad from the start.

Mother Pearl, as noted, like others in town, does her gardening in the drums and barrels from the brewery. In previous years Mother Pearl went to great lengths to make sure the drums and barrels were cleaned out. This year, though, she skipped that step.

Which may go to explain the product resulting.

Now Mother Pearl puts her barrel on the second floor porch of The Whistling Chicken Cafe for a reason: It's perfect. Perfect light, perfect conditions, perfect everything. (The rain gutter drains directly into the barrel, keeping the soil and fertilizer within wet.)

So Mother Pearl didn't rinse the barrel as well as she should have. So Mother Pearl didn't rinse the barrel at all this year.

Which may explain why, at first, nothing happened when she planted her seed.

A week passed, then two. No signs of life in the drum, and Mother Pearl cursing under her breath for not rinsing the drum. Three weeks, then four. Nothing. Mother Pearl resigned herself to the fact this year she wouldn't have an entry for the fair, and someone from Obscure winning Grand Prize would result.

Until one day, that is, after a long rain in the night. A rain that soaked and drenched everything.

Mother Pearl arrived to The Whistling Chicken Cafe to open for business, Cordwainer Cuckle waiting impatiently for his first cup of bad coffee. Mother Pearl, as she unlocked the cafe door, was exchanging pleasantries with Cordwainer, when a large rain drop plummeted from the upper floor.

It was then she looked up.

Up to the second-floor porch of the cafe where the drum with her seed was. She gasped with delight. Snaking its way down over the overhang was a vine. A thick, green vine.

"Mother Pearl--" began Cordwainer.

"Hush," said Mother Pearl, going inside quickly. "Or I won't clean the grease trap."

She quickly rushed to the second floor, and out onto the porch. Another squeal of delight. Her pumpkin plant had appeared, seemingly overnight, sporting a dozen or so strong vines. Vines that sported several dozen small blossoms, each representing a potential pumpkin.

Mother Pearl, educated in such matters, quickly removed all but a few of the blossoms, and hacked off all but one of the vines.

The vine that first caught her attention.

The vine that slithered and twisted like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, tempting Adam and Eve with its moves and fruit-bearing promises.

Every day after that Mother Pearl made sure to check on her plant, adding her secret fertilizer regularly, nipping blossoms when they appeared, and coaxing the vine to produce.

A week passed, then two. The blossoms got bigger and bigger, but offered no indication of an actual pumpkin.

Three weeks passed, then four. Some of the blossoms Mother Pearl had not removed began to wither and brown.

Once more Mother Pearl's spirits began to sag. If only she had clean the drum this year.

Then, once more, another long rain in the night.

And once more, Mother Pearl arrived to the cafe to be delighted.

A pumpkin. A pumpkin where a blossom once was.

It wasn't much of a pumpkin. Not really. Just a withered, knobby-looking orange thing the size of a baseball at the end of the vine, that continued to try and work its way off the overhang, down the porch post.

Once more Mother Pearl set forth to nurse her effort. If she had a pumpkin at last she was going to, by god, have an entry for the county fair.

An award-winning entry, to be more precise.

Caring for her plant one day Mother Pearl decided something: The reason the pumpkin wasn't doing much was because of the vine. The vine that kept trying to grow off the porch and down to the ground below. If the vine were trained, Mother Pearl decided, the energy otherwise expended on its wanderings would go instead to the pumpkin, which would no doubt grow.

So she fixed the vine to the railing of the porch.

And the pumpkin grew.

And grew.

And grew.

Becoming a big pumpkin.

A huge pumpkin.

A gigantic pumpkin.

An ugly pumpkin.

A hideous pumpkin.

A horrific pumpkin.

A great blob of orange.

[The entire story is available for purchase. Please specific Catalog No. 'F001-003'.]

Copyright © James C. Hess 2007. All Rights Reserved.