Joy Hellard, Writing Guild Submission
When I was eight, my family purchased a small Kentucky farm. In my mother’s opinion, the ownership of land included the solemn and sacred vow of growing a home garden. At season’s end, the preserving and canning of all vegetables was also mandatory. All summer long my family was held hostage by ruthless legumes and roots. As the designated gatherer, I became a slave to this vegetarian tyranny. My histrionic groans filled the garden rows as I harvested the prolific crops.
Angry red tomatoes screamed to be picked at the peak of perfection. Slime green peppers waved poisonously from the vines. Like a Biblical plague, millions of beans sprouted overnight to torment me in my martyrdom. Adding to my misery were the worms that squished disgustingly under my bare feet. Angry bees, interrupted from industrious pollination, bombarded me like insectoid kamikaze pilots.
At the approach of fall, I gleefully watched the foliage wither. Conversely, my mother, horrified at this pound upon pound of destruction, marshalled a defense. Our kitchen became a vegetable nightmare. Bushel upon bushel of reds, greens, and yellows stewed and writhed in gigantic pots. The noxious concoction flowed endlessly from stove to jars. Sharp acrid smells zoomed menacingly around the kitchen and overtook the house. Abandoning any hope against this malevolence, I fled outdoors. Far too soon, the air grew cold and darkness fell forcing me back into the house. Catching a potent whiff of the “Frankenstonian” creation, I knew I had entered the very bowels of “vegetable hell”.
This “MIX” was my mother’s final desperate blending of the remaining produce. The atmosphere of the house hung heavy with the rancid odors of the brew. The furniture, the rugs, and even the curtains were coated in a layer of odorous sediment. Our house reeked with the disgusting stench. My entire olfactory system was under attack! Breathing shallowly, I climbed into my favorite – now defiled – chair. Exercising self-control and remaining prudently silent, I switched on the TV. However, the potency of the fumes danced and squirmed in front of my favorite show. My fogged brain succumbed to the toxic substance and words flew from my mouth. This building anger from my summer of servitude erupted as I yelled, “That’s the worst stuff I’ve ever smelled!”
I rapidly found the use of poor judgement in the presence of an exhausted parent can be explosive. I further realized that not all of my senses were deadened by the foul and pernicious miasma. In fact, I discovered the “south end” of my anatomy was in perfect working order and alarmingly sensitive. Afterwards, I was banished to my bedroom to reflect on my ill-chosen words. I fell asleep knowing that daybreak brought with it the lingering aroma of “the mix” but also my mother’s forgiveness.