• Gay Kerry Halseth

Silence of the Yams

Updated: 6 days ago

There was an old woman, Lucinda Merribelle, who lived on a farm in Michigan north of the 45th parallel. On the peninsula that reaches up around west of Grand Traverse Bay, 125 acres of sand, hills and clay. Lucinda was a master gardener extraordinaire, she raised all manner of fruits, flowers and vegetables there, peonies, pansies, poppies and sweet peas, sugar peas, cherries, cherry tomatoes and pears. The success in her produce was due to her great care, the sunshine, the rain and fantastic clean air, also her horse Pat, a rickety mare, as a source of manure no other horse could compare.

With Pattie hitched to a plow and Ms. Merribell in her huge garden bonnet, the rows they did furrow, a veritable gardening sonnet. Each spring saw her planning her beds with an eye to esthetics of foliage what colors would lie, turnips with tulips, cabbage with beets, daisies with carrots, all visual treats of texture and taste. A golden lace of hay they’d lay to keep the ground moist, keep weeds away.

Throughout summer the garden was lovingly tended, guarded, encouraged, fertilizer blended to yield the most succulent juiciest fruits, fragrant strawberries, broccoli, eggplant and gooseberries. Fairy wind chimes played gently as breezes swaddled the lush yield of Lucinda’s labor. As temperatures dropped and summer heads into fall, sunflower, hollyhock and corn all grow tall, grapes hanging burgundy-green on the vine, each crop looking one step from wine.

Wendy, Lucinda’s next-door neighbor, would lean over her fence on the swinging gate and watch Lucinda with great twisted anticipation of harvest. The lust in her mind was already ripe to stew the tomatoes along with her tripe.

Lucinda would gather all her darlings for display at Farmers Market in Suttons Bay, hoping her children would find loving families to nourish with fresh lettuce, beans, potatoes and kale for sale. Alongside Millie selling varieties of honey, the women exchanged their summers’ labor for money. Wendy was there with a big basket brimming, trimming the dead heads from daisies and swatting butterflies furiously as she pinched, pulled and plucked at the produce in a nasty way that made Lucinda wince. More than once Wendy would intentionally bruise an antique Maiden Blush and muse, “Thin skin.” to the chagrin of old Kilcherman, who felt compelled to hide the Northern Spy, rather than see it end up in Wendy’s apple pie.

It was appalling to see her peel husk from corn, with a gleeful scorn, toot,

“Any worms?”

For it was Wendy’s way to look for the worst in the world be it other women, their work, the weather. And whether it be sunny or rain, either way for Wendy it caused pain when others displayed the ability to sustain and produce produce.

Some people dislike veggies and will not eat them; others selectively pick at a plate of peas or asparagus hiding their dislike under their ham or a bun. Wendy’s hatred was very deep rooted, her disdain did not stop at merely not eating the offending fruit, she took pleasure beating, mashing and squashing with her boot any unpleasant crop that cropped up in her kitchen.

To home from the market grasping her basket loaded with plunder and prey, Wendy could ponder the prospects awaiting the stewing and brewing melee.

For the potatoes she had plans, she would peel their skins, boil them till tender and add olive oil, then mash them and mash them to a fine puree, those would be for dinner today.

For the carrots it would be slice dice and sauté in butter and with none other than utter contempt as she heated the stove and with much more than malice, she thought to herself, “These arrogant carrots deserve this dismembered destiny.”

As raw celery she mangled quite well with her jaws, the pumpkin made her wish she had claws to tear at the flesh with one swipe; she dreamed this as she wiped the knife blade clean and dug the innards out with a scoop, for pie.

Wryly she eyed the broccoli, not today, but maybe tomorrow, she planned to rip off their heads, the sweetest parts and along with sliced wild mushrooms and fresh eggs make quiche tarts.

Wendy thought, “The peas must be crushed!”

She rushed with a mallet and finely minced shallot to the soup tureen and inwardly beaming she imagined them screaming as she turned the boiling mush with a spoon.

The roses, how dare they bloom, their pastel petals fragrant, a flagrant slap at Wendy so to make potpourri, she’d hang them upside down to dry in tortured bouquets.

Lucinda Merribell knew very well what Wendy was up to. Quick she made tracks with her well sharpened ax, moments later she was rapping on the door to Wendy’s kitchen.

When Wendy opened the door wide, she stood horrified as Lucinda raised…………a fat fresh chicken and enticed, “Supper for two?”

Together they cackled and chuckled as they plucked and stuffed the bird into the oven. It was beastly gruesome the way this twosome devoured their dinner that night. It would be nice to say, they suffered some way other than indigestion, perhaps ironically and comically choking on the pits of some fruit or veggie.

They both lived to be very old and the way it is told, they were healthy and spry to the end.

So go ahead and mash your yams, shred the lettuce and make salad and stew too. Eat them raw and steamed, dried and creamed, baked, flaked or fried but it can’t be denied, you must……….EAT YOUR FRUITS AND VEGGIES!!!!!!!

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