Screw That Squash
I asked Don, “Does it seem like the world is leaning this week, or is it just me?” I just feel like I’ve battled rip tides all week, a short week at that because of Memorial Day.
I went outside to look for solace in the garden. Ok, so it's not a garden. It's a four-by-seven-foot plot, a tribute to my daddy, who was a good farmer. I am still raw sometimes and wanted a place that I could water with tears and laugh at memories.
It works out well: weed pulling and crying go hand in hand. The pinnacle of my garden is the single eggplant that I snuck in amidst the Alcea and Phlox for fear of the HOA police, who will write you up for a dandelion. The sun is dipping in the west, and I am feeling better about the day’s end. I ran my hand over the rosemary bush to release its aroma and inhaled, doing the same with the basil and sage. Then, I saw it—the curled up leaves on the eggplant. I can't kill this eggplant, my tribute to my daddy, the master gardener! I ran to cut the sprinkler on.
As the water dripped onto its first purple blossoms, I was reminded of how I could call my daddy for anything and he would have the answer. This eggplant was a reminder of one of my distress calls to daddy while living in NC. We had two long rows of brilliant green squash plants, bright with blooms, and then, the flowers just dropped off, no veggies in sight. I called Daddy.
"Do you see bees around them?" Daddy asked.
"Nope, not one. There's a tobacco field nearby, and I think they just sprayed chemicals," I answered.
"Okay, then they need pollinating," he said matter of factly.
I started searching for a pen, thinking he was going to tell me to go to a hardware store and buy a box of bees or some magic farmer potion. But, uh-uh.
"Nae—you've got to screw 'em," he said.
"Well (insert audible gasp), how do we do that, daddy?" I asked.
"You take a Q-tip, you go out and find the female and male squash," he instructed.
WTH, I didn't know squash had genders. He explained how to determine.
"Now, you put the Q-tip in the male, and then put it into the female." I shake my head, blushing 300 miles away.
Okay, so I hang up and go into the garden with my Q-tips. Within five minutes, my ADD is directing me to do something else as I have grown weary of checking which is male and which is female, and screw them all. I am positive that I now have gender-bender squash. A week later, I peeked under the massive plants to find lots of tiny squash growing. I couldn't wait to call daddy. I could hear him grinning on the phone.
So, back to my memory garden. I tell this single eggplant that it MUST live. I left the sprinkler on the eggplant while I was called once again to another fascination. I intended to come back in a spell—the spell lasted all night.
When I opened the door the next morning in my gown, I wailed, "No!" The yard was a puddle. I was sick to my stomach. The sprinkler sound on the wet concrete will remain with me forever. I walked to the driveway, picked up the swollen Moultrie newspaper, and looked down the road. Two blocks of my neighborhood have been watered. Don pulled his truck out of driveway, and water rolled out of the back of his truck. It was the final straw for the week. I broke down crying.
I called the Charleston water department. Sally was sympathetic. “Mrs. Brabham, I can give you an estimate of how much water you used if you go outside and lift the plate and take a reading,” she said.
“Okay, but I will have to call you back. I am in my gown, and I don't need to draw anymore attention from my neighbors this morning,” I explained.
I changed and went out the door, my slippers saturated and sloshing as I crossed the yard. I can't lift the waterworks plate. I call Sally back to tell her I couldn't lift it, she made some nice suggestions, and I resign myself to the error.
I now consider this a true heirloom squash, possibly rare and worth a lot of frigging money—however much the water bill determines. But, somehow, I can't help but think that somewhere over that moon and beyond the galaxy, my Daddy is laughing, “Screw that eggplant, Nae.”