This week’s prompt from the Carrot Ranch is of a vegetable kind.
August 19, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes onions. It can be the main event or a spicy side to your flash. Think of the impact of onions — teary eyes, dragon-breath, indigestion. How can an onion add a twist, reveal a character or sabotage a perfect day? Have fun!
Oddly so far as I recall this is the first vegetable prompt and it isn’t a carrot. Go figure!
Onions, if memory serves, were one of three vegetables Dad considered to be his ‘bankers’ when it came to the Hordle Fruit and Veg competition at the end of the summer. The others were his runner beans – a sure fire winner – and his marrows.
I am a little competitive (huh? You kidding me? Ok, I’m VERY competitive) and dad was no different. To have a ‘Good Show’ and earn bragging rights to last the long digging months of the autumn and spring you needed
consistent application of tactics
and a genteel form of sledging.
Sledging, if you don’t know it, is where one sports team tries to undermine the confidence of the other through badinage or verbal abuse – mental disintegration. In Hampshire, circa 1972, swearing was frowned upon and deliberate cheating beyond the imagination of dad and his contemporaries – that’s to say, it’s not that it didn’t happen, just no one would believe it possible. Instead we had ‘Your soil looks a bit dry; hope your [state vegetable] isn’t suffering’ or ‘I’m surprised that your [state vegetable] haven’t grown much; did you try something different?’
Dad plotted. At a minimum he had to place with each of his top three and win with one or the garden shed became his outer darkness and a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. After he was as sure as he could be he was on track (not that he ever admitted as much) then it was all about dislodging one of his rivals from their expected podium finishes. He had his moments – ‘succulent leeks’ – a second – 1971; crisp and pert French beans – tied first – 1974 and his own particular highlight, a highly commended cos in the drought summer of 1976.
We lived off the land, back then. Once we kept rabbits with a view to having our own meat supply but no one wanted to kill them – it didn’t help they were named Fiver and Hyacinthlay after characters in Watership Down. I think mum did the business eventually – dad was far too squeamish – and that was the end of that experiment.
I suppose, given this background, the pumpkin battle between Harry’s mum and Mrs Desiree Potts in Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle has a certain autobiographical truth to it (sorry: that was a cheap, almost egregious, plug).
So this week, we are back with Mary and Rupert and Paul.
Know your onions
‘Two onions please, Penny.’ Paul waited. ‘That’s disappointing.’
‘They’re all shrivelled. Why, dad?’
Paul shrugged. ‘Don’t know. I did the same last year and they were huge. Nature’s always throwing up surprises, not all good.’
Mary thanked Rupert, her half-brother and closed her phone. He was trying so hard to find her lost sister. She’d underestimated him. When they met, after she realised her father had had an affair, she’d hated him. He seemed condescending and untrustworthy. But he wasn’t, just unsure. They were both victims of their father’s selfishness. Sometimes life throws up surprises, not all bad.
Here are the earlier episodes if you would like to catch up with Mary and the others.