I was going to pick out another of the random title prompts from a few weeks back, but I looked at my calendar to check the date, and saw a picture of my guinea pig, Kevin, with a huge carrot from my friend Mo’s garden last year. It was a good prompt! The piece is 990 words. Check Facebook #koolkevin for regular pictures of Kevin.
Daucus Carota Giganticus (Gigantic carrot)
There was only so much one could do to tackle a garden this overgrown. Amelia sat back on the folding picnic chair, grabbed the tail of her loose shirt and wiped the sweat off her face. Then wiped again as the next wave gushed forth. She was unfit, and unused to gardening.
The only thing this lovely cottage lacked was a stable block. Two ponies, a tack and feed room, and she’d have exactly what Jill and her mother had in the books she’d adored. Still, did, she found as she snuggled down to read the first one as she unpacked boxes of belongings that had done time in her parent’s loft before they had to clear it last year. Her share of the sale of their house had given her the means to escape. Now here she was, wondering whether she had really thought through the demands of a two-bedroom country cottage versus a neat, serviced, city apartment.
Animals. She finally had both space and time to care for them. She wondered whether the two guinea pigs she’d brought home from the animal rescue last week could tackle the grass if she let them out on it. Maybe not. Maybe they’d disappear and she’d never see them again. That would be a disaster. They were so cute, and although very shy, had let her pick them up this morning. It felt wonderful to hold such a little life in her hands, and set it on her lap, feeding it bits of cucumber and celery, and stay still when it nosed her fingers for more.
She surveyed the result of the last hour. The dent in the overgrown grass might become a lawn again. A pile of brambles stuck out of her new plastic bucket. The rest of her tools had been her father’s. She wondered if he would approve their use to dig another vegetable garden, to carry on the tradition of his weekends on his allotment.
She creaked herself out of the chair, a second wind to clear to the patch at the side today.
Another ten minutes saw her find a board at the edge of the overgrown lawn. A raised bed, perhaps? She tackled the edge with her shears, scaring frogs from the undergrowth, and getting angry looks from somnolent toads. The board stopped, but it had turned a corner. Three feet along it sent her into nettles, so she returned to the other end, turned another corner and stopped at a large prickly, purple-flowered thistle. Careful of the bees joyfully feeding from it, she backed away and considered her discovery. Definitely had vegetables in it. This feathery stalked monstrosity was fennel, judging from the smell.
She grabbed the small spade and set to digging. She could clear it and start again. The fennel stayed for now, so she could save the seeds for cooking. Other straplike leaves had long, long roots and spent flowerheads. Could the guinea pigs eat the leaves? How would she know whether they were poisonous? She stepped up onto the bed and pushed forward to take out more rampant vegetation.
Tiring, she decided that one more plant could go before she stopped for the day. A large white flowerhead, held aloft on strong slender stalks displaying lacy leaves like the wayside weeds, towered over her. Bracing herself for the last challenge of the day, she sank her spade in beside it.
The shoulders of the orange-red root were the size of her bucket. She bent down to smell it, then scratched the surface. The distinctive scent of carrot excited her nostrils and her salivary glands. This would make the most fantastic supper – buttered, with some risotto – and maybe soup for days. She carefully circled the root, pressing the vegetation at the back of it against the thistle and nettles that spilled over from the wall behind.
The hole got bigger, and more carrot was revealed.
At two foot down, she wondered whether she had done more than enough for the day.
At three feet down, she could get her hands around the tapered root. How did it manage to balance? When she looked up, she realised the hole she was in. She might only be three feet down, but there was another foot of earth on the surface. She let the spade lie against the side, pushed up on it, and grabbed hold of the fennel plant across the earth mound. Hauling herself out, she thought she heard rustling among the stalks, even though the wind had died away now that evening light was upon her.
Silly, she thought, and went inside to wash herself down. The guinea pigs greeted her with excited wheeks and whiffles. Their expectant noses lifted above the side of the cage. “Sorry,” she said to them. “The carrot’s going to have to wait till tomorrow.”
She set to making herself some supper, giving the guinea pigs the off-cuts of cauliflower leaves and bell peppers. Carrot soup would be better, she thought, as she relaxed afterwards in front of the tv, while reading a gardening book.
The moon shone in her window as she retired to bed, lighting the garden and showing deep dark patches by the wall. She tried to make out her giant carrot, next to the fennel. The fennel showed clearly, but she couldn’t see the carrot.
Next morning when she went downstairs, her guinea pigs were nowhere to be seen. The cage front was up and the door open. She panicked. Had she left the door open? Had a fox got them? She rushed out into the garden, and stopped dead.
Two giant animals, exactly the same shape and markings as her guinea pigs, sat on the lawn, eating grass. The carrot was gone, leaves, root and everything.
One of the animals burped. Smells like carrot soup, she thought, and then: I’d better build that stable block after all.
© J M Pett 2015