I have some good news and perhaps some bad news (especially if you are my neighbor). Wait! Perhaps that isn’t the way to approach what I am about to tell you. I need to explain myself a little first. I need to elicit your concern and receive your forgiveness. It is my hope that you will not think badly of me for what I am tempted to do. It is my desire that you understand why I struggle with indecisiveness. You see, for only the second time in my life, I’m attempting to grow watermelon. My first attempt bore meager fruit. Literally! The big difference between the first time and now is that this time I seem to be accomplishing my aim.
The first time I tried, I must have been all of ten years old, and more importantly, I lived in a northern zone of the country: a zone not exactly famous for the growth of prize-winning watermelon. In fact, if I had chosen to enter it, the lone watermelon worth remembering that I managed to coax forth from that slate-rich soil might have won a prize for being the smallest watermelon ever picked and partially eaten. No matter how much attention I gave my fledgling garden -and I gave it plenty – only a few fruit made it past the useless and not fun to eat flowering stage (hey, it‘s my business if I ate a watermelon flower or two). Still, you can only imagine my pride when I ran (I ran everywhere then) down to my back yard garden and saw the first minuscule green bulb on the vine. Yippee, I thought; “Now I’m going to be rich!” I had big plans. I would build a watermelon stand and sell watermelon by the dozen, no hundreds! I could then afford to buy every comic book on the rack and be a well-watermelon-fed young success story to boot.
But such was not to be. The best example so far sat on the vine and grew oh so slowly that eventually I became impatient, took it, orange-sized and lacking, from the vine and tried to eat it. Big mistake! Unripe watermelon is probably one of the last unripe fruits you should choose to eat. It tasted wretched, and worse yet, it was so late in the season by then that I had no watermelon left worth watching over and hoping for. My dream was dashed and I had to settle for trading comic books with friends.
Still, I knew that some growing season I would try again, and this year I did. I live in a zone much more friendly to watermelon growing and I’m far enough along in time from that disappointing experience that I have confidence again. And it’s looking much better for my chances. I had planted several mounds somewhat close to a fence in the back yard and today, when I went to look, I counted six grapefruit sized melons. Then I noticed that a wandering vine had traveled between the double thick and offset slats of this eight-foot-tall Boonesborough-style fence that separates my property from a neighbor’s. I immediately began to worry that this would anger my neighbor. Watermelon trailers tend to take over a garden, or in this case a yard, and he/she/they hadn’t requested that I let my project stray. I don’t even know this neighbor – who is positioned behind me and you would have to take a differently named street to reach that address and there’s an eight-foot-tall Boonesborough-style fence between us so clearly we are not meant to mingle. Besides, I’m not the outgoing (read: annoying) and curious kid I once was. If remote, fence-between-us neighbors want to meet me, they surely know where I live.
So as I stood there in my leafy, vines stretching in all directions watermelon patch thinking of my neighbor, I decided I’d better have a look to see how much my patch has grown into someone else’s zone. I stepped carefully through the runners and up to the fence and jumped up to look over it. That’s when I saw it. A single watermelon that is the biggest watermelon of them all. Where the best of mine are the size of grapefruit, this one is the size of a large cantaloupe! What the hell is going on here? I break my back to grow watermelon and the best example I have of my dedication is now the best example of a neighbor’s non-dedication? This sucks! My cunning kicks in and I have almost decided that I am going to climb over this fence and down onto alien property and snatch back MY surely soon to be a blue ribbon winning watermelon. But I cannot pluck it. If I do, it will no longer grow and it isn’t ripe to pick yet. It isn’t even half done growing.
Then I recall that I’ve seen kids in this neighbor’s yard. Surely they have noticed this best specimen of my efforts. I now discern that they have cleared away the grass around my wayward watermelon and wait more patiently than I was able to at that age for this free fruit to mature. They anticipate its ripe goodness and surely visit it daily, encouraging it’s growth and soon to be plumpness. It lies on the ground like a green promise of wet and watermelony savory-ness. Here is watermelon as it was meant to be – free and ranging! This watermelon shall not be owned by anyone. It shall roam and give it’s juice infused red-honeyed flesh to whomever it chooses. Weeks from now they will proudly invite other neighbors over for a barbecue and an icy watermelon eating orgy of pulpy decadence. Ochre liquid will run down sticky little chins and seeds will be spit with careless abandon. The god of free garden goods has graced them with a boon of watermeloness.
I realize that I can snatch it back at any time before it’s picked and I’m satiated for the moment. I could cut the vine that leads back to my mound. I could even shoot at it with a BB gun and laugh when they spit BB’s instead of seeds. But that is not my style – I am a grower of watermelon, not a shooter of them.
So now I wait to decide what I will finally do. I’m probably going to leave the ungrateful melon there. I should soon have other melons in my own yard as big or bigger than this one. Or perhaps the growing season is near an end and this is the only one left with a chance at maturity. Am I fated to consume unripe watermelon flesh yet again? Because I assure you, I WILL have watermelon to eat, ripe or otherwise. I’ve got too much vested effort and hope in this project.
Perhaps it’s time to finally meet the neighbor.