An Absence of Yellow
It’s mid-August and already my grandfather’s pumpkins boast a bright orange. His cucumbers have laced thin vines up the patio rail. The tomatoes flush cherry-red in waves.
My grandparents bribe me with vegetables to come for a visit: "We set some zucchini aside for you." It’s not that I need to be bribed; I’m just busy and grown and moved away. But I do seem to show more dependably for vegetables. I have a memory of her teaching me to sprinkle white granules of sugar on a fat slice of tomato, on a Fourth of July where I’m messy-haired and sunburnt. Last year I skipped the fireworks at their house.
But today I have an hour, and can help them harvest their small backyard lot. I bend more easily than my grandpa to twist a cucumber from its prickly lair. I pluck a past-ripe tomato that he missed. He shows me how to tell if the acorn squash is ripe – you must lift it up, gently, to check underneath for a spot of yellow. The softball-sized rounds are surprisingly heavy; I maneuver the weight and think of bedsores. My grandpa’s pleased so many are ready – I twist six, seven, eight from their stems.
“How about that one, there?” he asks, and squints at a dark green shadow. I check the round squash. There’s no yellow. “Not yet,” I say, and exhale. I picture the squash as never quite ready; I dream that their garden ripens forever.
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