Just for Fun

A page for stories, ideas, interesting facts or fables.  A place to share…

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Mac counted on me to help prepare the garden for planting a huge tomato crop. He was hoping for a bountiful harvest this year and a few more dollars in his pocket.

“Watch those rows, Frankie,” he instructed as I hoed a row.  “They must be straight as an arrow.”

After smoothing out the dirt and starting over a few times, I found the trick to get the row perfectly straight. I had to look straight ahead towards my goal – the end of the row – instead of looking down or watching where I’d been.  Once I got the hang of it, the rest of the rows went fairly fast, but my back killed me that night.

We planted a whole field of tomatoes that spring, and everything was growing nicely.  Part of my job was to weed and hoe –  the rows had to be kept nice and clean.  I couldn’t wait for the fruit to ripen. The best part of gardening was eating its bounty!  It seemed no time at all and the tomatoes were ready for picking.  The bright red ruby fruit was so abundant, Mac decided to hire extra help.  I talked him into hiring my younger brother Mikey as one of the helpers.  A few more boys and a couple of girls from school also took the $5.00 offer to pick tomatoes on Saturdays.  It seemed like easy money, but they didn’t know how many tomatoes there were to pick!

One bright, sunny August morning, Mac decided to get the crew in early before the sun made the day too hot to stay in the field.  One of the girls who came to work was “Big Bad Rube” (at least that’s what the other boys called her).  Ruby wasn’t fat; she was just a large, big-boned girl for her age.  She really wasn’t bad either; she was just one who would take any dare that came her way. Ruby had bright red hair and flashing black eyes to match her gutsy daredevil personality.  She could easily stare anyone down and not move a muscle.  I remembered when one of the boys dared her to catch and eat a fly.  No one thought she could actually catch one, but she did, and down the hatch it went with no second thoughts and no regrets.

We worked hard all morning and picked a lot of bushels.  I discovered a wonderful specimen of a horned tomato worm hanging on the underside of a branch.  It was a bright lime green with little spots that looked like eyes on either side, with a very interesting and sharp-looking  red “horn” poking out its back end.  The worm was at least as big around as my finger and just as long too.  I picked up the ugly worm and thought of Big Rube.  All kinds of fun ideas rambled through my head.  I stuffed the worm in my pocket and waited until break. Finally, Mac announced it was break time. We all sat for a spell and got a drink of water.

I dug the half-crushed worm from my pocket and held it high.

“Who wants to earn an extra five bucks?”  I grinned with evil intent in my eye, looking straight at Big Rube.  Immediately I had everyone’s attention.  Ruby flashed her black eyes at me and then warily at the worm.

“Five bucks to anyone who eats this worm!” I challenged. Would she do it?  I’m ready for a little action today, I thought.  I stared at Big Rube again.  Mikey quickly caught on to the game.  He ran over and took the worm from my grasp.

“Yu-mm-mm…” he smacked his lips, holding it close to his mouth.  “Look how big and juicy!  Bet it tastes really good!” he taunted, “just like key lime pie!”  He dangled it back and forth in front of Ruby’s face. The worm wiggled in Mikey’s grasp. I watched Ruby’s eyes.  Yep, she was definitely thinking about it.

“Come on, Ruby,” goaded Mikey, “tell me you couldn’t use five extra bucks?”

The other kids started to get in on the act now.  “Yeah Rube – you can do it.  Ru-by – Ru-by – Ru-by!”

I wasn’t even sure where I was going to get the extra five dollars to pay her if she did eat it –didn’t think that part through yet.  Mac was going to pay all these other kids $5.00 for the workday, but not me.  I was just earning my keep.  I could probably squeeze it out of Mikey though even if it was his whole day’s pay.  He’d pay just to see Ruby eat the worm!

Ruby didn’t have to think too long; it was probably a good thing she didn’t.  She snatched the worm from Mikey’s hand without hesitation, stuck its head in her mouth and bit it cleanly off. Green goo spewed from the worm and dribbled down her chin.  Ruby started to spit the piece of worm in her mouth, looking a little green herself.

“Oh no! No spitting allowed! Chew it up and swallow it – all of it,” I prodded.

“Ru-by – Ru-by – Ru-by,” chanted the others.

She gagged, chewed some, gagged again, then finally swallowed it and gagged some more.

“Now the rest of it!”  I laughed.  I glanced over Mac’s way to see if he was watching.  He seemed to be enjoying the whole show.  In fact, he was even waving a five-dollar bill as he watched, egging on the shenanigans.

With even more gusto I coaxed, “You gotta eat the WHOLE thing, Rube.  No stopping now!”

Ruby glared at the other half of the green worm still wriggling in her grasp.  She ripped off the horn, and then closed her eyes, took a big breath and popped it in her mouth. Didn’t even chew this time.  Swallowed it whole. One gulp – and it was gone.

“Open your mouth, Rube – we want proof,” someone yelled.

She opened her mouth wide and wiggled her tongue for all to see.  The green slime dripped from her chin.  She had done it. Didn’t know a gutsier girl around.  She grinned from ear to ear showing lime goo between her yellowed teeth as she accepted her bonus pay from Mac. Funny thing, she never showed up at the farm again after that day.

Yeah, Rube was all right. Didn’t know a gutsier girl around. My twelfth birthday may have come and gone that summer, but seeing Big Rube pull off that stunt, well, that was the best birthday present I ever got!

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This is an excerpt of a chapter from the young adult book, Elusive Love, currently being written by Candy Simonson.

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