Signs of the Apocalypse: The Zucchini of Doom
Teasel’s knife paused, mid-slice. It leered at her daringly, glistening palely from the white tile counter. “NO!” She flung it aside, set down the knife, shivering. It was happening again.
The first time she had been little more than a child. A round-faced, frizzy haired thirteen, she had been walking along the beach with her class. Mr. Reedy had been showing them tide pools; prickly anemones, chitons, sideways inching crabs (which gave her chills, and caused Stephanie Gustafsson to leap onto her back, screaming); mussels, conical limpets, and sea urchins strewn with rockweed, It was like any other Field Excursion in Eighth; people were dragging behind, complaining of the wet, and throwing things that splatted.
Mr. Reedy had been bellowing in his Macarthur-addressing-the-troops voice. “Comulada! Sea star: carnivorous or vegetarian?”
Scott Comulada, who had just lashed VJ Lilja with a whip of seaweed, was stalling. “Um…Carnivorous, sir?”
“Are you asking me or telling me, son?”
“Telling you sir?”
Mr. Reedy had sighed, nodded briskly, and continued haranguing the others. “Now, VJ…”
Teasel had long since lost track of what Mr. Reedy was saying. Having finally shed the limpet-clinging Stephanie, she was picking her way delicately over the rocks, looking for nudibrachs, for which Mr. Reedy said he’d award five points to any student for identification. Teasel, who was a thrifty, clean and reverent type, never thought her grades were high enough, so unlike her classmates, who couldn’t care less about poking into tidepools (except to find gross things to either squish, poke with sticks, or throw), Teasel was looking earnestly. And then she spotted the rock with the strange pattern…
“Whatcha got there, Teasel, don’t you know this is a State park?” Mr. Reedy loomed close, his spearmint gum breath wafting over Teasel’s bent head. “Good Lord. That looks like a …” and then Mr. Reedy’s voice had faded. But Teasel knew. They’d had it in Life Sciences in Seventh.
“It looks like a… a uterus,” she’d muttered, and Mr. Reedy had looked at her sharply.
“Well done,” he said gruffly. “Now, put it down, you know you can’t take away things from a State Park, right? Five points for that nudibrach, everybody. Get looking!”
Teasel had not put it down. She’d waited until Mr. Reedy’s head was turned, then she put that rock in her pocket.
It didn’t seem safe to leave it in the water. It might… multiply, or something…
Teasel knew she was strange. While other girls her age were babysitting for movie cash and money for lip gloss and Victoria’s Secret, Teasel was pulling weeds at the U-Pick strawberry patch. In the off season, she wrangled laundry at the hospital laundromat, and in extremity, she shoveled dog dookey and stacked wood in the neighbor’s backyard. Teasel ranked weeds, dirty linens and dog doings over dealing with little kids. Nobody, she knew, would understand. But, there was, she’d learned, that immaculate conception thing. It seemed so… strange! And offensively invasive. Teasel wasn’t sure she wanted kids, nor was she interested particularly in Almighty God giving her one against her will. As a matter of record, the idea gave her a rash.
Other girls in her school welcomed the Life Sciences Baby Egg project in Grade Ten, where kids wandered around carrying decorated raw eggs and keeping a journal about feeding it and all. Teasel had dropped hers the first day, and then fallen into a fit of trembling, hives and wheezing so bad that her teacher had given her another one, and told her she’d forget about the first one. Teasel had shellacked it, and kept it in a metal box. Stephanie had told her it couldn’t breathe, which Teasel had thought was taking the whole thing way too far. Teasel’s teacher, Ms. Loudermilk, had given her a good grade for her neatly kept, if spurious, journal, but had written a little p.s. at the bottom, “Not everyone is cut out for motherhood. It’s okay to just have plants.”
The stone wasn’t the only image. Over time, more shapes revealed themselves to her. There was the uterine shaped stain on the carpet of her first apartment, the pattern of seeds in the heart of a pear, the shape of the water leak in the corner of her parent’s garage ceiling. Someone sideswiped her car in the mall parking lot her second year in college, and the resulting yellow smear of paint had that anxiety-producing t-shape; that upside-down cocktail glass. The cosmos kept lining them up and tossing them at her. Teasel grit her teeth to make it through the day. “No,” she would mutter to herself as she saw them. “No, no, and no, thank you!”
When at the ripened age of 27, Teasel married, she opened up a certain box at the top of her closet, and with great trepidation laid out all of her treasures. She’d saved them — the rocks, the wizened fruit, the photographs of her car’s crumpled side panel. She showed them to Randolph, anxiously, trying to speak without letting her lips quiver. “They’re… fertility things,” she quavered. “And I keep them locked away… because… I-I don’t want children… do you understand?”
Randolph, bland-faced and genial, didn’t, but he played along gamely as he did with all the other things he considered ‘Darling Teasel’s foibles.’ “Oh, sure. No kids. Got that,” he said, and ruffled her hair springy. “No problem, lovely, more of you for me, eh?” Making a game of it, Randolph soon began to collect as many fertility markers as he could.
“Look, Teasel! Look at that cloud! Kinda looks like a uterus, doesn’t it?” “See that cow? Big black splotch on it. Looks a bit uterine, would you say?” “Wouldja look at the birthmark on that kid’s heinie! Looks just like a …”
Of course, Teasel rapidly wished she hadn’t told him anything. At those moments, she thought of him in her mind as Randolt, and wished him rapid death and decomposition for mocking her. But other than that, she liked him all right. After all, he could joke about her fears, so, so could she. Shakily, when not sneering, she learned to laugh; decided that God was not stalking her with His hands full of seed to thrust within her resisting soil.
For a few years, all was calm. Teasel grew to forget the box in her closet. Randolph became absolutely aggravating about something completely different. Teasel almost forgot.
Until the zucchini. It was, she found, simply the last straw.
“No!” she shuddered, and flung the knife away. No. Not now! She wouldn’t. She wouldn’t. Hastily, Teasel snatched off her apron, and shrugged into her garbadine coat. She had wanted to leave him anyway, and now she had her reasons. It was coming for her. She wasn’t a fool. She’d known all along what the fertility stone had meant…
Further signs of the apocalypse – a make your own McDonald’s sign.