I’ve always been the kind of woman who retains watermelons. I blame it on my constitution. Melons have spent weeks with me in the summer, traveling from pool to picnic to lake to porch and home again. My children develop attachments and name them. An amicable, albeit odd, friendship forms.
This watermelon is different. When I thump it, I cannot hear its soul. It frightens me.
In early June, I sowed the 12 seeds of my unraveling. Only two seeds sprouted. Only one of those sprouts produced a watermelon.
Squash plants have long been cast into the compost pile. The jalapeno peppers have turned homicidally hot. One-legged corn stalks proffer late-summer ears. Yet that melon clings to its umbilical cord.
It torments me. Maybe it’s ripe. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe I’ll go out there tomorrow and it will be rotting on the vine. I dread looking at it looking back at me. It teases and prods, “Whatcha gonna do?”
Fear paralyzes me. I do nothing but impotently inspect its underside as if some clue to its power over me lies there. I consider the options: Cut it loose today or deal with it tomorrow.
Seeing a picture on FaceBook of my sister’s recent kill, the blood red insides of her watermelon oozing moisture, sent shivers down my spine. I don’t know if I’m capable of taking the next step. My family says it’s inevitable, that I’ll have to do it, but I doubt my resolve.
A pall has fallen over my plot. I anticipate certain doom. My melon remains on its skirt of vine that snakes amongst the ankles of the tired, but soldiering, tomatoes.
Lest it win, let it sense my terror, I have tilled the garden around its lifeline. The soil turned over dark waves of dirt onto its leaves. In defiance of the insidious fruit, I planted rows of spinach, carrots, onions and peas. I focus on the pending bounty, but the watermelon still haunts my waking moments.
High summer, its allotted season, has crested and fallen. Labor Day has punctuated the dog days and passed. Night temperatures dip into the 60s. A harvest moon rises. Still, I do not harvest.
On sleepless nights, I am consumed with thoughts of it shriveling during the wee hours. I worry that the following day I will go out as usual to observe its macabre stillness only to discover that its face has caved and turned a ghastly brown, bugs crawling in and out of the cracks in its rind.
The next morning I awake, heavy with anxiety. Peering from the kitchen window, I see the immortal beast enthroning itself in the middle of the vegetables. It lords its stamina over the wavering butterbeans. Without looking down, I ease open the utensil drawer and clasp the handle of a knife. Perhaps the time has ripened.
Up close, in the garden, the melon stages an alone-in-the-world pity party. It feigns a slow aging process. I hold the knife against my leg. I can’t go through with it. I’m not ready. Maybe the watermelon isn’t ready, either. I back away and return to the house to watch from the window. It cries, “Coward!” and laughs as I retreat. I’m sure it doesn’t have a soul, and it’s running out of time to get one.
Halloween, I tell myself. Just wait. If it’s still out there at Halloween, I’ll carve it. Of course, by October, it will lure my children into its web of deceit. They will have named it and I will be accused of murderous intent.