Short Story: Pickle Love - JuniperCivic.com
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Originally published in the June 2018 Juniper Berry Magazine

Short Story: Pickle Love

Photo by Steve Fisher

One balmy morning in May, Mr. Pink and his son, young Howie, were out together for a jaunt. They had left their home, 'The Pink House', as it was generally known in the neighborhood due to its shocking-pink siding, and were slowly wending their way ‒ though they themselves were as yet unaware of their precise destination -- toward 'The Green House' at the other end of Maspeth.

Where are we going? Howie asked after they'd covered only a few blocks.

I don't know, son, responded Mr. Pink. I propose that we remain open to all possible possibilities and simply follow our feet. That's the best plan, I think; don't you agree?

But the truth was that 'The Green House' was calling Mr. Pink as surely as across the country, Capistrano was calling its swallows. And after twenty-minutes, their feet brought them to the front yard of the premises in question, the home of Eddie's Pickles, or to give its formal name, The Eagle Pickle Works.

What do you know! cried Mr. Pink in mock surprise upon their arrival at the front gate. Fate has brought us to the pickle mecca of the Western world! I recommend that we step inside and have a look around.

In the yard, dozens of huge barrels were lined up in a row. Some were filled with cabbage slated to become sauerkraut, while others contained cucumbers whose destiny was pickledom. A moment later, the two wayfarers were met by Frank, son of the eponymous Eddie who had launched this enterprise back in 1956.

Hello, hello! I'm glad to see that business is booming! boomed Mr. Pink himself, with a gesture towards the long line-up of barrels.

Yes, it is, sir! replied Frank, smiling proudly. In fact, our pickles are now available in Jersey and Pennsylvania!

You don't say! Well, we'd like to visit your plant and purchase some of your pickles before they escape Maspeth for the Poconos.

They were led to the ground floor 'apartment' of the 'Green House' a few feet away where the contents of dozens of barrels were in various stages of fermentation. Mr. Pink lifted the lid of a barrel marked SOURS, bent down to inhale the aroma as if it were a fine, rare wine, then straightening, murmured a long AHHHH!!! to express the now elevated state of his spirits. Meanwhile, young Howie had turned his head away, as if the garlicky spiced vinegar the pickles were swimming in had produced a noxious fume.

Definitely a jar of these beauties! exclaimed the ecstatic Mr. Pink. And we'll also take a jar of your 'Half-Sours' for my wife. My daughter is democratic on the subject of pickles and will countenance any variety ‒ including gherkins and cornichons ‒ with equal delight.

The transaction completed, father and son continued on their way.

Can we stop at Rosa's for pizza? asked Howie.

I tell you what. Since it's gotten quite hot [here Mr. Pink mopped his face with his pocket handkerchief to emphasize the point] and since we've walked rather a long way, I propose that we stop first and rest a bit. There's a bench I know of not far off, overlooking the Expressway.

They repaired to said bench where Mr. Pink could restrain himself no longer. He removed one of the two jars from the paper bag he'd been carrying, opened its lid, and extracted a fat, juicy 'sour'. He held it aloft as he spoke.

You know, it was Thomas Jefferson who wrote, On a hot summer's day, I know of nothing more comforting than a fine sour pickle! He closed his eyes, took a bite, crunched away. A moment later, he fished for another pickle and held it out for his son.

UGH! NO! NEVER!!!

Why not? It's delicious!

It's ... GREEN!!!

Ah! I've been meaning to talk to you about that.

What?

This unnatural phobia you have against green-colored foods. Every day your poor mother does battle with that strange stove of ours to create tasty and nutritious meals for us. And what do you do when you're presented with a bowl of yummy broccoli-cheddar chowder, or some Brussels sprouts with slivered almonds, or you encounter a single lonely pea that has had the audacity to accidentally land on your plate? You act as if she's trying to poison you! ... Here, please try this. A pickle at the peak of perfection!

I DON'T WANT IT!

Listen to me, Howie. People have been enjoying pickles for at least five thousand years. Queen Elizabeth's chefs served them to her at almost every meal because she loved them so much ...

But not anymore? What happened? Did they make her sick?

Not the Queen of our time, Howie. Queen Elizabeth I, back in the days of Shakespeare! And I'll bet you didn't know this: Amerigo Vespucci ‒ the fellow who gave his name to America ‒ was a pickle peddler before he went around exploring the world. And back in the 1600s, when he did go exploring, what did he stock his ships with? You've got it ‒ pickles! That's why his crew were the only sailors who never got sick on long voyages. And Napoleon, like Julius Caesar before him, made his armies eat loads of pickles so they could keep up their strength during battle.

Young Howie remained unmoved by these many testimonials of the salubriousness of pickles, though not for the first time he was greatly impressed by his father. What a gushing fount of knowledge he was!

Mr. Pink made one last attempt to persuade his stubborn offspring. I'll bet you didn't know this either. During the blazing heat wave of September 2000, the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys 41-14, and do you know what the winning players claimed was the reason for their success?

You're not going to tell me ...

That's right, son! Pickle juice! They'd been downing the stuff left and right to keep up their energy during that infernally hot game!

Here at last was a nugget of information to excite the football-loving boy's imagination.

Again Mr. Pink held out his green offering. This time Howie accepted it and took one tentative bite. Then he rolled the contents around in his mouth a long moment.

To his astonishment, he experienced a completely new sensation: Waves of cosmic bliss filled his body and soul. He took a second bite and the reincarnation was complete: he'd been transformed into a picklephiliac!

*

After that, it was Howie, who often guided his father's footsteps toward Eddie's pickle factory-emporium on the days they sauntered together through town. And it should also be said that the youngster no longer snubbed all the green things that emerged from the Pinks' crazy oven to arrive on his dinner plate. On the historic occasion during which Howie sampled his first spear of asparagus, a most gratified Mrs. Pink threw her hands up and exclaimed, It's a miracle! A miracle which she rightly attributed ‒ along with all the other small miracles of her life ‒ to her hero, the peerless Mr. Pink.

June 2018 Juniper Berry Magazine

June 2018 Table of Contents