I had the Zucchini Dream last night.
We run down the endless corridors toward the bridge. The white walls curve around us, pulsing with the red Alert lights that indicate the ship is under attack. The doors whisk open and finally I can see on the giant screens what’s happening out there.
Beside me the ship’s doctor stares up at the display and says, “My God, Jim, where are we?”
I want to say, How the hell should I know?, but you don’t do that when you’re the captain of the Starship Zucchini. “Status report,” I snap to my exec.
His pointed ears turn a little red. He doesn’t like my tone, but he answers calmly as always. “The hyper photon doohickey plasma drive has been disabled, Captain. Shields are holding for the moment. Invisibility cloak deployed.”
He doesn’t say it. He doesn’t need to. We are cut off from the base and it is only a matter of moments until our enemy finds our hiding place.
They’re all watching me. “It’s been a pleasure serving with you,” I take the time to tell them. Then I bite the bullet. “Go to Ick Factor 3.”
The young navigator whirls in his chair to look at me in open-mouthed shock. “But that vill put a hole in our hull!”
“It’s the only thing that stands a chance!” I yell at him. “DO IT!”
Sprock reaches past the stunned boy and flips the switch. There is a hiss, and the smell of mold permeates the ship. We all wince, and the doctor holds his nose.
“Enemy is attacking,” the mechanical voice of the automatic weapons system says and then the ship lurches and everything crashes around me. People and papers go flying and the white walls cave in and a massive voice reverberates, saying, “Oh, ICK!” and then we are spinning end-over-end and something has grabbed my foot and “Oww!” I yell and
I bolt upright in bed, yelling, “Oww!” and snatching my foot away as Gracie releases me and leaps to the floor, tail twitching in the moonlight coming through the bedroom window. I must have kicked her in the nightmare.
Zucchini Dreams are a bastard.
I have one every summer just about this time. If you do not grow zucchini, you do not know this about them: they are nefarious. Don’t ever turn your back on one. If you see one four or five inches long, pick it immediately because they have the ability to triple in size overnight. Leave it for two days and when next you look, it will be eighteen inches long and six inches in diameter, a lead zeppelin. And it will have cousins. They lurk in the grass outside your neat raised beds, and these zucchini that have escaped domestication are truly frightening, easily attaining lengths approaching two feet and comparable girth. And if you should stumble over one of those huge yellow-white ones out there, well, then, my friend, you will want to have your harpoon with you, for you have found Moby Zuke.
Go ahead, laugh. But it’s a serious issue, I tell you, right up there with global warming. And just as with global warming, there are naysayers. Zucchini is a wonderful vegetable, they contend. It’s nutritious, versatile, and prolific. You can make zucchini fritters, pickles, quick breads and muffins, chocolate chip cookies, salsa, chocolate cake, and marmalade. You can grate it to thicken soups, strip it up to make a kind of pasta, slice or dice it into spaghetti sauce, dry it for healthful zucchini chip snacks. You can even make ice cream with it.
But look at this list with open eyes and what does it tell you? What it’s really saying, if we have the courage to admit it, is that despite our best efforts to use it all, we are in grave danger of being inundated. The tide is rising. You might want to check your insurance policy for a zucchini clause.
Of course, creative minds are already working on the problem. Noting that some zucchini grow to the size of cordwood, some woodstove manufacturers now offer models that will burn this alternative fuel. Save a tree, burn a squash, one company advertises. Zucchini are replacing hay bales or recycled tires in some hand-built “green” homes, and there is a bill before Congress to fund research into using zukes as biofuel for cars and trucks. Police departments are finding that a hefty zucchini works as well as a Taser for subduing suspects and is more media-friendly in witnesses’ cell phone videos. While not widely reported, there are reliable rumors that the military is fitting some zucchini with drone technology for use in the war against terrorism. Not only will they have the immediate effect of knocking out a target, but the secondary effect of spreading seeds to inundate our enemies with rampant zucchini is an effective, low-cost, long-term strategy.
Which is all hopeful, but my problem is in the here-and-now. I’ve eaten, pickled, dried, and frozen my fill. I’ve put baskets full of beautiful green cylinders out by the road with a Free Veggies To a Good Home! sign, which enticed a few people, obviously tourists on their way to see the lighthouse–the neighbors know better. The chickens are laying eggs with a slight flavor of squash (interesting in omelets) because they get a zucchini along with their feed every day. I have even tried it on the cat, but one long stare from her snapped me right back to my senses.
And all the time the zucchini is growing, growing. I can hear it sometimes, rustling under the floor of the great room. True, I am nervous, dreadfully, dreadfully nervous, but why will you say that I am mad? I’ll just lie down for awhile and try to catch up on some sleep.
My native guide is nervous. He keeps looking around for tarantulas, holding the torch high above his head. I poke him and he jumps, then nods shakily, and we wriggle forward over the sand of the cave floor until there is a pit up ahead. “Down there,” he whispers. “At the bottom.”
He lifts one shoulder in a shrug. “It is what the legends say. But no one has ever returned from that place.”
No one has ever had the map before, pal, I think. “All right, you’ve gotten me this far. Go back to the cave mouth and wait. If I’m not back by this time tomorrow, send the telegram to the States, right?”
“Yes,” he agrees too quickly, hands me the torch, wriggles backward and leaves.
The bullwhip digs into my ribs as I crawl forward, but I can’t leave it behind: I’ll need to use it as a rope to climb down into the tomb. I reach the pit and cautiously peer over the edge. The floor down there is dark with something, something that seems to slither. I drop the torch into the pit and the flame illuminates a scene from my worst nightmares.
“Zucchini! Why did it have to be zucchini?“
Author’s note: No zucchini were harmed in the making of this blog.