She saw it before me, an old green pick-up truck parked on the side of the road. It sagged under the heavy weight of equally green watermelons rising in a heap in the truck bed. The truck's driver posted a sign that read Watermelons $5.00 or 2 fer ate. He sat next to it in an old aluminum lawn chair, weeds creeping up his ankles and the cicadas buzzing about the noonday heat.
Thrilled by the sight of the watermelon man - he makes us go weak in the knees anticipating the cool red flesh of a vine-ripened melon - my daughter shrilly begged from the backseat, "Mama, can we please get one, please!"
Naturally, I hesitated. I wish I had a watermelon, but at the same time I have a serious problem with watermelons. While this conundrum gestated in my head, my daughter took my silence as an invitation to whine, "We neeeeeed a watermelon. We haven't gotten one yet this year. We alllllwaaaaaayyyyyyssssss get a watermelon. Every summer!"
I winced. Even while slowing down I inhaled deeply and tried to formulate an excuse, a compelling reason, why we could not, most assuredly should not, buy an emerald striped melon encasing juicy, seedy, crimson flesh; not today.
"And this year," my child continued, oblivious to my angst, "we've got to pick out a girl one. We always get a boy one, and it's not fair."
Her suggested gender selection made me believe my watermelon woes are worse than I ever thought. Still worse, I don't know how to tell if a watermelon is a boy or a girl. I'm doing well just to pick one that is perfectly ripe. "Why do you think all of our watermelons have been boys?"
"Because," she authoritatively answered, "the brothers always" - when a child uses the word "always" she means it happened at least once and she's never going to forget it - "name our watermelons Walter and Jimmy. It's my turn to get a girl and name it a girl name."
She twisted summertime's thorn in my side. She laid bare my watermelon wounds in broad daylight for the watermelon man and all the other melon-thumpers to see. "Yes!" I wanted to agitatedly announce, "I have a weakness. I'm only human." Instead of embarrassing myself more, however, I dumbly attempted to discern each melon's sex.
My daughter prattled, "Look at this cute one, Mama. Ohhh, and this one. She's so precious."
The watermelon man knew there was no way around it. I was taking a watermelon home. He also knew I would lovingly ice down that watermelon in an Igloo cooler.
What he and the other thumpers didn't know, couldn't possibly know, would never suspect, even as my daughter cooed to it while buckling its seat-belt in the seat next to hers, was that my children would take pity on that watermelon all closed up in that dark cooler full of stagnate, warm water after a week. They didn't know that my offspring would drag that watermelon out of the cooler, dripping water all over my kitchen floor, and bring it to the table, sitting it in a chair next to my daughter's. This watermelon would be my kids' new best friend.
All this would happen because I have a watermelon habit. I bring them home like stray dogs, then keep them so long they become family pets. It seems only fitting, in my warped sense of right and wrong, to call them by name.
And that's how Melony came to live with us for the summer.
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of I f Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson, GA. E-mail Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her web site, www.IfMama.com.)