It rubbed against the bulbous bodies of its traveling mates all squeezing in against it. While the hum of rubber rolling on asphalt lulled it into bitter complacency, it recalled the sunny afternoon when abruptly it was plucked from its stalk and plunged into darkness. Right then, it knew it was going places. It is after all, a Brussels sprout, named for a region of Belgium founded by a descendant of the great conqueror Charlemagne, king of the Franks and emperor of the Romans. Can cabbage claim that?
A Brussels sprout from Brussels, by way of California, off to fulfill its purpose in the world, where it would enjoy elevation from living at the level of dirt, gluttonous cutworms and slugs constantly seeking its companionship, to the creamy comfort of glazed china amid laughter and frivolity. As the engine of the 18-wheeler rumbled east, the sprout dreamed of its bright future.
"You have to eat one," yelled my husband, thoroughly perturbed at our daughter's staunch refusal.
Four caustic-smelling but cuter-than-cabbage vegetables lined up on her paper plate. Her face screwed into an ugly grimace when she spat the words, Brussels sprouts. Turning away from her dinner in disgust, she claimed she would vomit. "You'll eat another one if you do," her just-as-stubborn father assured her.
"Noooooooo," she howled, as the sprouts benignly waited for the child to choose which of the four would have the honor of satisfying her daddy's demand and perhaps subsequently suffering the promised puking aftermath. She looked down at her dish, as if she might go ahead and get it over with, but then shrieked, "Oooooooooh, they're so gross!" She shoved at the plate, causing the sprouts to rock and tremble.
Having eaten every one of my own and declared each delicious, inspiring awe from my offspring, I peered at her meal, stunned, expecting to see pickled sheep eyes. These were definitely noble Brussels sprouts, however, their ancestors cultivated by the descendants of Charlemagne.
My husband stormed out of his seat at the end of the table. Quickly, in deference, our youngest, most hard-headed child selected the smallest of the four sprouts, placed it on the very end of her tongue, squinched her eyes and began convulsing in her chair to the rhythm of gags. "Chew," her daddy chanted.
Exaggerated chokes and gulps ensued, but nothing went down. Her eyes watered and bulged, and her cheeks swelled with air. She bent her head over her plate in a motion signaling that she planned to restore the mangled morsel to its place among its kind, which stoically gazed in horror at what that child was doing to their comrade.
Three brothers, also required to each eat a Brussels sprout, looked on in astonishment at what it was doing to their sister.
"If you spit it out, you will eat two," warned her father.
The mention of that possible fate caused all involved to cringe.
She summarily swallowed and entered directly into after-drama, grabbing her stomach and shaking her head, building up to a gratifying I-told-you-so heave.
"All this over a ridiculous Brussels sprout," my husband lectured. "Fine. You don't like Brussels sprouts. It's Monday; your week can only get better from here. Clear your plate."
Wump. Schoop. Thunk. The Brussels sprout slid into the trash.
It came from dirt and to dirt it would return, without ever swimming in boats of butter or bedding down on fine china or drifting on the lilt of pleasant banter. It traveled so far to only meekly serve as side dish to a power struggle.
One's destiny is not for one to guess.
(Lucy Adams is the author of Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run. She lives in Thomson. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her Web site, www.IfMama.com.)