by Crystal Babb
“A carrot with hair,” he groused and finished his beer. He set the beer stein on the counter harder than he meant to, but the thick glass did not complain. Neither did the carrot, which he regarded with narrowed eyes. “It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of.”
“It’s supposed to have more protein than regular carrots,” said his wife, distracted by the sheet of instructions she had unfolded and was currently perusing with the careful eye of a professional Ikea carpenter.
“Where did you find this? You didn’t buy it from another homeless person, did you?” She probably had. A carrot with hair, that kind of thing was exactly what a homeless person would hock and exactly the kind of thing his wife would purchase in her ecstasy of charity and eager discovery. He could imagine the praise she had showered on herself as she marched home with her trophy: I’ve found something Bonnie’s never heard of, and probably bought that man his evening meal.
The carrot had a face, also with hair. A tiny, pointed beard jutted out from what looked like the carved features of an old man. A poof of wiry, dark hair — no bigger than a steel wool scrub — crowned what he thought of as the “head” of the wayward vegetable.
“I’m supposed to eat this?”
His wife laughed. “Of course not, silly,” she said. “We’re going to raise it.”
He looked at her in profound horror.
The carrot gurgled and its carved lips formed a moue of disdain. “Da-dee,” it pouted in thick sarcasm.
“I’ll be goddamned,” he muttered and stalked into the living room, taking his empty beer stein with him.
“Language,” his wife called after him in a distracted tone. “We have a carrot to think of now.”
“No, you have a carrot,” he called back, bristling.
He heard the carrot gurgle and pout again. Only God and his wife knew what it said.
He stood in the living room, clutching the empty stein to his chest as he stared blankly out into his front yard. He could see his neighbor across the street, Phil something-or-other, bent over and pulling weeds and wild onions in his underwear. He was momentarily distracted from the monstrosity on the kitchen counter by the monstrosity of Phil’s large ass pointed at the sky as he gathered the ingredients for his infamous dandelion-and-onion soup.
What will the neighbors think?
“Hey, honey?” His wife had appeared in the transition zone between the kitchen and the living room.
“I have to go now,” he said and left before she could say anything else.
The evening sun cast long, purple shadows across the lawn; the rise and fall of cicada police sirens carried him across the street. Phil saw him coming from between his legs, his round face flushed and wet from his gathering effort. “Well hey there, Jim,” said Phil as he straightened up, his fists full of green, pungent stalks.
“You know it.” Phil gestured toward Jim’s house with one fist. “Why don’t you and Sandy join us for dinner?”
The smell of wild onions was making his eyes water. “Not tonight. Sandy brought home a carrot.”
“I don’t follow.”
“A carrot with hair.”
“Hm,” said Phil, puzzled. He rubbed at his forehead with the back of his fist. “Are you supposed to eat it?”
“She wants me to raise it.”
Phil looked at him in profound horror.
“My thoughts exactly,” said Jim morosely.
Phil shook his head and made a face like he tasted something sour. “That’s not right.”
The two men stood there in agreeable silence. Jim looked into his empty beer stein. Phil looked up into the sky, his fists resting on his ample hips. The shadows around them deepened; the cicadas buzzed; Jim’s eyes watered.
“I have to go now,” said Jim, and left Phil standing quiet and motionless on his lawn.
He found his wife sitting on the couch when he returned. She was topless; the carrot was swaddled in a dishtowel and appeared to be suckling at her left breast as she gazed upon it. She seemed positively beatific. “How was Phil?” she asked without looking up.
“Gross,” he replied spasmodically and went into the kitchen. He set the empty beer stein on the counter more delicately than he meant to. The instructions his wife had been reading earlier were spread out where the carrot had once been. He saw that they were written in Greek.
He shook his head as he opened the refrigerator and rummaged around for a fresh beer. “I’ll be goddamned,” he muttered.
From now on, he decided, I’ll be the one doing the grocery shopping.
Crystal is a twenty-something Midwesterner who has nursed an interest in writing since she was old enough to hold a pen. A lifelong fan of the irregular and terrific, her influences include Stephen King, “Full House” reruns, and her own nightmares. Crystal lives with her husband and requisite number of pets (3) in central Missouri and is currently pursuing a degree in Elementary Education.