We’ve heard them all a dozen times.
Don’t make silly faces or your face will get stuck that way. Cracking your knuckles gives you arthritis. Eating a lot of carrots will improve your eyesight (or turn your skin orange more likely).
Or, in this case, don’t swallow watermelon seeds or a watermelon will grow in your belly.
A Seed to Feed them All
by Curtis A. Deeter
Old Man Gerkin died choking on a watermelon seed. His wife, when she had still been around, warned him against eating the seeds, but he was old and time was short—far too short to waste sorting bits of fruit.
His neighbors, for he had no other family to speak of, celebrated his life and mourned his death for seven days and seven nights, then buried him in the orchard, next to the carefully plotted rows of Jonathon apple trees. No one knew where his wife had been laid to rest, or if she’d been buried at all, but Old Man Gerkin loved walking alongside the trees and eating apples off their branches. It was a suitable end, as far as ends can be.
The next year, the owner of the orchard lamented. His trees were sickly and bore no fruit. The soil of his orchard was barren and dry, and gophers dug divots everyone on his property.
“They’re my livelihood,” he said to the banker. “They’re the town’s greatest source of fruit. What are we going to do?”
The banker, though sympathetic, for his mother baked blue-ribbon apple pie with the very same apples, sent the farmer away without as much as a loan or a hope. It seemed it would be a hard year for everyone.
His drive back to the orchard was long, giving the farmer far too much time to think.
“I’m ruined. My kids will have nothing, and I’ll be out on the streets. What am I to do? What am I to do?”
But when he pulled onto his long, gravel driveway, he gasped. As far as the eye could see, bright green vines stretched and intertwined with the roots of his trees. There were plump watermelons everywhere. If he spent the whole season counting the fruit, he wouldn’t come close to accounting for them all. His trees, were it not for the strength of the vines, would have been weighed down by the bulk of the melons.
Word traveled fast. People from all over the county came to see the farmer’s miraculous melons. So many, in fact, he decided to throw a second Harvest Day celebration, nearly two months early.
There were carnival rides and carnival games. Ponies and llamas and goats. McClures and Sons, a local Blue Grass band from the farm down the street, provided music all day and far into the night. Everyone laughed and danced to their banjos and, most importantly, feasted on watermelons galore. After dark, they had a watermelon eating contest and, remembering Old Man Gerkin, the winner was decided based on who had spit out the most seeds. Really, everyone won; the melons were the juiciest and the sweetest anyone had ever tasted.
The next day, the townspeople were having so much fun that they decided to keep the festivities going. After all, there was no shortage of food or joy, and no reason to end the celebration so soon. They tried their best to avoid eating the seeds, but with so many melons devoured, it couldn’t be helped.
The farmer shrugged. “Old Man Gerkin was old and feeble. It was a tragedy what happened to him, but I think we’ll be okay. A seed or two never hurt anybody else.”
But he was wrong. Oh so wrong.
Eventually, everyone tired out and, one by one, the makeshift fairgrounds emptied, leaving the farmer alone with his bounty. He still had more watermelons than he could count. It seemed with each one was picked, three grew back in its place.
In the morning, the sheriff and three of her deputies showed up at his door, looking pale and sunken in the cheeks.
“You don’t look so well, Sheriff,” the farmer said, hopping down from a mountain of melons.
“We have a problem.”
When the farmer got closer to them, he noticed something else. One of the deputies had a fuzzy, green stalk sticking out of his nose.
“I can see that,” he said.
“It started with the children, first. Then the elderly,” the sheriff said. “I’m sorry to say, but I have to take you in.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Oh, but I am.” The sheriff gestured to the deputies, who moved forward to restrain the farmer. He didn’t struggled. He didn’t know what to do at all. “Half the village is gone already, and there will be more to come.”
Not only were the townspeople dead, but the entire town was covered in thick, intertwining vines. The power lines were bent in towards the street, baring the weight of overnight watermelons. The sidewalks were cracked and buckled, as if an earthquake had passed through, and the windows of each Main Street shop were shattered.
The farmer burped as they locked the cell door behind him. He choked and coughed and gagged, until finally dislodging something that had stuck in his throat. There, on the cold ground, was a black seed split down the middle with a tiny green flower sprouting from the crack. Inside, he knew there were more, for he’d had the least number of seeds spit out at the contest and had eaten the most of his melons…