Squash! The bug hit the window with a force surprising for its size. He stopped dead in his tracks by the windshield. We kept moving. It’s kind of a gruesome way to end your life – glued to someone’s car. They don’t care about an insignificant bug, they just want to fling its remnants to the side of the road with their wipers. Didn’t he see us in front of him? I guess it’s sort of like getting in a car wreck. I wouldn’t really know though because of my lack of bug life experience and my perfect driving record.
I treat my vegetable garden as free-form sculpture, the raised-bed boxes creating the supporting structure for seedlings. I plant according to mood and a slim grasp of pleasing groupings of shape, texture and color as well as principles of companion planting. I am invariably surprised, not by what I have wrought, but what last year’s plants have, and the birds scattering sunflower, tomato and squash seeds in astonishing complements to my own messy efforts. Volunteer squash tendrils slither along the stone paths, sturdy sunflowers shoot up next to cucumbers and basil, and leafy tomatoes punctuate straight, solemn rows of corn.
I worked at a garden this summer. I had decided that squash and I did not get along long ago, but out garden squash made me change my mind. My favorite to eat is yellow squash, sautéed in olive oil. My favorite to look at is Pattypan squash – like a headless, dumpy body in a tutu. What could be nicer? My favorite to marvel over is zucchini, when it becomes huge and can’t be used for anything besides zucchini bread. My least favorite to pick is yellow squash, because the plants seem to be particularly vindictive. Of course – go figure.
Some words, like squash, can just capture the feeling of what they express. You can feel it in your mouth. You can image walking on the sidewalk and stepping on an old peeled banana. Words like this astound me: moist. The feeling of when you put on fresh socks and then step out to the garage and place your foot in a puddle you tried so hard to avoid. As you walk away all you can think is damn, I really wish my sock wasn’t moist. Even as your mind whispers the word you can feel it in every sense of the meaning.
It’s that type of word that reminds you of the sound it makes. Although I’m not sure if it’s an actual onomatopoeia like squelch or splash. But it’s close. I personally prefer squish. It’s more juicy. Like when you stomp on bugs and strange coloured moistness oozes out of the dead body. I take pity and never dare. Squish. Squash is a sport. I must have been three when I first watched my dad play. The steps I watched from were too big to walk up, walk down, climb up, climb down. I didn’t focus on the sport, back then.
Squash. Now that’s a word I’m unfamiliar with. I have never played squash before, though I have watched tidbits from matches. It looks like fast fun. My first time eating squash was at the Ganley’s house. It was good – sweet and creamy. I have squashed a lot of bugs in my life, if that counts as knowing squash well. My favorite bugs to crush were the red crawlers – tiny, circular, an abundance of legs. I remember letting them crawl on my skin, tickling me, and then smacking five or more with one hand. I now had an abundance of freckles.
Do this: go to a place where no one will think you are losing your mind. (Example: your room, unoccupied and sound proof.) Say the word “squash” to yourself as many times as you can, in a clear, normal-decibel-level speaking voice. Comme ça:
SQUASH SQUASH SQUASH SQUASH SQUASH SQUASH SQUASH SQUASH SQUASH SQUASH SQUASH SQUASH SQUASH SQUASH SQUASH.
The word causes my jaw to move down and around to the left in an interesting circular motion. It is also a word (other specimens include “like” and “badminton”) that sounds utterly curious when examined as an artifact of the English language.
It grows in the garden under the shade of its own leaves. Like a balloon squeezed tight at one end, I am afraid its squishy innards might explode over its dirt-lined home. Its casing is a hard diluted butter-yellow, but I cannot smell it. A fuzzy green stem arches off its top nod and snakes through the web of vines. Curly cues twizzle into the air. The soft bristles are painful and lodge in my fingers when I stroke the vine. The dirt and leaves, wet from rain, open their pores up to my nose and the garden comes alive.
During summer times, juicy squash discs abundantly covered in vinegar, parsley and garlic would cuddle next to pork or potatoes on my plate. There was something in this squash-garlic yummy combination that really sharpened my appetite, making me eat more bread, more of the main course, more of everything. Back then, I never minded the extra food that went down my esophagus but as puberty hit me, I drastically reduced my squash salad intake. Having turned into an extremely self-conscious person, I was worried that the excess fat and pungent breath that came with the salad would thwart me socially.