The Watermelon War

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Music is the universal language.

Submitted: July 23, 2017

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Submitted: July 23, 2017

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My name is William Danforth McCutcheon IV.  My family has lived here in Lily Flagg since 1834.  You can call me Billy if you like.  Just don’t call me Hillbilly.  Qiang is the only person who can do that.

 

It started when a moving van showed up at the rental house next door.  I immediately became suspicious.  We don’t get many Asians coming through our sleepy southern town.  Plus, the man owned way too many violins.

 

After a few phone calls I found out his name was Qiang Li.  Supposedly, he was a concert violinist, and he was going to perform with the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra during the upcoming season.  Huntsville is the big city just north of Lily Flagg.

 

I didn’t buy it.  I was certain he was a spy.

 

That night, I heard violin music coming from his house.  I figured that would be the perfect time to do some investigating.  I snuck up to a bedroom window and peered through the crack in the curtains.  All I could see was a bunch of boxes.  

 

The music stopped.  I put my ear to the window.  My ear didn’t stay attached to the window for long.  Next thing I knew, a hand grabbed my shirt by the collar and threw me to the ground.  

 

Qiang was standing over me.  He had both of his hands twisting my arm around so far I thought my elbow was going to separate from the rest of my body.  “Hillbilly, what are you doing on my property?”

 

“I’m checking you out.  I don’t believe your story.  You’re some kind of spy.”  He burst out in laughter.  “Do you know what irony is?  You accuse me of being a spy, yet I just caught you spying on me.”

 

He laughed again, then let go of my arm.  As he walked toward the door, he said, “Hillbilly, you need to go home and drink some Budweiser.  And please don’t distract me any more.  I’ve got a lot of practicing to do.”

 

I took his advice.  By the time I’d finished the first beer, I’d decided I was done with Qiang.

 

But he wasn’t done with me.  The next morning, just after sunrise, I was pulling weeds from my garden, as I do every day during growing season.  The rattle of the chain link fence made me look up.  It was Qiang.

 

“What are you doing, Hillbilly?  Why do you grow so many watermelons?  Do you run a watermelon stand?  Your vines look sickly, like weeds.”

 

The hair stood up on the back of my neck.  Maybe I was wrong about him being a spy.  Maybe looking through his window was a violation of several city ordinances.  But nobody talks trash about my watermelons.

 

“I’ll have you know, I’ve won the blue ribbon at the Northeast Alabama State Fair for best watermelon seven years in a row.  This year I’m going to make it eight.”

 

Qiang said, “No I don’t think you will.  Because I just decided I will also grow watermelons.  I will enter mine in the fair and I will beat you.”

 

Now it was my turn to laugh.  “Son, if you want to keep up with me, you’ll need to do your planting about three weeks ago.”  I pointed to one of the vines.  I’ve already got baby watermelons.”

 

There was that smile again.  “It will be no problem.  I come from a long line of farmers.  I have an advantage.  Grandmother’s ancient Chinese watermelon potion.”

 

The next morning, Qiang was already digging up a spot with a shovel when I got out to the garden.  After he’d smoothed out the soil, he poked the ground with a finger and deposited a seed in the hole.  

 

I said, “Are you just going to plant one seed?”  The smile returned.  “One seed is enough when you have Grandmother’s ancient Chinese watermelon potion.”  He poured some orangish liquid from a glass onto the dirt.

 

My amusement turned to disbelief when his watermelon vine began to grow.  I’d never seen a plant grow that fast.  The leaves were gigantic.  In two weeks, his solitary plant was bigger than the best in my patch.

 

I was hoping that bigger didn’t mean sweeter and tastier.  By the time the fair started, his watermelons were the largest I’d ever seen.

 

A row of folding tables contained all of the entries.  We each displayed our best watermelon, along with plates full of sliced and chunked samples for the judges and visitors.  Qiang’s melon towered over the competition.

 

My buddy Arnie French showed up and I whispered instructions in his ear.  He went to Qiang’s table and grabbed a slice.  He brought it to me and I bit into it.  My heart sank.  It was the tastiest watermelon that has ever passed through my lips.

 

Needless to say, Qiang won the blue ribbon.  My streak ended at seven.

 

But I had to put that behind me.  My band, Billy Mac and the Whiskey Shots, were playing in the 8 pm slot on the fair’s main stage.  We do both country and western.  I was tuning my guitar and was just about to rip into the first song when I saw movement from the corner of my eye.  I’ll be damned if it wasn’t Qiang, climbing on the stage with a violin in his hand.

 

Qiang grabbed my microphone, looked at me and said, “Hillbilly, have you ever heard of a song called Orange Blossom Special?”  He let go of the mic and started fiddling.  My jaw dropped.

 

I’ve been a musician a long time.  I know talent when I hear it.  Qiang’s fingers moved at lightning speed.  He played that fiddle like he’d poured Grandmother’s ancient Chinese watermelon potion all over it.

 

He had an ear to ear grin and I realized he was expecting us to join in.  I started strumming, the band kicked in, and for the rest of the set, we did our best to keep up with Qiang.

 

So that is how Billy Mac and the Whiskey Shots ended up with a Chinese fiddle player.  Sometimes he’d perform at the Orchestra, then come straight to one of our gigs, still wearing his tuxedo.  After a while it felt normal.

 

But all things must pass.  The orchestra season ended and it was time for Qiang to move on.  His next job was in Finland, with the Helsinki Philharmonic.  He played one last set with the Whiskey Shots, then we gave him a going away party at the Sports Page Lounge.  Many beers were drank and more than a few tears were shed.

 

I thought I’d seen the last of Qiang, but as usual, he got the last word.  My doorbell rang the next morning.

 

“Hillbilly, I have a few hours before the moving van shows up.  Will that rust bucket you call a pickup truck make it to Huntsville and back?  If so, I will teach you how to make Grandmother’s ancient Chinese watermelon potion.”

 

We drove north to the Far East Market on Memorial Parkway.   Qiang filled a shopping basket with herbs, roots and other items that had names I couldn’t pronounce.  I took notes while he chopped, sliced, diced and mixed things together on my kitchen counter.  When he was done, I had a gallon of the magical orange liquid in my refrigerator.

 

DO NOT EVEN ASK ME TO TELL YOU WHAT IS IN IT.  I intend to resume my winning streak  next year.


© Copyright 2017 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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