Friday, May 8, 2015

Free Fiction: The Price of Harvest

A little bit of an anti-romance today...or is it? Perhaps more of the story will evolve later on, but for now, this little snippet is it.


Vaughn spied the patch of tender green leaves among the various shades of dried brown and tan detritus on the forest floor. The leaves were flat, young, and lush, and he could see hints of white and purple on the stalks that jutted just above the old, dried leaves from last autumn. Ramps. Sometimes called wild leeks, or allium by the snootier foragers. Vaughn’s mouth watered at the discovery.

But he also spied another person standing equidistant away on the opposite side of the ramps and staring straight at him. Competition for the ramps.

“There’s not enough for both of us,” Fender called across the space. In the dappled sunlight of early spring, he looked a bit like a mystic woodland creature, though his eyes were sharp and shrewd, like a human’s.

“I found it first,” Vaughn replied. A quick estimation of the ramps did indeed tell Vaugn that there wasn’t enough for two people to take them and leave enough for conservation. Ramps grew wild, and if there were to be more ramps next year, the smart forager left some to grow.

“You didn’t. We arrived at the exact same moment. Next argument. I make the better pesto,” Fender countered.

Vaughn clenched his teeth together and then exhaled, releasing the tension. Fender had won a pesto contest at the ramp festival last year. His claim was valid, however much Vaugn detested it. He did make an excellent pesto. “I make a better salsa verde.”

Fender threw up his hands. “Granted. I would walk a hundred miles for a pint of your salsa verde. So we’re equal there.”

Vaughn shifted his balance from left foot to right foot and back again, feeling edgy. He wanted this stand off to end. “Give me the ramps and I’ll save some salsa for you.” It was the best offer he could make. The flavor of a ramp centered somewhere between garlic and onion. Its sharp flavor brought life and depth to dishes. It made good soups great, and great sauces better. Adding ramps to just about anything savory increased the deliciousness of the dish by a factor of ten. Vaughn's salsa was really good without the ramps, but with them, it was amazing, and worth bargaining for.

Fender laughed. In the hush of the forest, it sounded like a trumpet of mirth, both giving him a mastery of the location, and marking him as not belonging. If he was a woodland creature, he was an evil one. “Give me a kiss, and I’ll let you have all the ramps.”

“What?” Vaughn took a step back.

“You heard me. One kiss and all the ramps are yours.”

The idea was repugnant. Vaughn took another step away. There were other ramps he could find, and soon there would also be mushrooms to forage. Vaugn would sooner eat dirt than kiss Fender. Vaughn could appreciate that Fender might be easy on the eyes, but the moment he paid attention to Fender’s personality, any attraction was immediately doused. “Not interested.” Vaughn backed away even more. “The ramps are yours. Remember to leave some to the forest.” As he turned and walked away, he heard Fender rustling branches and crunching old leaves on the forest floor behind him.

“I’ll catch you someday!” Fender called out.

Vaughn didn’t bother to answer. He slipped through the trees, searching for the path he’d taken earlier. It was still spring, and there was more forest in which to walk. He let the thought of kissing Fender drift away. He knew of an abandoned asparagus patch he had yet to visit, and it was just about time to start harvesting the stalks. It was his secret stash and his alone, there would need be no reason to trade kisses for that harvest.

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