- Ward Cleaver's Prozac Fever

alimentary gardening

I smacked them harder and harder,

the little clods,

with all the dadly

strength I could muster until they were

all halved, and then halved

again and again and again.

Breathless and soaked to the bone

with a dripping briny sweat,

I cackled with a cutting

throat and stepped back in the crisp

April air to admire the results of the

day's dreadful and maniacal chore.

I had returned their misshapen

forms back to the earth, all right.

There they were, once robust,

and taunting and whole, scattered into

faceless little bittles, victims, all,

of my merciless blunted steel.

The gardening season was upon us again.

And shame rain down upon all of

you, my misguided readers, who

may have concluded in a media-indoctrinated

bloodlust that your favorite

dad had finally gone off his nut and offed

the very brood that provides

this sad little cybercolumn its ongoing schtick.

Shame upon you, I say!

Although I will haltingly admit,

there is precedent supporting your

evil assumption, dear dads.

Back in my TV news gathering days,

when a "V" chip would most likely be a

new crispy-crunchy Frito-Lay product and

not a 1st amendment issue, we uncovered

a happy little summer gardening

story in a sleepy Ohio town,

and it went something like this:

Once, in a time not all that long ago,

there lived a man who took a bride.

Not happy in an increasingly

unholy state of matrimony,

he kakked her, hacked her, torched her bits

in a 55-gallon metal drum, and

with a whistling tune

on his pursed little hillbilly harelip,

he ever-so-carefully rototilled her

blackened, charred remains into the

backyard victory garden from whence

would ensue a remarkable bumper crop of

zucchinis, cukes and Better Boys.

With guilt piling up and salad fixins

running out, he gave himself over to

the authorities who were kind enough

to let us news ghouls videotape the

gruesome garden for our hyperbole-heavy

usage on the dinnertime evening news.

Killer overnight ratings,

as I am certain you would surmise.

Our own soil enhancement agenda is, of course,

filled less with such egregious exotica

as it is with crap.

Every year, I traipse out into

the wintery backyard wasteland,

turfed mercilessly by our

idiot dog Parvo; every year I smack

at re-congealed clay clods to ready

gentle Mother Earth for her tender

perennial seedlings until my puling biceps,

atrophying from their monumental age,

scream and scream again for blessed mercy.

Every year I conduct a highly exacting and

scientific scatological survey to determine

which species of feces up and down the

Darwinian scale will finally

transform the mirey Midwestern clayclods

into the monster-maker of jackpot bumper crops.

In this Odyssean search, I have raked

in the foulest smelling reek of

dung that has variously

bleated back at me mockingly,

neighed and whinnied,


and barked.

I have gone as far as purchasing

piles of pachyderm poop from

the city's annual "Zoo-doo" fund-raiser.

But the detritus of Dumbo, like all

the others, sadly has the same

effect year after year, burning

my forlorn cash crop to a crimson crisp.

So it is that I perform perennial

backyard voodoo in an effort to

stave off spiraling grocery bills;

and apparently as a subconsciously

welcome form of self-flagellation.

Naturally, as soon as my pathetic

harvest is a-ready for reapin',

the supersized super-megamarkets are

bustin' at the seams with produce so cheap,

you could cram a mini-van

yupmobile to the sunroof with just

pocket change, making

my ritual misery moot.

Even Mr. Douglas had it easier.

In the verdant acres of Pixley,

Oliver was served scores of steaming

hot cakes by his attendant and

chiffon-trailing spouse.

The very highest of high technology in farm

implementation was always delivered,

albeit with a slight mark-up, directly

to Oliver Douglas' door by the lovable,

avuncular and septum-deviated Mr. Haney.

Who could be a finer farm-hand than

the enigmatic Eb, who blazed a fashion

trail of flannel far before

Kurt Cobain slithered out of Seattle

to come a-grungin.'

And as I am sure we all can agree,

Arnold Ziffel could most certainly

kick the wimpy porcine backsides

of both Babe and Gordy any old day.

While Mr. Douglas' furrowed fields

may have ultimately under-performed

(not really unlike mine

or even W. C. Field's doomed orange

grove in "It's a Gift"),

at least he was trapped in a pleasant

existential Sisyphean cycle of sight gags.

Come the harvest moon, back in these

here parts, a barrage of ballistic basketballs

my son elatedly slam-dunks from

3-Point-Land will have crunched my cukes,

pummeled my peppers,

and assassinated my arugula.

And the day after I involve the little kiddles

in the bucolic joys of feeding and weeding,

my gap-toothed daughter will invariably

present me with a glimmering mile-wide

smile and a bouquet of still-developing

garlic and carrots and kohlrabi

violently and prematurely plucked

from their sleepy soily cradles.

The final yearly indignity comes once again,

my friends, when my octogeneric neighbors

perform their inexplicable daily doggie routine,

in which they return from a

Denny's Grand Slam, toddle from their

leather-clad Lincoln on steely

prosthetic knees and hips, beckon Parvo to the

stockade fence with snout-watering meaty

Denny morsels, and then recoil in abject

horror when our canine companion leaps

like a circus seal possessed

against the fence to snap up the scrappets.

It is as if by electing to cheat

death by Doberman, they buy bankable

time against the Inevitable.

Whatever their motivation, in the

course of the Daily Denny Dance,

doggie will have tango'd on my turnips,

fandango'd on my fennel, and

cha-cha'd my chives on to their greater reward.

Nigh on to Labor Day,

I am finally able to produce a bountiful

horn-o-plenty replete with one radish;

two blotched-out tomatoes that

appear to have some alien form of ring worm;

and three successful habañeros

I will surreptitiously use in a

volcanic salsa which I will slip my unsuspecting

brother, just to see him go ape

(as I am still, after all, his Big Brother).

So goes the Circle of Life, dear dads;

but don't get all misty on me

and do some smarmy Lion King schlock in your head.

Go git out in the back-40 and git busy;

the growing season for us dads

won't last forever, you know.

For when Mother Earth issues her clarion call,

we must all, like the hapless lemming, relent;

for we are all of us,

clods unto her sight.

Green Acres,

We are There.

Last "dads"
Past "dads"

©2003 Arhythmiacs

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