It was a Nice Kitchen. Not to say that other kitchens weren’t nice, they were, they just weren’t quite as Nice as the Kitchen. All wooden counter tops, and lovely white cupboards, with little nooks and crannies, and filled with spices and shiny utensils, and a positively enormous refrigerator and large windows that let in the light with the prettiest view of the garden.
The ruler of the Kitchen was a woman, a kind, wonderful Deliverer that made great pea soup. Her name was Mother, and she had four unruly loud children. Of course, that might just be my point of view, and what am I but a poor pickle in a jar? Anyway, those boys were always everywhere, in the cookie jar, over the fruit basket, stuck in the Fridge… it was very dangerous in those days. The children are all grown up now, off to Soil knows where, where they are no doubt terrorizing the food community. Mother is also away, perhaps visiting another Kitchen, as she frequently did. How do you know all this, you ask? Hah! What a typical question a human would ask. You see, as befitting my status of a Preserved Vegetable, my jar occupied a very lofty position Up Top, on a shelf where I can see the entire Kitchen.
But where are my manners? My stalk would be quite appalled, I tell you. Hello, I am Sir Pickle of the Vinegared Lot, formerly Cucumber from the Fridge, and I’m here to clear up matters about the hoopla that occurred a few food cycles ago, when I was still a lowly cucumber. Everyone involved have already been Consumed or subjected to the compost heap by now, and I may be the last one to remember and my time is ticking by. I may be Consumed, soon, or regulated to the Pantry, and then no one would ever know the truth. What is that? Afraid of Consumption? No, my dear carbonated life form, I have already lived more food cycles than a mere foodstuff can ever hope to accomplish outside drying, and for that I am content. But the story must outlive us all. And you, human, must be the one to retell it to your brethren.
They say it was a warm climate that day. I was still in the Fridge, where the climate is always cold, so the dangerous heat did not get to us. Mother was in office, at a big table in the middle of the Kitchen where the chopping board is, and she was busy conducting what we denizens of the Fridge called group sacrifice. In group sacrifices, Mother would use a large number of us to appease the visiting rulers of the other Kitchens, where they would convene in the adjoining land, Dining Room, and make loud noises. It was an honor to be a sacrifice, and almost every fruit and vegetable wanted in the next broth, salad, or cobbler.
Except the citrus lot. The lemons and oranges of our community were a rowdy lot; loud, obnoxious, and utterly juicy. Sometimes they were joined by the slightly sweeter tangerines, who never lasted long, and the more serious grapefruits, a sour lot that almost never left their cubbies. And they always complained loud and clear about joining in a group sacrifice, dribbling innards on Mother’s knife and insisting on single Consumption in the most vulgar manner.
But I have digressed. As the story goes, while Mother was struggling with the onions (another annoying vegetable that fancied itself a poet and saw it fit to let loose the most horrid poems, bad enough to make a grown person cry), one of her boys came rushing down with big thundering steps and grabbed a tub of creamed ice from the freezer. Which, as an occurrence unto itself, was very common-place. Except, in his haste, the boy did not close the door properly. And at the very tip of a shelf, there was a bag of beans of the pea family with a hole in it.
And that, big human, is how Pea163 came to be.
A warm gust of air was going through the Freezer, causing the ice to slightly melt and sleet over. On the middle shelf, there was an ancient cauliflower, a bag of flour, and a frozen bag of peas with a little itty bitty hole in it. The vegetables and fruits of the Freezer, as a general rule, slumbered while the frost covered them, awakening only when thawed. The slumber allowed the various Foodstuffs to live a longer cycle and reach an older age with a youthful visage still. Rotting was less of a fear here than in other areas of the Kitchen, and as an unspoken rule, all the inhabitants of the Freezer never left their places unless needed. Until, of course that fateful day, when the door was left open and the warm air entered their safe haven, and slightly thawed an inquisitive pea that slept at the edge of the hole on the middle shelf.
The Pea was at first, quite confused. It was a young foodstuff, shelled prematurely from its pod and traveling a short journey through odd Machines and deposited haphazardly into a plastic bag with a thousand other peas. As the ray of light came into freezer, it tried hard to remember what the odd line was. Trying to peek out of the plastic bag, it rolled closer to the hole. And then closer still. And then, suddenly, it fell through the hole and hit the ground with a muffled PLOP!
Am I squashed? The Pea thought.
It rolled experimentally. No, somehow, it had miraculously survived the fall. Well, there was a little dent in the slight former righter around side of its being, but circumstances withstanding, that was nothing but a battle scar.
The Pea was musing about its rather good luck, when a great big shadow suddenly blocked its overhead view and landed with a BOOM. And then another, BOOM. The Pea, which I must point out is a hypothetical he, began to panic. He rolled a bit this way, he rolled a bit that way, but the shadows kept on coming! BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM and everywhere until the Pea began to think it was going to go splat and into the Garbage like his stalk used to tell him. He shut his view and waited for his fate. There! Pressure covered his side and he readied himself for the Rot as the darkness began surrounding him and- Wait. It wasn’t dark. The Pea opened his view. Is this the Garbage? What a load of wimpy nincompoops the other foodstuffs were! This wasn’t bad at all. And look! There was a plate of what seemed to be fruit sitting across the large expanse, and not a single one had the Rot! And then he thought: Company!
He rolled closer. They seemed to be talking loudly to each other. The little pea hesitated. What if they were Rotten? He went a bit closer. They looked colorfully vital, not a fruit fly in sight. He mustered up some courage and rolled right the way up the bowl. And then was at loss of what to say.
He had never seen such a colorful sight in his cycle! There was so much color, and was that a pineapple? There was a banana too, and an orange and a whole family of grapes! And a shiny red apple hidden behind the banana. The pea was astounded. He must be the luckiest Fridge dweller of all time!
“What are you doing standing there, m’boy?” A loud voice boomed.
The pea squeaked. “I, I, I, I’m-”
“Well, come on up here, don’t squawk like a fava bean!” It was the pineapple, looking over the rim of the bowl at the poor hapless pea. The pea stuttered a bit more.
“My dear Pineapple, what are you bellowing at?” The pear joined Pineapple. “Oh! Will you look at that! A pea so far away from its family! Oh, the poor dear, you’ve frightened him half to unripe, Pineapple! Where are your manners?” She turned to the pea. “Hello, darling, I’m Mrs. Pear, and this is the Esteemed Pineapple of Waitrose. And who might you be?”
The pea tried to speak but nothing came out. Addressed by an esteemed foodstuff! And a titled one! Individual edibles! What an adventure. What a day. He belatedly remembered Mrs. Peach had asked him a question and hastened to reply.
“I’m Pea163.” He stopped for a moment, then boldly continued. “I used to live in the Freezer with my family in a Plastic Bag, but I thawed and decided to explore.”
“What a brave little pea!” cooed Mrs. Pear. “So far away from home!”
“Who’s that?” the Apple asked.
“Pea163.” Pineapple answered.
“What’s it doing here?” asked the Orange.
“He accidently thawed out and went out to explore!” Mrs. Peach said.
“But that’s in direct infringement of the unspoken rule of Freezery ethics!” cried the obnoxious Apple. It really was quite the rule-stickler.
“Oh, scallywash! Rules were meant to be broken, Apple m’girl!” the Pineapple boomed.
“Can we see? Can we see?” The grapes all called out. The grapes were of a lower scale on the Foodstuff List of Varying Importance, as they lacked individuality.
The banana leaned over. “An itsy witsy pea!” he moved closer. Suddenly, he shouted: “I WILL GRAB YOU BY THE FRUIT OF YOUR LOINS!” and then cackled madly.
Everyone fell silent.
“Get it? Fruit of you- Oh, bother, never mind. You non-stalks are crazy!” Banana huffed. He liked to ruin his own literary moments.
“Ignore him, child.” Mrs. Peach.
“So! Where you headed off to, m’boy?” Pineapple boomed.
“Out of the Garbage to roll around the Kitchen!” Pea163 declared, deciding that exact minute that this is what he wanted to do.
Everyone fell silent again. Even the Pineapple. And then,
“BWAHA HAHA HAHA HAHA HAHA HAHA HAHA HAHA!” The whole bowl shook from the force of the fruits’ laughter, Banana the loudest of them all. Except for Apple.
“Whatever gave you the foolish idea that you were in the Garbage?” The Apple interjected. “Do you not see how shiny we are? How lighted the place is? The fact that we are Rot-free? Unless… oh, no! Am I Rotting? AM I ROTTING?!”
There was chaos in the bowl as everyone tried to shut the now hysterical Apple up, while simultaneous checking each other for the foul disease. The pea went slightly yellow-green with embarrassment and confuzzlement. He rolled away secretly, trying to put distance between himself and the obviously crazy fruits. Something plopped next to him.
“Going somewhere?” It was the orange, looking positively enormous close up.
“Um. Yes?” The pea tried to inch his way out of Orange’s shadow.
“Oh, good. You’ll have massive amounts of fun, the Kitchen is filled with all sorts of interesting things. Just don’t go near the dried meats in the pantry, it gets a little… funny down there.”
“You’ve toured the Kitchen?” Pea163 said in awe.
“Of course I have. Citruses are the most equipped fruit for exploring, we’re round and have tough skin. Except for lemons, they have to mind their heads and tails.” the Orange replied.
“Can you take me?” the pea nearly forgot his manners and jumped up and down in excitement, like a common jumping bean, but managed to hold himself in time.
“You’re a pea, and I’m a pear.” said the Orange wisely. “Together, we can’t go anywhere. I’d roll over, and promptly squash you.”
“But… you are an orange, not a pear.” The pea looked confused again.
“I am a pear deep down inside. Now, split before they get to their sense and demand justice.” The Orange looked back at the bowl.
“But where do I start?” Pea163 needled.
“All these buts! Look over there, can you see that corner over there?”
“Yes,” said the pea.
“It looks like a lettuce and some carrots, and a little mountain of spuds are by the cutting board. Go to the vegetables, they’ll be better help.” And with that, the Orange rolled away. Pea163 was alone all over again. Well, he reflected, not completely alone, and rolled off towards the counter Orange had pointed out, leaving the sound of Banana’s cackle behind him.
Pea163 was tired. He had been rolling for such a long while, through nothing but clean countertop for what seemed like ages. His whole being hurt. And he was slightly disappointed that he hadn’t had any dangerous experience thus far. It was disheartening, and he wondered if his journey was worth it.
And then, suddenly, It Happened.
The world seemed hazy. Pea163 could feel new dents in his being. He didn’t know where he was, and for a short moment, almost forgot who he was. He tried to roll around, but could only moved in circles around himself. And he felt something staring at him. He tried to look around him. He was still in the same path on the left-hand corner counter top of the Kitchen. Except, he looked back to the corner he had been headed to, there were no longer the unknown mounds of vegetables (as Orange had claimed). And he still had that disturbing feeling that something was watching him.
Suddenly, he heard a sound in the shadow of the bread box behind him. He twirled around to see a brussel sprout step menacingly out of the shadows. With him was a Carrot, a Potato, a Zucchini, and the source of the staring, a Broccoli.
“And what do we have here?” The Brussel Sprout circled the pea.
“Seems like an itty bitty pea, baws.” said the Zucchini.
“That was a rhetorical question, knucklehead!” The Brussel sprout knocked over Zucchini.
The Broccoli continued staring silently.
Carrot stood in front of the Pea. “Now, now, no need to get aggressive with the titch. He’s probably just lost from his group sacrifice.”
“Oh, shad ap, Carrot. You carrots are a lot better boiled, makes you meaner.” Brussel Sprout shook his head, scattering tiny brussel sprout brain matter all over every one. They all started squabbling, except for the Potato, who stood by Pea163’s side.
“I’m going to be a science project.” The potato suddenly announced proudly (and a bit smugly too, if you asked Pea163). He had a goofy grin on his face.
Pea163 decided to make a run for it and escape the nasty vegetable gang. He spotted a bag not so far away that looked so very much like his and made a mad dash for it, leaving the Potato yelling “Hey, where are you going! I haven’t even showed you my growing bulges of future potatoes, yet!”
As he rolled and rolled and rolled and got closer to his destination, he decided he never wanted to have an adventure again. There, just a few more rolls and he’d reach the bag and be safe forever and ever or until the next Consumption anyway and then-
It was a rolling pin that did it. Mother was busy, so busy, her in-laws were coming any minute now and she was trying to get it all together she never noticed the little pea on the counter. She stopped for a second to gather the rogue vegetables, picked up the pepper and the salt and the water. You see, she was making minestrone.