Cutting open an ice-cold watermelon on a hot summer afternoon is one of the greatest joys in life. However, cutting it open to find it’s completely hollow in the middle and is now filled with tiny bridges and ornate wooden houses; not to mention cobblestone roads, terraced slopes, gas lamps and hundreds of people no bigger than a peppercorn is a supreme disappointment.
“Aw, it’s ruined!” you cry. You show it to the kids, who were really looking forward to some juicy watermelon. “I’m sorry, guys.”
“Can’t you just cut around the villages?” your wife asks.
You sigh. You lean in for a closer look at the two halves, which are sitting on your kitchen counter like a couple of big green salad bowls. “It smells funny. I think I cut through the waste treatment plant,” you say.
You can barely make out the faces on the tiny people, but they all seem to be looking at you. Some of them are clinging to beautifully woven rope bridges while others have taken refuge in brightly-painted homes that resemble Bavarian chalets, neatly staggered up and down the slopes of this peculiar little world. The houses are barely the size of corn kernels. Some of the people are standing knee deep in the watermelon fruit and holding primitive construction tools or musical instruments; others appear to have fallen to their death on your countertop and floor.
One of them begins to scream in a tiny, unintelligible voice. You can’t make out what he’s saying, or even who it is.
“It’s that guy,” your son says, pointing to a gray-haired fellow on the edge of the rind, although his entire mass of hair wouldn’t equal one hair off your arm.
“Him?” you ask, pointing with the tip of your 12-inch chef’s knife. The screaming suddenly stops. “Oops. I think I cut him.”
You take a soup spoon and scrape at some of the delicate cottages, flower gardens and intricately detailed stonework (such tiny stones!) that create retaining walls for the pathways that spiral through the inside of your infested melon.
“It reminds me of the Amalfi coast, honey,” you say, plowing a swath through the village.
“Oh, it is,” your wife says. “It’s Positano.”
“I was thinking Ravello, but OK.”
There is more faint screaming as the homes crumple and roll up in front of your spoon. You can’t quite make it out, but it sounds something like, no, no; please, please have mercy; we’re the earth spirits from which you have evolved. Or something like that. A tiny landslide of bodies and debris tumbles into the middle of the melon. Behind all the homes and what appeared to be a free health clinic, however, is the brightest red watermelon fruit you’ve ever seen!
“Here,” you say, holding out a glistening spoonful to your son. “Try it.”
He pops it in his mouth and smiles, then pulls something off the tip of his tongue and wipes it on the edge of the counter. “Yuck. That part is kinda bitter,” he says.
You grab a magnifying glass from the kitchen drawer and zoom in on it. “Lederhosen,” you announce.
You give another spoonful to your daughter, who also spits out a foreign object. “Vespa,” you announce. “This is some sort of European strain.”
“Maybe we should just throw it away,” you say. “I don’t want anyone choking on a lamppost, or breaking a tooth on one of these quaint little patisseries. Are you sure you guys don’t just want a snow cone?”
Your kids look up at you, their faces sunburned and their lips chapped, and break into wide grins: “Yeah! Snow cones!”
So you throw the watermelon into the compost pile. As an afterthought, and to prevent the infestation from spreading to your tomatoes, you douse the two halves with gasoline and set them on fire.
A few minutes later you’re sitting at a picnic table outside Big Betty’s Sno-cone Shak. Your daughter takes a bite out of the top of her snow cone and gasps: “look, daddy!”
You peer down and right beyond the curved edge of the shaved ice is some sort of primeval jungle-scape; a lush, verdant, primordial garden. It’s impossibly green, and teeming with life. You lean in closer to see clouds curling across the inner surface of the ice globe. A one-inch bolt of lightning crackles through the tiny sky.
You daughter begins to cry. “I wanted blue cotton candy flavor!”
Angry, you go back to the counter and shove the snow cone with a world inside it at the 15-year-old girl running the machine.
“What the hell is this?”
She looks into the snow cone, pauses, and falls to her knees. “It’s…it’s so beautiful!” she says.
“Look, buddy, if I wanted a snow cone with a self-contained universe of indescribable beauty and complexity, I would have ordered it that way, OK?”
You grab the snow cone from her and slam it into a trash can.
“C’mon, kids,” you say. “Let’s go to McDonalds.”