Boredom is the root of all evil. They say that it’s money, but I’ve never had much of that, I wouldn’t know. I can say for sure that boredom is what does it for me. Growing up in rural North Florida can be great, but for a twelve year old kid it can be pure torture. No license, no car, and no friends for miles. Don’t get me wrong, I always enjoyed a little Cartoon Network and playing some video games, but I was never one to sit in front of a TV for very long. You have to make your own fun as a kid in this type of environment. My idea of fun under these circumstances was mischievousness. By mischievousness I mostly mean getting my little sister into trouble.
There’s a specific detail I should mention in order to understand this story. My grandparents lived in a house in the corner of our four acre piece of property, opposite of my family’s home. My grandpa fancied himself a farmer and was still going strong in his late 80’s and early 90’s, plowing, sowing, and doing whatever else farmers did. We grew a lot of different things like corn, green beans, cabbage, okra, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. I say “we” because I was his little helper. I did a lot of the work he couldn’t get around to doing. I didn’t mind planting the tomatoes. I didn’t mind plowing for the corn. I didn’t mind weeding the cabbage. I sure didn’t mind eating the fried okra. I found that I enjoyed most of these activities. The one thing I did mind was this plant that they called “mustard greens.” Scientific name: Brassica Juncea. I hated everything about them – the way they tasted, the way they smelled, the way I was asked at every family dinner, “Dylan, would you like some mustard greens?” No, I don’t want any of your nasty mustard greens. Never have, never will.
Another critical detail in this story of mine, and many others I might tell, is that my sister is eight years younger than me. At this time she had just turned four. Contrary to what some might think, it is actually pretty tough to get a small child like this in trouble. At times I had to work extra hard to achieve my goal, do some digging, scrounge around for ideas. Occasionally opportunities were placed in front of me as if the Devil himself had selected the scenario directly from a manila folder in the back of a rusty filing cabinet on the fourth level of hell. My hatred for this leafy green along with the penchant to get my little sister in trouble converged to a point that I considered at the time to be a stroke of pure genius. When it hit me it was a beautiful thing.
So it begins. It was a hot mid-summer’s day. I had gotten my fix of Banjo-Kazooie and Ed, Edd and Eddy and needed to find something to do outside. I walked around for a few minutes, got a couple chores out of the way, then went back inside for a glass of sweet tea and to ponder my next move. I was just about to step back into the humid oven that is Florida during summer when my mom stopped me. She told me that my sister was riding her Barbie Jeep and that she wanted me to watch her for a while. I definitely didn’t have an excuse not to, so I obliged. I took my glass of tea out on the back steps and sat down, scanning the yard for the purple wheeled monster. My sister noticed me, made a lap around the huge oak tree at the back of the property and sped over to the steps as fast as the little 12 volt battery would let her. We exchanged pleasantries and she took off. I watched her go around the oak tree again and then over behind the shed. As she passed by the patch of mustard greens on the back fence of the property a light bulb came on in my head.
There was a small climb in elevation at the end of the garden – a hill leading up to a strip of pavement that ran down the middle of the property, an early predecessor of the highway that ran parallel about two hundred feet away. I immediately knew what to do, but it took everything in me to just sit back and let this thing play out. A little impatience spoils great plans.
I took a sip of my tea and waited for her to rev back over. I had to do this before the battery gave in, which I estimated to be about ten minutes. She pulled up and almost like she was reading my mind asked where she should drive next. Perfect. I looked over to the old highway and said, “Wouldn’t it be fun if you went down that hill straight through those plants? No you probably shouldn’t do that.”
She glanced over at the hill and back at me with a smile. “Yeah, I shouldn’t do that.” She looked back to the hill once more. “Should I?” she said with her head tilted like a curious pup.
After taking a sip of tea I wiped the sweat from my forehead and spoke the words that would be remembered in my family for years to come, “It’s up to you.”
I stood up on the bottom step as she drove past the shed. She hit the hill at full speed. It took at least a minute for her to climb the eight feet. She stopped at the top to look over at me and I nodded like a mute general signaling his cavalry to charge. She looked ahead and waited, as if pondering whether or not to actually go through with it. After a few moments she mustered the courage to press the pedal to the plastic and take off down the hill. “Moment of truth,” I thought to myself.
She made the approach at full speed and like a good soldier, never once wavered – straight through the mustard greens all the way to the end of the patch. I watched as plant after plant buckled under the plastic bumper of that Power Wheels Barbie Jeep and a feeling of relief came over me. I never had to see or smell another pot of mustard greens in my life! No one would ever again ask, “Dylan, would you like some mustard greens? They’re good… Are you sure?”
No thank you. Not today. Pass the cornbread, please.
I took one more sip of sweet tea and walked back inside.
Four hours later I was sitting on my bedroom floor with a PS2 controller in my hand. I heard a knock on the open door. It was my mother. “Yes ma’am?” I said in acknowledgment.
“Did you tell your sister that it was up to her if she wanted to drive through the mustard greens?” I had been betrayed. “You’re grounded,” she said with a shake of her head as she walked away.
Falling back on the floor I mumbled, “At least I don’t have to eat any more of that nasty shit.”
“What was that?!”
“The opportunity for doing mischief is found a hundred times a day, and of doing good once in a year.” – Voltaire
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