Walking up to a cozy, tan ranch-style house in southern California, my stomach was howling for attention, waiting for a scrumptious meal to help ease its hunger. My aunts house was filled with the rich scent of roasted chicken and garlic, a smell that would drench my taste buds when would have eaten mammal flesh.
I could almost smell the tenderness of the succulent meat as it baked in the oven while mashed potatoes churned in elated creamy butter. The smells of a fulfilling feast vanished when my unwary sense of smell detected a stinging stench. The smell of a flattened skunk by an 18 wheeler would have pleased your nose more than the stench from the kitchen. Immediately I felt something beginning to creep up my throat and my gag reflex started to pulse and constrict the further I walked into the house. The only question on my mind was, “What will be thrown into my unsuspecting mouth within the next five minutes?
As my family gathered around the table, my attention focused on my faux china plate here the source of the reeking smell was laid out before me. It was green!! Not just any green, it was a dark sinister, depressing green, as if from a deep dark forest. The long stalks lay on my plate contaminating the wonderful and blessed mashed potatoes and gravy. The thought of this sinister vegetable entering my vacant stomach to satisfy any hunger had left over was inconceivable. This newly found enemy of mine had been secreting juices overtaking the defenseless and peaceful chicken breasts.
It had finally pulled a Hitler when it invaded my buttered roll which forced me into action. I grabbed the only weapon readily available, the courageous fork. With my only defense at hand, I stabbed one of the weaker stalks to observe my adversary more clearly. Dreaded the perpetual demise of a lifetime’s worth of appetite.
The word itself made my fingers quiver. It was the length off sharp number two pencil but instead of lead it had diminutive leaves attached to the tip. It had only one purpose which was to fool the digester into thinking a pretty delicious gift was coming its way. It was as if they curled around the pointed tip, but I was too smart to be fooled. I knew that only misery waited under the dark green lying leaves.
It had pale pea-like lines that wrapped around the forest-like stalks, leaving a quarter of an inch separating the filth into four or five sections, of horror. Looking from the outside, it seemed as if it was layered like an onion. It appeared that the first layer was a sea green with a sheer touch of color from the inside of a lime. The pigment grew more menacing the deeper the layers went.
The thought of this satanic vegetable going near any part of my body was ultimately a chaotic nightmare. 1 drew the dark vegetable closer to my nose. The steam instantly attacked my nostrils as it seeped down into the back of my throat. My poor defenseless nose was suddenly filled with an aroma like that of cat urine and ammonia. I felt a burning sensation in my nasal passages as the hair in my nose tried fighting off the poisonous steam that was attempting to attack my inner senses. My body went in to shock as I dropped my once mighty sword and pushed away from the oak wooden table.
I soon found my enemy had the overwhelming power to make me pale. I was pulled fourth into the battle round by the green’s allies, my parents, who then tried to persuade a single bite. F-arced into caving in and avoiding a long grounding, picked up the betraying fork. Eyes opened, I stared my nemesis down as it entered the gateway of my core.
Cautiously, I bit the tip of its bushy summit; the particles broke off and invaded every crevice in my mouth. It was a gushing sensation as I clamped down. It felt as if centers separated into a flank position trying to clog the back of my throat which made swallowing feel as if I was shoving a toothbrush down it to puke. Bits and pieces clung to the inner walls of my throat as bigger chunks fell farther down the tubes leading to an unsuspecting stomach. It was a bomb of hard wood chips covered in slime as it hit my acidic stomach.
It took a few more tries of swallowing before had to drown out the rest of what particles were left with many gulps of creamy white milk. This may not have been the best decision, but when in dire need one must use whatever resources available. Was poisoned for life. Looking at the tricksters left on my plate I envisioned throwing them into a pit of despair. New I wouldn’t be able eat anything more for at least six days. I took one last look and felt an odd movement coming from my stomach.
It began to crawl up my spine until I felt a convulsion and my abdomen began to twitch. My parents took one look at me and rushed me to the nearest porcelain god in the house as was forced to regurgitate not only the asparagus, but the garlicky chicken, and finally, slowly and painfully the mush of mashed potatoes crawled up and out my mouth.
Skipping dessert since the episode in the bathroom, was finally able to leave my aunt’s house of asparagus. Let accomplished and pleased with my performance in the war of green vegetables and family dinners. My only regret as we climbed into the car was the glorious never-ending image of what was given to the hallway bathroom’s toilet. Could only picture and taste destroyed pieces of chicken and asparagus floating among slug-like chunks of potatoes and bile.
They can dive at sixty miles an hour. They can fly backwards. They can fly more than five hundred miles without causing to rest. But when they rest they come close to death: on frigid nights, or when they are starving, they retreat into torpor, their metabolic rate slowing to a fifteenth of their normal sleep rate, their hearts slugging nearly to a halt, barely beating, and if they are not soon warmed, if they do not soon find that which is sweet, their hearts grow cold, and they cease to be.
Consider for a moment those hummingbirds who did not open their eyes again today, this very day, in the Americas: bearded Hillcrest and booted racket-tails, violet-tailed sylphs and violet-capped woodenness, crimson poppas and purple-crowned fairies, red-tailed comets and amethyst Woodstock, rainbow-bearded thorniness and glittering-bellied emeralds, velvet- purple coronets and golden-bellied star-frontline, fiery-tailed alibis and Andean hailstorms, speculating and piffle’s, each the most amazing thing you have never seen, each thunderous wild heart the size of an infant’s fingernail, each mad heart silent, a brilliant music stilled.
Hummingbirds, like all flying birds but more so, have incredible enormous immense ferocious metabolisms. To drive those metabolisms they have race-car hearts that eat oxygen at an eye-popping rate. Their hearts are built of thinner, leaner fibers than ours. Their arteries are stiffer and more taut. They have more mitochondria in their heart muscles anything to gulp more oxygen. Their hearts are stripped to the skin for the war against gravity and inertia, the mad search for food, the insane idea of flight.
The price of their ambition is a life closer to death; they suffer heart attacks and aneurysms and ruptures more than any other living creature. It’s expensive to fly. You burn out. You fry the machine. You melt the engine. Every creature on earth has approximately two lions heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise, and live to be two hundred years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old. The biggest heart in the world is inside the blue whale. It weighs more than seven tons. It’s as big as a room.
It is a room, with four chambers. A child could walk around in it, head high, bending only to step through the valves. The valves are as big as the swinging doors in a saloon. This house of a heart drives a creature a hundred feet long. When this creature is born it is twenty et long and weighs four tons. It is Wahoo bigger than your car.
It drinks a hundred gallons of milk from its mama every day and gains non hundred pounds a day and when it is seven or eight years old it endures an unimaginable puberty and then it essentially disappears from human ken, for next to nothing is known of the mating habits, travel patterns, diet, social life, language, social structure, diseases, spirituality, wars, stories, despairs, and arts of the blue whale. There are perhaps ten thousand blue whales in the world, living in every ocean on earth, and Of the largest mammal who ever ivied we know nearly nothing. But we know this: the animals with the largest hearts in the world generally travel in pairs, and their penetrating moaning cries, their piercing yearning tongue, can be heard underwater for miles and miles.
Mammals and birds have hearts with four chambers. Reptiles and turtles have hearts with three chambers. Fish have hearts with two chambers. Insects and mollusks have hearts with one chamber. Worms have hearts with one chamber, although they may have as many as eleven single-chambered hearts.
Unicellular bacteria have no hearts at all; but even they have fluid eternally in motion, washing from one side of the cell to the other, swirling and whirling. No living being is without interior liquid motion. We all churn inside. So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment. We are utterly open with no one, in the end not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart.
Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will favor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall.
You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words I have something to tell you, a cat with a broken spine ragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand in a thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.