The Great Melon Drought of ’15

THE GREAT MELON DROUGHT OF ‘15

by

Jack Frayne-Reid 

A short story containing the words “skirt,” “green,” “sieve,” and “melon.”

“Oi cuz,” said the pimply youth washing the dishes. “Don’t skirt around the issue, yeah?”

“I’m not. I told you you’re getting paid on Friday. I ain’t got the money right now as a result of my contact in the industry failing to come through with that big shipment of melons.”

“Fuck your melons, cuz,” the young man told his superior.

“Oh what,” said the chef. “You’re more of a mango fella? A pineapple enthusiast?”

“Nah, nah, fam, I been working this kitchen for three fuckin’ months and my pay’s come through late every time.”

The chef stroked his stubble pensively and began to peel some carrots.

“Pass me that tray of greens, will you?”

“OI CUZ! When you payin’ me, fam?”

“I told you, son, when the melon supply comes in and we can get the business back on track. Pass the bloody greens.”

“Yo, fuck you, cuz…”

The indolent youth fell silent as the chef smacked him across the face with a sieve.

“Now button it or next time I’ll use the bloody frying pan!”

He appeared wounded on an emotional level.

“Oi! What was that in aid of? Just sayin’ pay me, fam…”

At this the Chef exploded into red-faced fury and the young manual dish washer cowered and shielded himself from the wrath of the sieve.

“DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND THERE’S A MELON SHORTAGE ON?!” screamed the chef. “HAVE YOU NOT HEARD OF THE GREAT MELON DROUGHT OF ’15?! I BUILT THIS BUSINESS FROM THE GROUND UP, WITH MY OWN TWO HANDS, AND ITS SUCCESS HAS ALWAYS DEPENDED ENTIRELY ON THE ACCESSIBILITY OF A STEADY STREAM OF TOP QUALITY TROPICAL FUITS, WHICH, AS WE’VE ESTABLISHED, ARE IN PRETTY SHORT SUPPLY! YOU UNGRATEFUL LITTLE BASTARD, AFTER ALL MIKE’S MELON MENAGERIE HAS DONE FOR YOU, TO TURN ON US LIKE THIS IN OUR HOUR OF DARKNESS, WHEN WE MOST NEED YOU BY OUR SIDE…YOU MAKE ME SICK!”

“Look, cuz, I’m s-“

“SICK, I TELL YOU! SICK TO MY STOMACH!

“Fam, if there’s anything I can-“

“There’s nothing you can do, I’m afraid. Lately there just ain’t been much melon, on account of the economy. We’re taking a dive financially.”

“But cuz, I gotta put food on my table too, innit.”

“’Ere, look, I can pay you something I call the Mike’s Melon Menagerie Living Wage, ‘cause apparently you can call any old bollocks that now.”

“What’s that then?”

“Well, you come round ‘ere every day and I make you a sandwich so you don’t die of starvation. A fruit sandwich, obviously. But not the good fruit.”

The chef took a bite on what certainly looked like a juicy, succulent melon of the variety that was supposedly in such short supply.

“Oi cuz!” his subordinate swelled with indignation. “What about the Great Melon Drought of ’15?”

“Oh,” munched the chef. “Nah, this is my personal stash.”

A large crash resonated outside the Menagerie and gave a jolt to both of their senses. A spacious van had banged straight into the bins and knocked a lamppost over in the process.

“OI MIKE!” came a strangulated bellow from within. “OI MIKE!!!”

“What?” the chef shouted back.

“WE GOT A PROBLEM ‘ERE!”

“Get out the fucking van, then! What problem?”

“GOT A PROBLEM WITH THE MELONS!”

Mike bolted out front of his culinary establishment to see what the commotion was in aid of. The driver, flat cap tipped over his eyes during the crash and since unmoved, cigarette dangling from his lips precariously, stepped out of the van with trepidation and led Mike round to its back, a certain kind of embarrassment evident in his demeanour.

“Let me start by saying,” the driver started by saying. “I got melons for you.”

“You got ‘em?”

“You bet I got melons. But…there’s a catch.”

“What fucking catch? You’re pissing me off-“

No sooner had Mike enquired as to the precise nature of the catch than had his associate opened up the back doors of the van. Therein, alongside and, in some cases, eating the melons, were about twenty Syrian refugees.

“Fuckin’ ‘ell Bernard,” sighed Mike. “What’d I tell you about getting them melons from Syria?”

“I didn’t, though!” protested Bernard the driver. “I shipped ‘em over from Barbados! I didn’t know there’d be so many bleeding Syrians out there.”

“Well where the fuck else they gonna be? We’re not letting ‘em in ‘ere, are we? Probably easier for them to get to fucking Barbados than it is to Britain.”

“Oh, ‘elp me, guv! I dunno what I’m gonna do. I’d’a let the authorities in on it but I don’t want no one thinking I’m into that people trafficking or nothing. You ever thought that,” he lowered his voice to a whisper. “some of ‘em might be with the ISIS? Like ‘im, ‘e looks fucking lethal…”

He pointed to a desperately emaciated and somewhat frightened looking man in his twenties.

“Look, calm down,” Mike assured him. “I’m sure if any of them was with the ISIS they’d be perfectly happy in Syria right now, which I hear is a more welcoming home for the ISIS supporters among us. Let me ‘andle this. Oi, you lot! You ain’t eaten too many o’ me fucking melons, ‘ave you?”A couple of bounteous, partway-gorged melons plummeted conspicuously to the van’s floor. “Right, ‘ear me, you lot? Follow me inside.”

In the kitchen, the kid was still washing the dishes.

“Who’s all this then, cuz?” he asked as the refugees trooped in behind the chef.

“’Ere, fuck off, you’re fired,” Mike responded.

“You what, fam?”

“What you gonna do about it? Go and work at Mango Magic across the street, you bastard.”

The youth stormed out with a farewell tirade containing the words “cuz”, “fam” and numerous profanities.

“Right, you lot,” he addressed the assembled refugees. “are about to be become the first lucky recipients of the Mike’s Melon Menagerie Living Wa…”

But he was distracted from his grand announcement by the sound of another van pulling up outside. Bernard ran in, screaming blue murder.

“’Ere, Mike! It’s Kev with the pineapple…and ‘e’s right bollocksed it up!”

Mike followed Bernard outside and slapped his palm against his face as the open-backed van revealed an even larger group of refugees than the melon shipment.

“Bloody ‘ell, Kev,” exclaimed Mike. “Where’s this lot from?”

“Barbados,” an exasperated Kev told him. “Apparently their community’s been hit extra hard by the Great Melon Drought of ’15.”

“Right, so now I gotta find something to do with thirty impoverished Barbadian melon farmers,” he took another look in the van. “…and they’ve eaten all the fucking pineapple! How the hell d’you end up picking them up?”

“I don’t know,” said Kev, virtually kicking himself with professional embarrassment. “I went and got the pineapple from Syria and all.”

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