Archive for potatoes

Space Spuds

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Organic Farming, Unknown with tags , , , , , on March 19, 2012 by javedbabar

“What’s in the safe?” said Dimpy (Dimples) to Mrs. Roseman. “I’ve meant to ask you for ages but never got around to it.”

“Oh, nothing much,” said Mrs. Roseman, her white curls bobbing as she shook her head. “You’ve got enough on your plate with the little baby. Don’t you worry about it.”

It annoyed Dimpy when people told her not to worry about stuff that she wasn’t worried about. It was the same when people said “You’ll be ok” or “You’ll think of something.” Yes she would! She was a single mother fending for herself. Dimpy would always think of something and be ok, and had no time to worry, and even less time to listen to people who told her not to!

This Director’s job was the worst-paid job she’d ever had, but beggars can’t be choosers. She’d needed a job, and this was the only provincial museum recruiting. The local potato industry was booming, driven by their patented Space Spuds: blue Saturn Spuds and golden Solar Spuds. Great product differentiation had saved this otherwise struggling industry, this town, and importantly, this museum. She said, “I’m not worried Mrs. Roseman, just curious.”

“Oh, it’s just some old potatoes,” said Mrs. Roseman. She became rigid, but her white curls continued to bounce. “I mean some old machinery from Peru, where potatoes come from.”

“Really, that’s fascinating. From Peru? May I see it?”

Mrs. Roseman was still rigid, but her eyes were moving rapidly, and her white curls ending their motions. “Or maybe it’s from Pakistan, where you come from. So you already know what it looks like.”

“Really, from Pakistan?” said Dimpy. “I had no idea.” Mrs. Roseman seemed very nervous. Dimpy wondered why. “Look I’m Museum Director, and should know the resources we have available. This could make a great exhibit, even anchor a show. We could get a feature in the City Sun.” Mrs. Roseman had moved between Dimpy and the safe. “Do you have the keys?”

“I’m not sure where they are right now,” said Mrs. Roseman.

“Well who would know where they are – another trustee?”

“Yes, yes, another trustee. I will ask them at the monthly meeting.”

The monthly meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, but nobody was there when Dimpy arrived. She called Mrs. Roseman. “Where is everybody? The meeting was planned for 7pm.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. We moved the meeting to Monday. Didn’t Mr. Roseman call you?”

“No, your husband did not call me. Why did you move the meeting?”

“Oh, it was unavoidable. The trustees had clashes.” Dimpy wondered what clashes these dinosaurs had. Their average age must be a hundred. Maybe their hip-replacements were double-booked with prize bingo, or polishing their walking frames impacted a retelling of the Great Flood of ‘45. “But I asked about the safe for you. I was mistaken. It’s not machinery from Peru or Pakistan. Its private items held for the Old Families. It’s not things to show or feature.”

“Private items like what?” said Dimpy. “Do you mean valuable items?”

“Yes, very valuable things. That’s why we keep them locked up.”

“Well, I need to see those things, Mrs. Roseman.” The line went quiet. “Mrs. Roseman, are you there?”

“Yes, I’m here. Sorry, my hearing’s not what it was. They are private things. Why do you need to see them?”

“I’m legally responsible for their safety,” said Dimpy. “I must ensure that insurance documents are in order. If anything were to happen to those items, we would not be covered for their loss.” So irresponsible, thought Dimpy. This wasn’t the Guggenheim, she knew, but come on! Keeping personal stuff in the museum safe!

“Nothing will happen to them here,” said Mrs. Roseman. “Don’t you worry about it.”

“Mrs. Roseman, I am worried about it! We need to discuss this matter further. Will you be in tomorrow as usual? Ok, good. Please come and see me at 10 am.”

Mrs. Roseman did not appear the next morning. She also didn’t answer her phone. She appeared the day after, looking unsettled. She couldn’t look Dimpy in the eye when speaking with her. “I spoke with the Old Families about the situation,” she said. “It seems the private items were returned by the previous trustees, for the reasons you mentioned.”

“But haven’t you been a trustee for twenty years?”

Mrs. Roseman looked down. “Oh, I was in hospital last summer. It must have been then.”

“But I was here,” said Dimpy. “Nobody told me.”

“I think you were on holiday. Anyway, there’s only museum cash in there now. The Treasurer accounts for it. So don’t worry about it!”

Mrs. Roseman!” shouted Dimpy. “Please stop telling me what not to worry about! You have made me very worried indeed! I am the Museum Director – top of the food chain – and the buck stops with me. Please ensure that keys to this safe are on my desk tomorrow morning at ten.”

Dimpy had a rare date that night. Single mothers with young children had their work cut out. He was pretty hot, and said he’d like to see her again. She smiled as she drove home… Hang on! There were lights on at the museum. Who was in there at this time?

She quietly entered the back office. Mr and Mrs Roseman had the safe door open. Mr Roseman walked towards her with a hammer but Mrs Roseman called him back. She said, “No love, it’s time she knew.” Then she said to Dimpy, “A hundred years ago we had some very special visitors. Only the Old Families know. They sought permission to extract pumice – vital for their wellbeing – from Mt. Negra. In return they gave us their seed potatoes. The old timers were not trained marketers like you. They simply named the Space Spuds by their provenance – Saturn Spuds and Solar Spuds. The original seeds are kept in this safe. The Old Families take cuttings from them yearly, using each scraping to create a new culture. This is Lucerne Museum’s secret, and now it is also yours. Assuming of course that you love your daughter. Who’s her babysitter tonight? Joanne Millman? That sounds like an Old Family name to me.”


Apple Express

Posted in Alternative Energy, Infinite City, Lucerne Village, Organic Farming with tags , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by javedbabar

“Bloody apples!” shouted Farmer John. “Falling everywhere! There must be an orchard in the sky.” He was standing in the middle of a field. Where had they come from? He stamped his right foot and held the top of his head with both hands, as blood seeped from a gash beneath his fingers. They really were bloody apples.

Apples had been falling for almost a month now. They were infrequent to begin with, and quite unripe; small, green sour balls. They had become a daily occurrence of late, now bigger and riper, almost ready to eat.

There was a daily hot wind coming up the Valley, ten degrees warmer than the air in Lucerne. It was a strange, localized occurrence. No one minded the temperature, but its power was a problem: it had blown away old barn roofs, caused tall trees to topple, and excessive wear on Lucerne’s wind turbines. It blew hot up the Valley at noon, and returned cold from the glaciers at dusk – and it seemed to be carrying apples.

Farmer John said in the pub one day, “That fruity wind, it should be called the Apple Express, like the one from Hawaii is called the Pineapple Express.” Other people had thought the same, but he was the first person to say it. He was acknowledged to have coined the term. “It’s causing problems. Those apples are landing square on my spuds; almost like they’re aiming for them. Potato plants are bearing apples – or that’s what it looks like when I walk down the rows.”

“How will you harvest them?” said Farmer Tom. “Apples will be mixed in with your spuds.”

“They will be,” said Farmer John. “They will be. What can we do?” No one wanted to think of the extra labour needed to remove the apples. They considered letting them all rot there, fertilizing the ground. But there was no way to avoid some slipping in with spuds. The apples’ moisture would rot the spuds. They’d have to pick the apples out, before or after harvesting – either way it was a massive task.

Walking along the rows one day, Farmer John picked up an apple and examined it closely. It had been transformed by its warm, windy journey. The apple’s skin was gleaming as if it had spent an hour in a bowling ball polisher, and its cheeks were as rosy as a ruddy farmer’s. He took a big bite. “By God!” he exclaimed, syrup pouring out of the corners of his mouth and over his chin. “That’s the juiciest apple I’ve ever eaten.” He felt a warm tingling in his belly like the fire of a light rum shot. “And it’s full of cider!” He ate many more apples, and went to the pub merry already.

Lucerne Valley farmers were happy, they had an extra crop. Gorgeous apples fell on their fields daily. Farmer John called them Mt. Alba Apples, as they seemed somehow linked to Lucerne’s mountain guardian. Holding an apple high in his hand, it seemed a new sun above the mountain, shining blessings down. They sold really well at grocery stores and farmers markets, and were popular with local kids not yet nineteen.

Beyond the City, the 4,800 acre Glaser Valley Farm’s (GVF) owners were not impressed. The Apple Express had become fierce of late, tearing along the Glaser Valley, over mountain passes and across lakes, through to the Lucerne Valley – carrying their best apples. These delicate apples – grown for export to Japan – had very weak stems. Just before they fell, many were picked up by the Apple Express and carried off to Lucerne. GVF was losing a quarter of its crop this way. They initiated legal proceedings against Lucerne Valley farmers, claiming financial compensation for lost revenues, and punitive damages for theft. It was a very short hearing though.

“This case is unprecedented,” said the judge. “And frankly inexplicable. So we will need to discuss it from first principles. I will consult my most learned friends and establish a philosophical framework, based on agricultural ethics and tort law. Please explain the essence of your case in simple terms. Our sponsors require this for our television audience.”

GVF’s attorney said, “My clients are hard working toilers of the earth. They have a decade of agricultural achievement behind them…”

“Objection!” shouted the Lucerne Valley farmer’s attorney. “Seven years is not a decade.” The judge agreed and changed the record to say “many years”.

GVF’s attorney continued, “They invest much time, effort, and money in growing the best apples for export across the world, to improve our nation’s trading balance. The fruits of their labours are being stolen by others. We demand fair-minded justice.”

The Lucerne Valley farmers’ attorney had a bright idea. He suggested that Farmer John make their statement. “My family’s been growing potatoes for a hundred years,” he said, “and it’s…”

“Objection!” shouted GVF’s attorney. “He’s making that up.”

Farmer John provided the names of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, all farmers in the Lucerne Valley. The judge overruled the objection. Farmer John continued. “And now we’ve got fields full of apples. We never asked for them to drop out of the sky. But we know the earth’s cycles. We believe that our brother farmer’s jumbo jet-fuls of exports are directly related to their problem. Climate change is controversial, but here we see it in action. And we are wondering whether to include the two deaths in our community caused by falling apples within the scope of this case, or to file a separate one.”

Glaser Valley Farmers withdrew their case. Despite their 25% annual attrition, they continued to make big profits selling the remainder to Japan. Farmer John continued to have his annual crop of apples for twelve years, but less fell each year. By the time the Apple Express stopped blowing, apple seeds were well established in Lucerne. Mt. Alba Apples became an invaluable companion crop to spuds.


Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , on January 24, 2012 by javedbabar

Bruce was feeling sick this morning; he should have left that old takeaway in the fridge. It had something growing on it, but he’d eaten it anyway; it wasn’t even good to begin with.

The trucks annoyed him more than usual; there was always one on the road. They weren’t local drivers so didn’t know their way too well; they over-sped on Charlie’s Straight Stretch, and then pumped their brakes on Hutchins’ Curve. Bruce didn’t touch his brakes for thirty kilometres, all the way from Lucerne to the Golden turn-off. And these out-of-town truckers hogged the middle of the highway as if Knights of the Road, their reflective orange triangles heraldic signs.

Where were they going anyway? At first he’d thought they were hauling gravel. There was a truck every ten minutes, like a well-run road-building operation. But when a truck’s tarp came loose at the corner, he saw it was spuds. He didn’t recognize the variety; they were like Peruvian Purples but bright blue, looking like Space Spuds.

Why the hell were they hauling spuds up the Valley? They should be hauling them down the Valley, into the City, and across the border. He asked some people, but no one knew.

One day out hunting, he sighted a buck and was taking aim, when a truck’s grinding caused it to bound. Bruce was furious, and felt like shooting out the truck’s tires. As he was preparing to leave, another truck went by. Instead of heading home, Bruce followed it. That bright orange triangle would sure make a good target at night, he thought.

Just before the Golden turn-off, there was roadwork. The truck driver made it through, but Ben’s Frontier was stopped suddenly by the Traffic Control Person. He was annoyed but kept calm. “What are you doing here?” he asked her.

“Oh, just fixing up the road.”

“Why didn’t you let me through?” he said. “Wouldn’t it have been easier?”

“I’m just following orders. One in, one out.”

After five minutes, Ben was allowed to go. No one else appeared. “Where’s the ‘one out’?” he asked her. She shook her head and waved him on. He watched her in his mirror. On her back was a reflective orange triangle.

The next time Ben saw a truck, he followed it again. Once more there was the same charade. The Traffic Control Person stopped him suddenly, for no reason.

“One in, one out again?” he asked her. She nodded. “Listen, where are these trucks going?”

“How should I know?” she said. “I just wave them on. I’m not paid to ask.”

Again no “one out” appeared, and she waved Bruce on. In his mirror, he saw her speak into her radio urgently, and turn to face his receding vehicle, squinting. Was she trying to read his licence plate? When he exited the other end of the construction zone, the man there also spoke into his radio, and squinted at the Frontier. Bruce had noticed that there wasn’t much work going on at this roadwork. In fact there was none at all. What was going on then?

Now Bruce wasn’t a conspiracy theorist in the traditional sense – meaning alien contact, shadowy elites, mass brainwashing, etc. – but he was a conspiracy theorist. A conspiracy was simply a decision made in secret by people with something to hide. No doubt there were plenty of those. And something smelled fishy here. Were they putting in a secret hydro project, or a geothermal installation? Avoiding all the bureaucracy and public consultations. Or maybe an oil well; could it be a mine? The price of metals had rocketed; it could be silver, copper, or even gold.

Bruce followed the next truck he saw. Again the same charade. But this time he drove ever so slowly. If he crawled along, he thought, the truck behind would surely catch him. Then he could see where it went.

As he crept along, he spotted an orange triangle nailed to a tree at the side of the road. He was surprised that he hadn’t seen it before. Up close, he saw a little letter at each corner: A-B-C. But there were no tracks leading off from here, only dense bush on both sides. He pulled his truck off the road a little further up, and walked back to the triangle. The vegetation was strange – so flat that it seemed more like a landscaped hedge than wild bush. He heard a truck behind and took cover.

He watched as the truck simply drove through the bush! He realized that the bush there was a kind of projection; overlapping greens – some light, some dark – blending substantially. He walked right through it, and followed a sharp-rocked forestry road. He hid whenever a truck passed. He reached a rocky entrance, marked by another orange triangle. He considered walking in but felt vulnerable. He awaited the next truck, and when the driver stopped at the entrance to turn and reverse, Bruce jumped between the truck and trailer.

He was taken 500 metres down a dimly-lit tunnel, and into a vast cavern. It smelled very cold and dusty; a bit mouldy. The truck tipped its load of spuds. Bruce jumped out and hid in the lumpy blue pile. Was this a strategic food reserve for the City, he wondered? In case of natural or man-made disaster, people could eat for weeks. Farmers had told him that potatoes required little water to grow, matured quickly, and stored for a year. And they were as close as you could get to a complete food, containing dense energy, proteins, fats, vitamins, and fibre. Everything you needed to survive for extended periods. They were an excellent choice for a regional food store.

Something moved beneath him; then something to his right, and his left. Strong sinewy arms embraced him, his sharp breath only helping the arms to grip tighter. Other finer arms then crept up his body. These knobbly sprouts held budded points. They made their way to his body orifices – the accessible ones: nostrils, ears, mouth, and anus – and ones that required a push – genital, navel, and eye sockets. As the sprouts entered his body, their alkaloids altered his nerve impulses: a-solanine stimulating their firing, and a-chaconine retarding it, until they reached a perfect balance.

The orange triangles Bruce had seen were symbols of Project A-B-C, high-priority research to establish self-nourishing, super-organisms. They must be capable of surviving Armageddon on earth, or existing on inhospitable planets. Bruce was the latest human being the super-organism had absorbed. Its potato base ensured it had plenty of Calories: C; and substantial Body: B. It just needed to boost its A: Awareness.