Cucumber

Was Nel lonely? She didn’t think so. Then again, she was in a relationship with a cucumber.

One thing she did know was that she was sick of men. Sick, sick, sick.

Another failed relationship, another embittered break-up.

Nel’s love life underwent a total transformation after meeting her friend Suz for lunch a month after the breakup.

The two women sat opposite each other in a local cafe. Unable to contain her excitement a minute more, Suz unceremoniously thrust pages from a glossy magazine across Nel’s coffee.

“This article is going to change your life, Nel, trust me.”

Nel stared blankly at the article. Pictures of smiling young women holding cucumbers were plastered in-between blocks of colourful text.

“What’s this about then, Suz?” Nel replied, her interest quickly being drawn back to her drink.

“Cucumbers.”

Nel blinked, issuing a scoff of derision unappreciated by Suz who sat looking deadly serious.

“Cucumbers?”

“Trust me Nel, this changes everything. I guarantee by the end of the month you’ll have completely forgotten about Michael.”

Nel was taken aback. Should she forget Michael? Would she if she could?

One thing was for sure — she wanted to break out of the disastrous date cycle she’d entered recently. Let’s see, there was the guy who wouldn’t stop banging on about his work and believed the intricacies of training for 10k marathons was an aphrodisiac. He was quickly followed by the ‘sweater’. The less said about that date the better. The one guy who wasn’t self-obsessed, or socially awkward shot his wad faster than Usain Bolt managed 100 metres. Rebuilding the guy’s shattered ego just enough to get him bundled into a cab without feeling too guilty was the most Nel had used her psychology degree since graduating from university ten years prior.

Shortly after parting with Suz, Nel found herself in the nearest Waterstones, seeking out the book reviewed in the article. More than a little embarrassed, she stood in the self help section. She’d always steered clear of this part of bookshops, catering as they do for the almost clinically gullible looking for easy fixes for the myriad disappointments of human existence. Money troubles? Terrible sex life? Adult kids not talking to you? There’s a book for that. Surely perusing this section for a book about vegetable romance was a tacit admission of just how low she’d sunk?

A small gaggle of women clustered around a table stacked high with gaudily covered books and large placards unavoidable to anyone within twenty feet.

“PRAISE FOR ‘LOVE, LIFE, CUCUMBERS:”

“New York Times Number 1 Bestseller!”

“Number 1 non-fiction book on Amazon for 4 months!”

“Life Changing!”

“Staff recommended!”

New York Times? Staff recommended? Amazon? Here was social acceptance, here was normalcy.

Rather self-consciously, Nel picked up one of the copies, offering one of those strange, down-turned ‘smiles’ British people give one another when her gaze caught that of another woman.

Nel scanned the bold print of the book’s back cover,

WHY CUCUMBERS CAN BRING YOU GREATER HAPPINESS THAN ANY MAN OR WOMAN EVER COULD.

SEX THERAPIST AND RELATIONSHIP EXPERT DR PAMELA JOY UNVEILS THE SECRETS OF A HAPPY EMOTIONAL AND SEXUAL LIFE FREE OF MALE EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL DOMINATION. HER RESEARCH INCLUDES TESTIMONIES FROM DOZENS OF WOMEN WHO HAVE TRANSFORMED THEIR LIVES BY REJECTING HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS AND FINDING TRUE HAPPINESS AND EMOTIONAL EQUILIBRIUM WITH A HUMBLE VEGETABLE.

BENEFITS OF A LIFE WITH A CUCUMBER INCLUDE (BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO):

FREEDOM TO DO WHAT YOU WANT WHEN *YOU* WANT

COMPLETE CONTROL OF YOUR HOME LIFE

NO MORE COMPROMISES AT THE EXPENSE OF YOUR ULTIMATE HAPPINESS

UNLIKE VIBRATORS, CUCUMBERS ARE A NATURAL PRODUCT OF MOTHER EARTH

AN AVERAGE 10 INCHES IN LENGTH

Nel felt strange even holding the book. She flicked through the pages to see a middle section featuring eerily contented women sat on sofas and stood in kitchens posing with their cucumbers. What was most surprising was how many of the women were young and attractive and wouldn’t have had difficulty finding a human lover. According to the inside cover, the highest growth rate of female — vegetable relationships was amongst the under 35s. Young, career minded women were more likely to eschew the compromise and long-term emotional investment required of a traditional human to human relationship.

A man approached the self-help section. Nel blushed a little, promptly hiding the book by her side. Her reaction surprised and ashamed her, so she brought the book back up within the the man’s view, positioning the cover for his line of sight. Nel noticed the man’s obvious embarrassment and prompt evasion of her gaze as he picked up the first book to hand (Your Money or Your Life by Alvin Hall — Amazon bestseller 2014, if you’re asking) and feigned deep study of the lightweight tome.

Sick of men. Sick, sick, sick.

Nel marched over to the cash desk, plopping the book down with an authoritative thud in front of the gawky lad behind the till.

“Would you like a bag, miss?” the wobbly youth squeaked.

“Ye-, actually, no. There’s no need for a bag thank you!”

Nel strode out the shop, book in hand, head held high, en route to Sainsbury’s.

*

When we enter the early stages of a relationship, our explorations of the personality, physicality and emotional worlds of the other cannot be complete without scouting missions into the past. A deep, emotional bond with another is not possible if one is unwilling to attempt an excavation of a potential partner’s past life. A cavalcade of lovers, friends and enemies have shaped your new lover. Getting to know these and the person’s wider back story can be a critical part of understanding where your new partner comes from and where they are going.

For this reason, a little history is required before embarking on the journey of your new life…

Ancient Egyptian cucumber

The cucumber is listed among the foods of ancient Ur, and the legend of Gilgames describes people eating cucumbers. Some sources also state it was produced in ancient Thrace and it is certainly part of modern cuisine in Bulgaria and Turkey, parts of which make up that ancient state. Cucumbers are mentioned in the Bible as one of the foods eaten by the Israelites in Egypt. From India, it spread to Greece (where it was called “σίκυον”, síkyon) and Italy (where the Romans were especially fond of the crop), and later into China.

Robert Daniel, in discussing an Ostracon dated to the second half of the third century AD, has suggested identifying an otherwise unknown word, ολγιττα, with the Arabic al-qitta’, the common word for cucumber.

According to Pliny the Elder the Ancient Greeks grew cucumbers, and there were different varieties in Italy, Africa, and Moesia.

According to Pliny, the Emperor Tiberius had the cucumber on his table daily during summer and winter. The Romans reportedly used artificial methods (similar to the greenhouse system) of growing to have it available for his table every day of the year. “Indeed, he was never without it; for he had raised beds made in frames upon wheels, by means of which the cucumbers were moved and exposed to the full heat of the sun; while, in winter, they were withdrawn, and placed under the protection of frames glazed with ‘mirrorstone’ .” ‘Mirrorstone’ is a literal translation of Pliny’s ‘lapis specularis’, believed to have been sheet mica.

Charlemagne had cucumbers grown in his gardens in the 8th/9th century. They were reportedly introduced into England in the early 14th century, lost, then reintroduced approximately 250 years later. The Spaniards (through the Italian Christopher Columbus) brought cucumbers to Haiti in 1494. In 1535, Jacques Cartier, a French explorer, found “very great cucumbers” grown on the site of what is now Montreal.

Throughout the 16th century, European trappers, traders, bison hunters, and explorers bartered for the products of American Indian agriculture. The tribes of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains learned from the Spanish how to grow European crops. The farmers on the Great Plains included the Mandan and Abenaki. They obtained cucumbers and watermelons from the Spanish, and added them to the crops they were already growing, including several varieties of corn and beans, pumpkins, squash and gourd plants.The Iroquois were also growing them when the first Europeans visited.

In 1630, the Reverend Francis Higginson produced a book called New England’s Plantation in which, describing a garden on Conant’s Island in Boston Harbor known as The Governor’s Garden, he states: “The countrie aboundeth naturally with store of roots of great varietie and good to eat. Our turnips, parsnips, and carrots are here both bigger and sweeter than is ordinary to be found in England. Here are store of pompions, cowcumbers, and other things of that nature which I know not…”

William Wood published in New England Prospect (published in 1633 in England) observations he made in 1629 in America: “The ground affords very good kitchin gardens, for Turneps, Parsnips, Carrots, Radishes, and Pompions, Muskmillons, Isquoter-squashes, coucumbars, Onyons, and whatever grows well in England grows as well there, many things being better and larger.”

In the later 17th century, a prejudice developed against uncooked vegetables and fruits. A number of articles in contemporary health publications stated that uncooked plants brought on summer diseases and should be forbidden to children. The cucumber kept this reputation for an inordinate period of time: “fit only for consumption by cows,” which some believe is why it gained the name, cowcumber.

A copper etching made by Maddalena Bouchard between 1772 and 1793 shows this plant to have smaller, almost bean-shaped fruits, and small yellow flowers. The small form of the cucumber is figured in Herbals of the 16th century, but states, “If hung in a tube while in blossom, the Cucumber will grow to a most surprising length.”

Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary on 22 August 1663: “this day Sir W. Batten tells me that Mr. Newburne is dead of eating cowcumbers, of which the other day I heard of another, I think.” In “The Greenstone Door”, William Satchell notes that “Te Moanaroa was dead — of a surfeit of cucumbers…”, having eaten four of the “prickly” melons.

*

When making a new start with a cucumber, the first purchase is highly important. The physical dimensions and contours of the vegetable, like the human penis [without its history of violence against the female body], can make or break one’s’ sex life. Luckily, cucumbers come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Women with need and capacity for greater length and girth are far more likely to find a suitable specimen than relying on the lottery of a new human partner. Those who prefer a smaller size can take advantage of numerous ‘micro’ species.

Don’t feel shy picking up cucumbers in the shop and giving them a good caress. Imagine this cucumber in your hands throughout the day and hopefully, between your legs each night. Is it smooth enough? Firm, but affords some give? Don’t compromise, take the time to find the right cucumber for you.

This is important — when you make your choice and get the cucumber home, don’t forget to scrub it thoroughly. E.Coli outbreaks have been confirmed in batches of cucumbers in the United States and Europe in recent years. You might not be eating your new partner, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

*

Nel worked her way through the cucumbers, likely piled high without much love by a rushed shop assistant. At first she grabbed a couple and gave them a quick squeeze to discern their firmness. Then she remembered the advice of the book — caress the cucumber. She held one of the vegetables in her left hand and ran the other up and down its shaft, eyes closed.

Opening her eyes again, Nel turned to witness a pensioner and what looked like his grandson stood agog as Nel, for all intents and purposes, pulled off a cucumber in front of them. The shame which washed over her dissipated on noticing atop the pile a specimen which caught her eye. She couldn’t explain it, but this was the one. The elderly gentleman quickly grabbed one of the cucumbers Nel hadn’t been fondling and made a hasty exit, pulling the boy close to him as he went.

On returning home and having scrubbed her cucumber well, Nel was slightly unsure what to do with herself. Then it struck her, she could do whatever she wanted. Cucumber was there for her if and when she needed its company, but equally, there was no guilt to be felt in leaving it day and night without explanation.

She walked into her office and closed the door behind her, leaving cucumber in the living room. Glasses on and ready for business, she opened her laptop when an image of her first physical interaction with the cucumber darted through her mind. She blocked the thoughts out in a futile attempt to concentrate on the spreadsheet before her.

It was no use. She couldn’t wait.

Walking back into the living room, cucumber was propped up on the sofa. Had she left it sitting up like that? Before she had too much time to think about it, an acute awareness of the tightness of her jeans flowed from her waist. She made a furtive glance to the window and thought about closing the curtains, but didn’t bother. The cucumber was already between her legs, making her wet as it pushed and rolled against her. As soon as she dropped down to the sofa, she was hastily pulling her jeans off. The tip of the cucumber teased a little and her back pushed harder against the cushion. Within seconds cucumber was all the way inside her. She ran her free hand across her chest and stomach, before planting a palm on the top of her forehead in rapture. She’d never felt so full before. It was intense.

As the cucumber moved in and out of her with increasing pace, she let out a moan, reaching a state of ecstasy in what was for her, record time. Nel finally collapsed against the sofa, chest patchy red, rising and falling as she tried to catch her breath, legs weak.

The Cucumber sat there, ready and waiting.

The rest of the day’s plans were promptly cancelled.

*

Nel hummed to herself in the shower. She felt invigorated. A sumptuous evening split between dinner, Radio 4 and cracking on with a good book laid out before her. She could eat what she wished, have the radio on as loud as she pleased and read late into the night with no complaints. Cucumber was there, not invading her space or forcing his personality on her.

Had she started referring to it as ‘he’?

It didn’t matter, it’s normal really. What’s a pronoun anyway?

*

Nel hadn’t thought about Michael for for a little while now, she was too busy getting on with work, social engagements and when she had some time left over, it was spent with cucumber. Was she finally happy? She thought so. She certainly wasn’t crying all the time any more. Even though she hadn’t slept with a man for months, she didn’t feel in any way sexually frustrated.

There was one strange thing though.

She’d always talked to herself in her head. Who doesn’t? Every now and then she’d speak to herself around the house.

Now she found herself talking to cucumber.

Was this wrong? Was she losing it? Was she actually kind of lonely? She was with people at work and amongst ‘friends’ almost every day, but what was she talking about with them really? Outside of work conversations, most of her chat with friends was just that, ‘chat’ about meaningless ‘stuff’. She’d come to the realisation that there was a narrow band of things she felt able to talk about with other people and everyone pretty much confined themselves within that narrow band, whether consciously or subconsciously. Either way it had the same result — most people were just a bit, well, dull.

Everyone in Nel’s life seemed fairly content. How could she share some of her darker thoughts with people like that? How could she interrupt yet another drinks night with yet another disturbing thought or worry? It’s not right to burden other people with this stuff, often even one’s’ own partner. Everyone’s busy with their own lives.

Cucumber wasn’t busy.

It turned out Nel felt able to talk to cucumber in a way she couldn’t with all the others, including ex boyfriends. There was no unsolicited advice, no fear of her anxieties making good anecdote fodder on a drunken night out, no chance of cucumber looking a bit bored or judging, HE just listened.

Well, he didn’t listen, but you know.

Nel’s mum and dad were round for Sunday lunch. It was a rare visit, considering the difficult relationship she had with her parents, but she was feeling more confident about her ability to deal with their bullshit. Feeling emotionally stable and happier as she did, any potential jabs and barbs which had the potential to wound in the past no longer constituted such a menace.

“Salad, with a sunday roast? Are you mad!?” Ted snorted from the kitchen.

Nel considered screaming. Instead she felt a kind of out of body experience. She looked at cucumber sat on the kitchen table and drew in a long breath, visualising the version of herself she wanted to be around her parents, no matter how they behaved. She’d talked to cucumber about such a technique recently having read an article about it.

“Just thought I’d try something a bit different, dad. It’s really normal to eat salad after the main meal in France. I liked it when I lived there.”

‘Well we’re not in France, are we,” Ted grumbled, whether to himself or his daughter, it wasn’t clear.

Nel smiled at her dad, managing to offer him a kiss on the cheek.

She felt proud of herself for not having taken the bait.

“So how have you really been Nel? Still upset about everything with Michael?” Brenda inquired, pointedly.

Pause. Long breath. Exhale.

“Thanks for asking, mum. No, I’m feeling really positive about things at the moment. It’s been good to clear my head for a bit since Michael left. I’ve had a lot ‘me’ time and doing things I’ve been needing to do for a while now.”

Nel’s mum offered an ‘uh huh’ whilst checking the mantle-piece for dust, unable to even force a smile for her daughter.

“Well, that’s good dear.”

The three finished off a dinner Nel had managed to get through by rising above any of the negative comments either of her parents made about her life, her career, who she was or wasn’t dating with aplomb.

“Oh I forgot, the salad,” Ted muttered.

After her father served three bowls up, Nel tucked into her greens whilst giving her parents a breathless overview of the project taking up so much time at work.

Her fork hit the table top.

“Is everything OK, dear?” Alice asked, shocked by the sudden shade of white her flowing across her daughter’s face.

Nel turned her salad around with her fork, before dropping it to the table.

“Dad — did you…”

“What’s wrong, Nelly?!”

“Is this the…the…cucumber off the kitchen table?”

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