Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | April 19, 2008

The Cabbage Cart

Teius, Romania. June 2004.

It was a slow day for cabbage sales.

Marvin sat by his cart, trying not to stare at the bulbous white-green heads piled in the back of the blue van. He could smell the crisp, autumn-sweet smell of them even across the street. The van was a cave of dragon treasure, a hidden room in a king’s palace where the most valuable secrets were kept under lock and key.

Oh, the things Marvin could do with a vanful of cabbage! And to think people actually ate it. Marvin couldn’t think of a single thing more terrible, more horribly sacrilegious, than calling such a beautiful thing a vegetable, cutting it open, and tearing it to shreds just for the sake of dinner.

A small girl walked up to the van, reached her hand into a pocket on her bright pink skirt and extracted a few coins. In exchange, she was given a particularly beautiful green specimen the size of her own small head.

She turned and saw Marvin with his empty cart. For a second their eyes locked and hers were green, green with flecks of silver-white. He could tell even across the street.

The girl reached into her pocket again. Looked back at Marvin, frowned, then took off one shoe. Inside, was another coin. The cabbage she got this time was paler than the first, and scarred with brown. A discount cabbage. Not perfect, but better than nothing.

She walked across the street with purpose, one cabbage under each arm, her back straight and green eyes focused on Marvin’s cart.

“You want one?” She asked when she came close. Her eyes were even brighter up close. Marvin almost asked if she was actually a dragon not a little girl. He was still thinking about caves and treasure, but he caught his tongue. He’d gotten himself in trouble before for such thoughts. It wasn’t sane.

“Are you sure?” Marvin asked, holding out his hands, hoping they didn’t tremble too much. He held them out towards the first cabbage, the jewel, but the girl twisted so the scarred one fell into his hands.

“Sorry. I didn’t have the money to get you a fresher one. I thought you looked so lonesome over here. Mama says don’t talk to strangers, but I know a stranger when I see one and you’re not strange, are you?”

Marvin thought of dragons again and inspected his cabbage. It would have to do.

“Strange… what is strange but that which is not yet familiar?” He said, and placed the cabbage in the cart.

Across the street, the cabbage vendor chuckled and frowned to his friend. “Every other day some sucker gives that man a cabbage, and what does he do? Puts it in that cart and drags it back and forth to whatever hole he calls home until it rots, then comes back and sits there with starved dog eyes all day until he gets another one. Just watch. You’ll see.”

But Marvin and the girl heard none of this. Their eyes were locked on the cart, where the cabbage was sparkling. It looked a little like the girl’s eyes, green with white flecks of fire.

“What do you wish for?” Marvin asked.

The girl hesitated longer than any of his benefactors had ever hesitated before. He started to worry that she’d gone mute. That he’d imagined her. That he really was insane.

Then she spoke.

“I wish I’d given you the fresh one.” She said, and tossed him the second cabbage. The one she’d bought for Mama’s soup.

“And this time,” she said, once the second cabbage was nestled next to the first and a pale glow surrounded the vegetables, “I wish that you get whatever it is you’re waiting for. Good bye!”

The cabbage vendor would never figure out exactly what happened. One minute he was joking with his friend, the next minute his van was gone and so was his chair. He was flat on his back by the side of the road, not a cabbage to his name.

Marvin was behind the wheel, driving away from the town, away from the watching eyes and whispering voices. His cart was on the seat next to him, and his eyes saw dragon caves, king’s castles and gardens full of cabbages, green and autumn-sweet.

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Responses

  1. wow, I really like this one! nice ending. that’s a good picture, too.


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