The Asparagus Festival
Poke had forgotten one very important thing as he sped on his scooter back to his parents’ house. It was festival season, and that night was the first night of the asparagus festival.
The thirteenth annual asparagus festival parade stopped him in his tracks. He had caught the very beginning of the parade, and so was forced to either drive around the half-mile long chain of Scurvitans wearing their asparagus-themed festival-wear, or sit and wait for the green conga line to pass him by.
Poke, lazy from the soles of his feet to the tips of his unfortunate looking fauxhawk, decided to stay and watch the parade. The asparagus parade had gotten kind of out of hand over the years, with folks trying to out-do one another, as if wearing a giant green phallic-shaped costume made you a better citizen of Scurvytown than the neighbors, who weren’t even flying a “Zomg Asapargus” flag this year, the amateurs.
Poke parked his bike and sat down on a bench near the town square. It was a pretty primo spot, right next to the Squatter fountain, which had been infused with essence of asparagus and dyed green for the weekend’s festivities.
A bunch of little kids ran past, tooting their asparagus horns: annoying little noisemakers, bright green and contoured to match the shape of the Scurvytown’s most revered vegetable. He was rather amused for a moment at the thought of chasing after them and smashing the horns to bits, but they were halfway down the block by the time the notion occurred to him, and he was so very out of shape anyway. Besides that, the parade was still full in swing, and mildly fun to watch.
He recognized a few people from high school marching past with their families, all adorned in matching costumes. Two dudes who used to pick on him in gym class, who incidentally had gotten married just last year, had the best outfits: they had LED lights that ran up and down the sides of the stalky part of the costumes. He would have complemented them on the design if they hadn’t been such dickheads to him back in school. Though to be honest, it was disinterest in social interaction that left him sitting on the bench.
After the super slow foot traffic of the parade, which was to be expected, considering how difficult it is to walk in such binding costumes, the impressive floats could be seen gently gliding down the road. Among the highlights were a scene portraying asparagus in Army fatigues as a tribute to soldiers lost in the Asparagus Wars, a rapping mobile full of bling-laden Asparaganstas, and finally, a mobile asparagus fountain as the finale, on the back of a giant Squatter tanker. That particular float was sponsored by the Squatter foundation and was meant to be the focal point of the festival, as the water tanker housed the asparagus infused Squatter that was intended to source many of the food vendors.
As Poke sat and watched the massive water tanker glide down the street, he heard a loud “bang” as the tanker rear-ended the float in front of it, sending Asparaganstas flying into the crowd.
The horror didn’t stop there. The tanker didn’t slow down, but gathered speed, as if the gas pedal had been glued to the floor. It veered off the road and through some bushes, onto the sidewalk and straight at Poke.
He jumped up off the bench and then promptly froze in place, as the tanker got closer to him. Right when he thought, “This is it, this is how it ends,” the tanker swerved at the last moment, toppling over onto its side and right into the Squatter Fountain in the town square. It was ultimate irony, really, that the float with a mobile fountain on it would take out the centerpiece of the town, converting it into a veritable Asparageyser.
Poke suddenly snapped to attention, which is to say it was like some other worldly force had reached out and slapped him into an epiphany. If something so out of the ordinary could happen just like that, faster than the snapping of fingers, then what was stopping him from acting? Waiting wasn’t getting him anywhere, and maybe he didn’t need his mother’s help after all.
As the sirens of emergency vehicles began to wail in the distance, Poke jumped on his scooter and headed back to the Boneyard. Maybe it would have been better if his epiphany had involved helping the folks injured by the accident, but Poke seemed to have the priorities of his quests all out of whack. Just like in the game, when taking a quest involving philanthropy or otherwise assisting those in need, he’d always ditch that one for the ones that seemed more heroic to him: saving the damsel in distress.
After he arrived back at The Boneyard, he had to push his way through the crowd who had gathered on the front patio. The ghosts wouldn’t let anyone leave the premises with a beverage in hand, as Catty Broadsides had instructed them after the first time she was fined for allowing a bar patron to wander drunkenly into the street outside the establishment, beer still in hand.
Poke weaseled his way back inside the bar, and sidled up to the girl again.
“Back so soon?” She asked.
“Yeah, well, I figured that while everyone was distracted by the fountain thing, I could just swoop in and we could leave.”
“What fountain thing?” She asked, lowering her voice, “Did it explode or something?”
Excitedly, he answered her, “One of the floats got out of control and smashed into the Squatter fountain on the town square!”
“That must have been a sight, seeing something taking out that giant octopus!”
“Squid actually, and yeah, it was. So, you coming or not?” He asked, losing patience. Quests in the game never needed this much banter.
“Got another helmet?” She asked, throwing down the bar rag and once again joining him on the other side of the bar.
Thankfully, the ghosts were so distracted by the occurrence down at the festival that they neglected to notice their ward was walking straight out of the establishment they were tasked to keep her from leaving.
Poke took off his helmet, and handed it to her. As she put it on, he reformed his fauxhawk with the sweat that had gathered on his brow.
He sat on his scooter and the girl settled in behind him. As she put her arms around him, he realized this was pretty much the first time a girl had voluntarily touched him. He pushed that thought to the back of his mind, and sped off the back way to his parents house, which took about ten minutes longer but completely avoided the cluster of emergency vehicles and disaster spectators downtown.
When they arrived at his parents’ house, she let him go and wiped her hands off on her jeans. He was generally a pretty sweaty dude, and he hung his head, trying not to worry about her level of grossed-out-ed-ness.
“Wow, you live here?” She asked, looking up at the impressive house.
“Yeah, it’s my parents’ house,” he confessed, sheepishly.
“No shame in that, I just moved out of my parents’ house myself, for this internship thing.”
“What’s your name?” He asked her, suddenly realizing he didn’t know what to call her.
“Capelli Moon, and you?”
“Poke? Really?” She laughed, while he blushed.
“It’s short for Pokemondius,” he replied, shuffling his feet awkwardly.
“I like Poke,” she replied, “Nice and short.”
He stood there for a moment trying to decide if she was poking fun (no pun intended) at him through innuendo. Luckily, his mother opened the front door at that exact moment, which shifted the landscape of the conversation considerably.
“Oh, you’ve saved the girl, son!” His mother slurred, sloshing a bit of her Long Island Lemonade on the ground.
“I wasn’t in that much harm,” the girl replied, “but I can’t lie that whatever’s next has to be better than slinging booze. Catty had me scheduled to work a booth at some vegan festival or something all weekend.”
“The Asparagus Festival, dear,” Poke’s mother said.
“With Asparagusto!” She said, giving a cheesy thumbs up.
His mother looked down at the girl, sort of like she was looking down at her little white dog for once again dropping a deuce on the sidewalk.
“Come on inside, you two, we have much to discuss!” His mother said, “And kick off those filthy sandals, you’ll track grime in the house.”
Capelli shifted an annoyed glance over at Poke, and then, seeing he had already kicked his shoes off in the foyer, did the same. The pair followed Poke’s mom into the living room and sat down. On the coffee table was a tea setting, complete with a three-tiered tray of snacks. Additionally, there was a manila folder on the table next to a very fancy looking pen.
“Help yourselves to some snacks,” Mrs. Flack told them, as she watched her son grab a handful of cookies and stuff them in his mouth, like he had been trained to eat by monkeys.
Capelli sat down and poured a cup of tea, sipping it just so. Mrs. Flack took note of this, and with a contented sigh, took another sip of her drink and settled onto the sofa across from them.
She looked back and forth from her son to the girl, and wished her offspring could have found it in himself to have some manners. He was sprawled on the couch, one foot underneath him, getting crumbs all over the freshly vacuumed upholstery. On the far end of the couch, Capelli sat with her legs crossed, nibbling on a cucumber sandwich and holding her teacup just so.
Mrs. Flack cleared her throat and spoke, “Now, I know there was some kind of mix up with that imbecile at the Welcome Center, but it’s an easy fix. I just need you to sign this document and tomorrow I’ll file it with the clerk’s office. Poke will show you to your sleeping arrangements, I hope you don’t mind the basement, I am afraid I have to apologize for that, but we hired contractors to work on the house, and we’re sort of slaves to their schedule for the next few months.”
“It should be fine,” Capelli said, brushing sandwich crumbs off her skirt.
She took the pen that Mrs. Flack handed her, and signed her name on the line as instructed, without reading the document.
“Welcome to the intern program at the Squatter Foundation!” Mrs. Flack said, shaking her hand.
“Thanks, I really promise to do my best,” Capelli said, standing as a sign of respect for her elder, who had just risen from her seat.
“And now if you kids will follow me, we have a few guests over for the evening.”
They followed her into the kitchen, where Mrs. Flack ditched her beverage on the kitchen counter. She then directed her son and her intern into the backyard. There seemed to be some kind of party going on, complete with balloons, streamers, and a giant party banner.
As Poke got closer to the banner, he read it and stopped dead in his tracks: “Congratulations on your Engagement, Pokemondius and Capelli.”
He felt more frozen to the ground than he had when the water tanker had been careening right toward him.
“Mother?” He hissed.
“Congratulations, kids!” Mr. Flack said, coming around from behind and slapping Poke and Capelli on the back.
Capelli looked back and forth between the banner, Poke, and his mother. It was more than her head could take, and as she fainted, the thought ran through her mind that passing out was only going to make things so much worse, once the rumors got started.
This episode went live on Sunday, August 8, 2010.
Stay tuned for the next exciting installment of Scurvytown, but for next week, enjoy some skip week filler.