- Vegetables and Chickens, pt2by Wayne Fowler
This work has reached the exceptional level
Val wondered how stupid a man could be
Vegetables and Chickens, pt2 by Wayne Fowler
Artwork by supergold at

In the first part, Valentine and Valerie met at a Farmers Market, hitting it off well enough that he proposed to her within months. At that precise moment, standing in her backyard, an errant chicken tripped her, causing Valerie to lose her dentures and wig on her way to the ground. Meaning for Val to help her up in order to reply properly, he thought she’d screamed to get off her property, and bolted.

Part 2

Valerie was perplexed. Why hadn’t Val, her boyfriend who’d just proposed, help her up from the ground? Was the sight of her without teeth or hair that repulsive? Was he filth averse, since the brief thunderstorm had turned the backyard slash chicken yard a sloppy mess? Or did he misunderstand what she’d said. He bolted as if shot.

“I have to reply properly,” she’d said, lying on her back, her teeth somewhere in the muck, her headpiece in his hand. All she wanted to do was to get upright, smile her prettiest, and kiss Val with her whole self, offering him her entirety as reply to his proposal. She’d imagined marital bliss with Valentine from the moment he first expressed a desire to glaze her carrots.

“Oh dear!” she thought. “He must have thought I’d said something else." The look in his eyes, his tortured expression. She just had to set things right. But how? Still toothless, her hairpiece would take time in front of a mirror, and she was a frightening, mud-covered mess. Nonetheless, she rolled to her side and finally managed to slip and slide herself erect. Fortunately, her teeth were on top of the mud, and not buried in it. Valerie ran as quickly as she could to the water hose bib to clean them as best she was able. The end of the water hose, though, was seventy-five feet away at the garden. By the time she got her dentures in place, she saw Val’s car halfway down the street.

Valentine was a true dinosaur, probably the last American without a cell phone. She had time to clean up before calling him, unsure whether she wanted to leave a message on his machine, or speak to him directly. Face-to-face was always her preference in any communication, but with a message, she could give Val time to collect himself, to decide how to proceed… whether to proceed with her at all.

Did Val find her that hideous? Valerie wondered. Surely he was familiar with women using hairpieces. And dentures were fairly common among their age group. At nearly sixty, people in the lower socio-economic class nearly all had false teeth, or missing teeth in one fashion or another. Why had the subject never come up? she wondered without a good answer.

As much as she fantasized marriage to Val, sharing her life with him, sharing her bed, she had thought they were months away from serious conversation. Next year, maybe. While she no longer considered herself the president of the I Hate Men club, surely she was still a member, albeit inactive.

The nearest neighbor a quarter mile away, Valerie shed her clothes on the back stoop, leaving the mud outdoors. She had time to properly clean her teeth before calling Val’s number.

Once again, just as she began stabbing numbers on her iPhone screen, she relived the ordeal. What kind of man would leave her in the mud, not even attempting to help her. And the expression on his face. What did it say? How could she ask him to call her back? What words could she say to alleviate his anxieties? Val imagined: “Hello, Val dear. I’m sorry I frightened you with my hideousness. I’m sorry that you found me so repulsive.” What she feared was that he would hear her heart, “What kind of man leaves his love in the muck and mire?” Not trusting herself, she set the phone down and went to the shower.

She punished herself under the blasting – nearly full hot – spray in an effort to scald away the filth of the whole ordeal, burn away the building rancor, to cleanse herself of what transpired to that very moment.  Maybe the burn of her skin would diminish the burn in her heart. The involuntary groan that threatened to choke her had she attempted to stifle it, belched primeval. She wailed at lost love as if lightning struck before her very eyes. How could she have withheld her secrets from him? But when was she to have made the full disclosure? Soon enough, her self-torment returned to: How could he not be understanding?

Through flooding tears she half dressed, out of habit more than anything else. She had a hen to put up and tomatoes to bring in. Donning mud boots, she managed the chicken, but returned to the house, not caring whether she picked another tomato her entire life. Her head in her hands sitting at the kitchen table, Valerie bawled the cry of the love lost and vanity stricken. While she’d been outside, she did not hear the ring of her phone. Inside at the kitchen table, she did not notice that she’d missed a call. There was not a notification of a message to signal her, or to retrieve.


How could he not at least help her up? Val chastised himself. He was supposedly in love with her. He wanted to marry her, to live with her, to share her bed, her bosom. “Get off my property!” Had he misread her all these months? What else had he misread? Did she ever want him around. Was he always pressing too hard? Val relived every exchange, every date. Was he overly aggressive, too demanding? Did he force himself into her life just as he’d first bought her the tire for her truck? Was he controlling?

So she had false teeth and wore a wig. So what? Had she had cancer, was there something on-going that he could help with? For goodness sakes, he was missing two teeth himself! But how could he explain not helping her up. Running off at her obviously panicked command? Val had no answer.

She wanted him gone, no doubt to gather herself in privacy, to assuage her pride. Val looked at his message machine the moment he entered his home. There was no message. He picked up the receiver and dialed Valerie’s number, setting the receiver back in the cradle before hearing the lone ring. What could he say? “I’m sorry I saw you as you are? I’m sorry I didn’t pick you up?” How could he change that? Done was done. And she’d clearly ordered him off her property. He thought that it might be best to give her time. With the tightness in his throat, he wasn’t sure that he could even speak in any event. Walking toward his recliner chair, he stopped, thinking that he should just get back into his car and return to Valerie’s house. He should propose again, and whatever followed, take it like a man.

Valerie was beautiful. Her dentures looked natural. He had never even suspected that they were false. He wondered what kissing her without them would be like, caressing her scalp as they kissed. His body provided answer sufficient. He began to call her again, wondering whose court the ball was in. He also wondered just how stupid he was.

Rather than sit in his chair wanting to neither look at nonsense on the television nor to read, Val went outside and began walking. Nearly an hour from his home, Val had come to a conclusion: No matter the consequence, he would confront Valerie, express his distress and his undying love, and propose once more.

It took him 45 minutes to return home, and then 15 more to drive to Valerie’s house. By then it was full on dark and Valerie’s house appeared even darker, not a light anywhere. Valerie with her tear-soaked face and hands remained at her kitchen table all the while that Val pulled into her driveway, sat a moment, and then backed out.

Author Notes
Photo thanks to Supergold of FanArtReview


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