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The Curse of the Prize Marrow

by Arthur Mackeown

All right then, I do have a story you haven’t heard before, but you’ll have to fill my glass again if you want to hear it. That’s it — right to the brim. Here we go then. This is the story of that world-famous champion marrow from my dad’s allotment — you know, down by the gasworks. If I was a writer I’d call it the Curse of the Prize Marrow. No, I have not been sniffing the gas, and I haven’t had more than five pints all evening, neither. Are you lot listening or not?

Actually, my dad never grew marrows. He grew carrots and cucumbers and tomatoes and whatnot, just like everybody else. It’s my granddad what used to grow marrows. Dirty great things, they were, the biggest prize marrows in the East End.

He didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t chase women, just grew gigantic marrows. It’s all he ever talked about. He didn’t care about the horses, or the dogs, or football, or anything normal blokes’re interested in.

Drove my gran round the twist, he did, and he made my dad spend every Saturday morning down the allotment with him, cosseting them marrows like they was little children. When Grandad died, my dad got the allotment. First thing he did was to dig up all the marrows and burn ’em.

Not that it did him any good...

Why not? Because they kept growing back, that’s why not. Bigger than ever, an’ all. Dad tried everything to get rid of ’em, but nothing helped. No-one could understand it. Some of the old folk claimed it was Granddad’s revenge from beyond the grave. The old dear what lived next door was afraid even to walk past the allotment in the dark. She swore blind that, when the moon was full, she’d heard my granddad’s voice singing to the marrows, just like he used to before a competition. You can laugh, but if you’d seen how much one of them things grew in a single night, you’d laugh on the other side of your face. It was creepy, I tell you. Creepy.

Anyway, word got out and some reporter from a local paper turned up with a photographer. Next thing we knew my dad’s picture was on the front page of the Gardeners’ Gazette, standing next to a marrow the size of a miniature barrage balloon. Did him no good saying it had nothing to do with him, the thing had simply grown itself. They thought he was just being modest.

After that he was quite the celebrity. People he hardly knew started saying hallo to him in the street, and complete strangers bought him drinks. Before long he was convinced he was a world authority on the growing of marrows and, believe it or not, so was everyone else. Gardeners from all over came to visit and seek his advice. They used to ask him all sorts of questions, and he would answer the first thing that came into his head, and the dopes would just write everything down word for word.

Strangest of all, they say his methods are practiced with great success to this very day on collective farms from Vladivostok to Ulan Bator, wherever that may be. The Russkies even made him a Hero of Agriculture and sent him a medal that weighed more than one of them marrows.

Then the experts got into the act. A bunch of gardening bigwigs went down to the allotment one day, and weighed and measured the largest marrow and told my dad it was one of the finest marrows they’d ever seen, and how he ought to enter it in some national fruit and veg competition because he was sure to win first prize, which was a trip to the Costa del Sol — and all the marrow he could eat, I shouldn’t wonder...

Well, that was that, wasn’t it? He got so keen he took out his old army tent and started sleeping down by the allotment just so the marrows wouldn’t feel neglected. We hardly saw him at home any more, although he did turn up now and again for a meal and to leave mud on the carpet.

And after all that, guess what? When the great day finally arrived he came in second. Boy, was he furious. Went straight down to the allotment and chopped every single marrow into little pieces. Then he came home and stared at the wall for two days. On the third day we got a phone call. The bloke what won first place had been disqualified for injecting his marrows with water.

Which meant all Dad had to do now was to re-measure and re-weigh his marrow for the record, and he would be declared the official winner. Costa del Whatsit, here we come. Only there weren’t no more marrows, were there? Not only that, however hard he tried, he never managed to grow another.

So now you know what caused Dad’s breakdown. He’s all right now, of course. Mind you, if you should meet him in the street, do yourselves a favour...

Don’t mention marrows.

Copyright © 2013 by Arthur Mackeown

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