For Children

Jacob Aufzien

Pickle Rage

2010 5th-6th Grade Prose Winner

Why am I not still a cucumber? Why did I need to be afflicted with the evil curse of pickling? I’ll tell you why, because humans like the taste of pickles! They don’t care about how other species feel. For example, goose liver pate. They pour mashed corn and wheat down the poor geese’s throats in excessive amounts, fattening the poor geese’s livers. People then slaughter the geese, mush up their livers, and eat pate. That is pure cruelty!

I was born a perfectly proportioned, elliptically shaped cucumber. I had neither too many nor too few bumps and ridges. My spines protected me from predators. I enjoyed the sun, fresh air, leaves, vines, and my fellow cucumbers. I talked with my friends and enjoyed their company.

"Why do humans hate cucumbers?" I inquired of my friend, Dexter, "What did we ever do to them?"

"They don’t hate us," replied Dexter, "they just don’t know that cucumbers have feelings."

"But they know geese have feelings, and they still produce goose liver pate. Is that not cruel?" I retorted.

He answered, "Humans care more about their own desires than the rights of other beings. They are thoughtless, not evil."

I had no comeback.

Then, tragedy struck. A human came to my vine and tried to pick me. First, he squeezed me to make sure that I was suitable for picking. Then he yanked, tugged, and pulled, but I resisted. He swore and left. He came back with garden shears. The evil contraption cut me off the vine, ripping me away from my family. I was thrown into a bin with hundreds of other cucumbers, waiting for the agonizing torture of pickling. I saw siblings, other relatives, and neighbors in the bin. I said hello to Dexter.

"Who’s right now? Don’t you feel the full brunt of human hatred in being ripped away from your family?" I inquired.

"You are correct," he admitted.

We were poured from the bin onto a water slide. I thought that we were going to drown during the washing process. Depending on the evil whims of the human operator, you could get pickled first or last. I was one of the last to be picked. It was like waiting for a trip into the fiery furnaces of hell.

I went through the large funnel into a vat filled with water mixed with 5% salt and warmed to 66 degrees Fahrenheit. The salty brine burned like the Dead Sea burns a human who has any cuts on their skin. If only I was as cool as a cucumber now!

I shrank and shriveled while being shoved by other pickles convulsing in the agonizing pain of pickling. I cried out to the Great Pickle, "How can you let your poor creatures suffer? When will we escape this Hell?" I could feel the Lactobacillus attacking me, transforming me into a true pickle.

After three weeks, we were removed from the brine gasping at the air. A few weeks ago, the fumes would have overwhelmed us, but compared to the brine, the air was as fresh as the air in the field where I had grown on my vine. My relief was short lived. We were placed on a conveyor belt. As we went along, machines forced us into glass jars.

"Ouch," I exclaimed as my brother Josh poked me with his stem right into my middle. As another layer of pickles was being poured on top, I saw Dexter.

"Hey, watch out, Dexter!" I exclaimed.

"Well, if it isn’t you, old friend. The torture that the humans have put me through has made me feel as old as my shriveled exterior," he replied, "Has hell been a little easier on you?"

I could not reply before a dishonest human factory worker picked Dexter out of the jar, put him in his greedy mouth, and ate him. May he rest in peace with the Great Pickle.

I was placed in a jar, in the precise middle, surrounded by other pickles. We were pressed tightly together so that I was surrounded on all sides by other pickles. It was like drowning in a sea of pickles.

A machine then added pickling spices and vinegar. The spices reminded me of the various scents that I recalled from the field. The pungent garlic reminded me of the scent of wild garlic in the spring. I enjoyed looking at the feathery dill flower that I could glimpse through the other pickles. The vinegar, 5% acetic acid, seared my skin. The jar’s lid, like the lid on a coffin, sealed my fate. I was doomed.

The jar was placed on a conveyor belt, where a label was applied to the jar. Then the jar was placed in a box, awaiting transport to the supermarket. A truck drove us to the supermarket.

At the supermarket, I was placed in the frigid deli case. I waited. Suddenly, a whorl wind shook me as the jar was taken from the shelf. I went into a shopping cart. Then I was placed on another conveyor belt to be paid for. After being paid for, the jar was placed in a canvas bag. The pickles near the glass walls of the jar could see what was going on.

Josh said, "I see pastrami and potato chips."

Somebody else cried, "I see rye bread and mustard!"

All our hearts sank. The human carried us to his apartment. There I heard the click of the remote control as the TV went on. I heard the announcer announce the Super Bowl.

"Oh Great Pickle," I said, "we are doomed!" I sit on the counter, waiting for the inevitable. I am about to become part of a Super Bowl snack. I hope it’s quick and painless. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for the Great Pickle art with me...