July 3, 2014
“Come on, son.” His father said gesturing with his hand.
“Where are we going?” Jumping off the fence before his father could answer, it didn’t really matter where they were going as long as he was with his dad. Billy hadn’t seen him much lately because he worked all the time. But today he wanted Billy to go somewhere and he was going even if Sarah Connor was bringing some of her grandma’s chocolate chip pecan cookies by this afternoon. Billy liked Sarah, as much as a ten year old boy could like a girl, he supposed. But he loved his dad. So the cookies would have to wait. And so would seeing Sarah.
“Hurry up, son.” urged his father. Billy earnestly caught up to his father’s long strides. Wherever they were going they were walking. Curious as they headed down driveway Billy wondered if something needed fixing. Then his dad turned right and walked into the watermelon Patch. Stopping, a puzzled look came over Billy’s face as he watched his dad bend down and start thumping watermelons.
“Ma said they don’t ripen till the full moon, Pa.” Billy offered as his dad took out his pocket knife to cut the stem off a large striped melon.
“Ripe enough.” His father said as he lifted the melon to his shoulder and continued walking toward the creek that divided their property from old man Jansen’s farm.
“Where to now, Pa?” Motioning for his son to keep following Billy fell silent as he walked behind him down the path to Cobbler’s Creek. Arriving a few minutes later his father placed the huge watermelon on a tree stump he’d put under the large oak tree years ago because mom wanted a spot to rest the picnic basket when the three of them came for Sunday picnics after church. This was the first time Billy recalled coming down to the creek with his dad since his mom passed away two years ago. Seemed strange standing under the oak again without mom’s laughter filling the air at some silly antic his father was doing. Billy missed his mom and knew his dad missed her, too. That’s why they never came here anymore.
“Come here son, I’m gonna teach you how to spit melon seeds.” His father spoke interrupting his thoughts.
“Spit seeds! What for?!” Asked Billy.
“For the Fourth of July seed spitting contest on the courthouse square Friday.” “I was about your age when my dad showed me how spittin’ was done.” He paused for a second, lost in memories. Then said matter-of-factly, “ Ya know...I won that contest.”
“Really? B-b-but I don’t think I can spit seeds, Pa. I can’t even whistle.” Billy protested as fear of being laughed at tugged at his stomach.
“Nonsense. Seed spitting is an art. The bigguns go the furthest.” He explained cutting into the watermelon exposing rows of black seeds. As juice dribbled down the rind onto the stump he handed his son a huge piece. “Now, don’t worry about eatin’ melon. Just git cha’ a bite and find seeds. When ya gotta mouth fulla seeds, watch me.” Billy’s father said as he bit into the pink, watery fruit. Billy did as he was told, juice dripping off his chin as he chewed up the sweet melon, finding seeds with his tongue. After a few minutes his father seemed to be waiting on him so Billy nodded that he was ready. Pushing seeds into his cheek his father spoke.
“Git ‘em in your cheek, then take a deep breath.” Billy did. “Now git one on your tongue, and roll your tongue a slightly. Then tilt your chin up annnd...” SPLAT! “Spit as hard as you can across the creek.” His father’s seed had shot across the creek onto the other bank.
Billy tried to do what he’d seen his father do. Pfffhttt! Billy’s seed popped out with little enthusiasm as it landed a few feet off the water’s edge on the side where he stood.
“Well, we got all day to work on that, son. Try another one,” his dad said as he fired another seed across the creek. “Ya know, Billy. I spit so many seeds across this here creek when I was your age some would take root and grow right up that bank.” “Used to bring your ma here when we was young and eat wild melons…”
His father’s voice trailed off at the mention of his wife. Billy spat a seed clean across the creek this time, which seemed to jar his father out of his daydream.
“That’s my boy!” his father said laughing. Billy hadn’t heard his dad laugh in a long time. Maybe entering the contest wasn’t a bad idea after all. Besides, the other side of the creek had to be a good twenty feet away. They spent the next few hours spitting seeds and talking about nothing special, as fathers and sons sometimes do.
Friday finally arrived and Fourth of July celebrations started with a parade down Main Street at ten that morning. Anxiety tugged at Billy’s tummy again as he and his dad watched red, white and blue floats drive slowly past. “Hey Pa, maybe I should wait till next year when I’m older.”
Never taking his gaze off the parade his father spoke. “I met your mom at the watermelon contest Billy and after I won she told me I could do anything.” He sighed. “Now, stop your fretting and watch the parade. Here comes the fire truck.”
Seed spitting was scheduled for right after lunch. Billy had been spitting so much all week his lips felt like sandpaper, which sure wasn’t making him feel more confident about winning. Besides, old man Jansen’s grandson, Trevor, entered and he’d won two years in a row. Not only that, but Sarah was coming and Billy knew he’d die a thousand times of embarrassment if she saw him lose the contest to either of the two girls who were competing.
Swallowing the lump in his throat Billy heard Mayor Jenkins on the PA system telling everyone to “mosey over to the well house” for the contest. Six contestants, including Billy, had entered. Each contestant would get 90 seconds to spit ten seeds. The longest distance would then be calculated and a winner announced. Billy’s mouth felt dry as he took his place in front of a stack of freshly cut watermelon. His pa had told him to look for the piece with the biggest seeds and he kept his eye on the one he’d pick up.
Suddenly, it was Billy’s turn. He drew in a quick breath and picked up the piece of watermelon. The clock would start as soon as he took a bite. Just as he bit into the fruit he saw Sarah waving from the crowd. His knees felt as watery as the watermelon in his mouth. He thought he was going to panic and accidently swallow so he closed his eyes. His mother’s laughter filled his ears as he pictured her under the old oak tree by the creek. Then she smiled, saying, “A boy who can win a seed spitting contest can do anything.”
Suddenly, Billy opened his eyes and found the biggest seeds in his mouth spitting them one at a time as the crowd counted “one...two...three...” until he reached ten. When his turn was over Trevor still had to spit. The crowd counted again and roared with applause as the final seed flew. Moments later the Mayor was thanking everyone for attending and reminding them that fireworks would start that evening as soon as the clock tower chimed nine.
Billy searched tvhe crowd for his Pa. Not seeing him he wondered where he’d gone, sure he would have watched the contest. Then Mayor Jenkins was getting everyone’s attention again as he was about to announce the winner. “And the winner of this year’s 4th of July Watermelon Seed Spitting contest is...Billy Thornton with a distance of twenty-six feet, three inches!” The crowd cheered as Billy sat in stunned silence. The girls in the contest hugged him. Trevor sneered at him and walked off the makeshift stage. Then Sarah was hugging his neck and telling him how amazing he was for winning as she leaned over and kissed him lightly on the cheek. His trance broken Billy turned red from embarrassment anyway. Then he stammered, “Y-y-you want to watch fireworks with me tonight.”
“Sure,” Sarah said with a smile as they walked off the stage.
“Happy 4th of July, Sarah.”
“Happy 4th of July, Billy.”
Standing by Jacob’s Hotdog booth, Billy’s father smiled as he watched Sarah take his son’s hand as they walked through the jubilant crowd.
“Your ma would be proud, son.”
Have a safe, happy and wonderfully scrumptious 4th of July everyone! Love, hugs and smiles from my heart to yours.