Beans (Winifred Mumbles)

Well, this is unexpected. Here I thought I’d planted filet beans.

Avast, ye mildewed squash! Prepare to be boarded!

Been over a century. New round of seeds every year for more the one hundred generations. And these changelings still crop up. They used to say plastic was the most enduring ill from those people. And yes, it’s foul. Killed off billions. Cancer everywhere. Can’t eat anything without the risk. Or breathe. Or be conceived. But these seeds!

Hybrid, nasty word. Had a thing for not-words back then, they did. Hybrid. Suppose they were shooting for inbred. Something about breeding anyway. Except it’s the opposite. Take two things that aren’t related at all and force them to procreate. Stupid. Whole point of speciation is to keep that from happening. But humans. Must throw wrenches into the works.

Well, this is a wrench and no mistake.

Some sort of pole bean, maybe? Not going to be happy in that spot. Nor will the tomatoes like me for putting these monsters at their feet. Well, it was supposed to be good for the tomatoes, wasn’t it? Beans sucking nitrogen out of the air and dumping it at the roots. Tomatoes love that sort of thing. Too bad there aren’t phosphorous straws. But then, probably a good thing there isn’t enough phosphorous in the air we breathe for that to have evolved. Be worse than granite sand in the lungs, I suppose.

Things to be grateful for: legumes.

But how did this mutant show up? Been growing these seeds for at least the last decade. Why now? Suppose I should be happy I got that much of a run out of them. Some don’t come true for more than a couple seasons. But darn it, I liked those beans. And how often does anyone say that! I might still like these things. Maybe. Pole beans are mighty beany though. Can’t even eat the pods most of the time. And you have to cook them two or three times to keep your insides from mutiny.

With my luck, they’re kidney beans.

Maybe the chickens will like them. Though, can’t feed them too many beans no matter the variety. And all that cooking just to feed the chickens my garden mistakes. Too much work. Too much boiling heat, more like, for something none of us really wants to eat. Well, in the end, there’s always the compost heap.

Well then. Maybe they should just be tossed now. Not even the nitrogen straw is going to make the tomatoes forgive me for putting shades up the trellis.

Could be worse. There’s that orchard. Thought they were planting a hundred dwarf rootstocks, turns out to be standards. Packed together worse than salt cedar along the arroyo. Some person back then thought this was good for trees, they say. Well, might be good for the trees, but it’s not so good for the fruit harvest. Maybe the trees intended it that way. Must get tiring producing all that for no benefit at all. Apple seeds don’t do anything. Don’t even make random mutant apples. Just nothing. Thousands of still-borns every growing season. Hard on the psyche, if you ask me. The sorrows of Mother Apple. Should be a book.

Things to be very grateful for: that the lab folks didn’t get around to hybridizing humans before things fell apart!

There are still books talking about all that. Taking genetic information from things to improve the species. Whatever that meant. Improve. Another disgusting word, really. Turning to profit. I’ll thank you kindly to keep your profiteering out of my gene pool. But imagine if the improvements went retrograde! Or just went walk-about up and down the chromosomes. Could have infants with gills. Or like apples, just nothing. Most likely nothing. And you’d not know until the bleeding started. Any form of still born is devastating. To not even have a recognizable baby though. To go through labor pains for a dead… thing. 

They had sci-fi books back then. Stories about all the crazy shit science unleashed on the planet. Most of them were supposed to be happy. Now, you read them and it’s horrifying. Or at best, monumentally stupid. Burning through all your resources to fly off into space. As though you could ever get anywhere in a human life-span. Or there was anywhere to get to that would support earth-based life forms. Meanwhile the only place that could support those earth-based life forms was burning. Meaning no place for earth life. No earth at all.

But the scariest? Stories about messing around with biology. Just wrong. All of it. Those, at least, were supposed to be scary stories, most of them. But now that we’ve been through the wringer of human tinkering, those stories are downright eerie. Did none of the lab coats read? Because here were all these cautionary tales saying “mess with this to your own peril” and they went and messed with it anyway. Reason antibiotics failed. Damn well bred ultra-resistant microbes, the fools.

Ah. Here’s me getting all riled over history again. No crying over spilt milk, my mother used to say. Though I did that plenty, crying over what you can’t get back. The more dear, the more tears. She cried too. Usually as she was reciting that sort of stupid proverb. Made us both laugh. Which is probably why she said it, more than the truth in it.

Things to be wary of: improvements and proverbs. Or, more like, the creators of both.

So these beans. Now what? No filet beans this year? Guess that’s one less pickle I have to tend in July heat. But I like that pickle, damn it! So who has beans? Too late to go down to the market, is it? Nah. Someone’s got to have fall beans. Monsoon will be here in a few weeks. Maybe the heat will break. I could fit in a round with the autumn greens if I could find the seeds.

They say there used to be seed banks. Reserves of all the landraces in existence, stored safely away so this sort of thing wouldn’t happen. Or it wouldn’t hurt so much when it did happen. Probably already was happening. Most of the storage places failed when the big refrigerators died. But there are still some out there. Wonder if they have filet beans. Wonder if they still breed true after one hundred generations. That just boggles. This tiny scrap of ancestry popping up after a hundred rounds of successful suppression. 

Well, for now I guess I’ll be heading down to the valley. Got some fancy eggs to trade. Maybe pot up some of the strawberry volunteers who are boarding the squash bed with cutlasses brandished. Yelling “Avast!” in plant-ish, I’m guessing. But everyone wants strawberries this time of the year. Well, fitting, as you don’t get strawberries any other time. Aside from jam. Hm. Got some of that too.

But no pickled beans till fall.

©Elizabeth Anker 2021