Nearly every Friday night, we head to the local farmers market. Let me explain farmer’s markets, in case they’re not around when you finally read all these posts. I think they’ll be around because hopefully we still have farms and we still have food, but if we don’t, then, Hi! Welcome to the Apocalypse! Back before the Big One ripped Los Angeles off the continental shelf. Back before the sky rained nuclear fallout flakes every day on account of Google maps becoming self-aware and dropping nuclear bombs on every Amazon distribution center. Back before Ebola turned everyone into zombies.
Back before all this, there were farmers markets. There isn’t much more to explain, actually. Farmers bring their food. People bring their money. Goods are exchanged for currency. Goods are eaten. They’re a novelty now. Throughout history, they were key to survival.
There are also people selling crafts. This is where this story takes the turn it can only take when your mother is involved. You’ll find, Blue, that one of your mother’s special gifts is creating awkward situations. She excels at it the way some people excel at baking a cake or playing the tuba.
Long before you even a twinkle in our eyes, there was a man selling finger puppets made out of wool in one of the stalls. He had a whole menagerie of animals stacked up on little displays. Little wool sheep with buttons for eyes. Tigers with bits of pipe cleaner for whiskers. Frogs with felt tongues sticking out of their mouths. It was quite the collection, and immediately upon seeing the display, your mother decided she had a burning question that needed answering.
“Are those animals?” she asked me. A grin spread across her face as a lightbulb went off. “I’m gonna ask him.”
“No, don’t,” I said, aware of where this was heading.
“I’m walking over here then,” I said, pointing to the nearby yogurt shop.
“You know you want to see this.”
What I wanted to see was your mother walk on and not do what she was about to do, but since that wasn’t about to happen, I decided that I did want to see this, but only from a distance.
Your mother walked up to sock puppet Noah and his ark of wool animals and in her most sincere, polite voice, asked, “Excuse me, sir, but do you have a beaver?”
Okay. A little explanation is required here as well. In case you don’t know, Blue, a beaver is a small, woodland creature that lives in the northern parts of the United States. It is well known for having luxurious fur and huge teeth which it uses to build dams along rivers.
It also has another meaning, which was something your mother only recently discovered. And being that she thought this was absolutely hilarious, she was very eager to apply this new knowledge in creating more awkward situations.
“Do I have a what?” the man asked, leaning over with one ear. Someone was playing a banjo down the street, which made successful bartering slightly more difficult. It also gave your mother another chance to ask her question while keeping a straight face.
“I SAID DO YOU HAVE A BEAVER?” she said in a loud voice. Her face was focused and tight. I could see the laughter bubbling up in her throat, but only because I was looking for it.
Sock puppet Noah glanced over at his display, sighed and then turned back to your mother. “I have many things,” he said very slowly, while scratching the side of his jaw with one hand. “But a beaver is not one of them.”
There isn’t a more cryptic, awkward way to answer this awkward question. I couldn’t help it. I snorted on a giggle, and then me and your mother bolted across the block, laughing hysterically. A simple, “No I do not” would have sufficed, but Sock Puppet Noah responded with this air of mystery that neither one of us expected. A simple “No” was not good enough for sock puppet Noah. Not for a man who makes a living selling finger puppets made of wool. A little mystery adds to the mystique.
Even more intriguing, we have never seen Sock Puppet Noah again at the market. He’s just a myth now, a tale we remember every time we go. An inside joke that we chuckle at during every retelling And if your teenage self is reading this years from now, Blue, and you’re wondering why asking if a grown man has a beaver is awkward, maybe we really have found our way to the apocalypse.