Apples, Prickly Pears & Potatoes

Written: 09.06.09

Nina stared dispassionately out the window at the world outside. The wind was howling, rattling at the windows and shrieking its frustration when it found them closed tight against it. Grey clouds scudded across the sky in thick morbid blankets and at intervals rain spat its disdain upon the winter’s day. It had been going on like this non-stop for two days now.

Her email messenger beeped an alert of an incoming message. Dragging her attention back she opened it and skimmed through the contents. It was just a newsletter from the local news service. Her lips twisted wryly as she closed and deleted it. Yet more evidence that the world beyond was slowly going mad.

Next she opened her blog page and scanned through the entries of international friends posted during the night as she’d slept. Fighting down twinges of regret and yes, even a small amount of jealousy for a lifestyle and opportunities they seemed to take almost for granted she moved on to her other online account. Finding nothing there in need of her attention either, Nina leaned back in her chair and sipped at the rapidly cooling coffee she’d made just a short while ago.

Another glance outside and then a shiver ran up her spine as a finger of icy air found its way inside and grazed the back of her neck. Double-glazed windows, central heating, a college and or university education, the possibility of financial aid for the latter two and the luxury of being able to take one’s time to decide their future before having to leave home and brave the choppy seas of life on your own.

It was like comparing Apples to Prickly Pears. It couldn’t be done. It shouldn’t be done. And yet, at times, she couldn’t help pining for things that weren’t her right to want. Or were they?

The notion of a winter spent with the comforts of modern technology as enjoyed by the Apples rather than just layers of clothing, fingerless gloves and a mobile gas heater surely weren’t a necessity were they? After all, it wasn’t like the winters experienced in the Prickly Pear homeland were anywhere near those endured in that of the Apples. Then again, central air seemed to be a standard fixture in homes across Appledom and chilled air was certainly something Prickly Pears could do with in their long sultry summers. But who was she to complain when hundreds of people, who didn’t even have the basic necessity of a warm blanket, had spent the night out on the streets at the mercy of the weather while she had been comfortably snuggled under thick quilts? No, she had no right to want those things when there were those that didn’t even have a warm bed to sleep in.

A particularly strong blast of wind wrapped the fragile threads of the wind chimes outside into a tangled mess, the metal tubes tinkling piteously against each other as they tried to free themselves. Nina went back to the blog entry a friend had posted on the new path her life was taking her and somehow, it made her once again, feel like she had little of value to offer the world.

Teen marriage and motherhood aside, perhaps if she had tried harder to gain a higher education after graduating High School? Her face skewed into a disgruntled expression for both the mouthful of now cold coffee she’d just swallowed and the fact that any form of higher education had been beyond her reach and that of most others any way she cut it.

It seemed Appledom was that insistent on further education that it devised the means to put it within the grasp of any that wished to make use of it. In fact, it frowned upon those that didn’t. Whereas the Prickly Pear held higher education to ransom, making the path to its acquaintance a veritable minefield of exploded hopes and aspirations and thorns in the side.

Five distinctions in tenth grade got one a toe in the door. Being lucky enough to fall into one of the strictly controlled quota categories, the right to apply, and a wealthy family or one with a home they could take a second mortgage out on, the means to fund it. In comparison with what the Apple had to offer, it didn’t seem right. And yet, minions of the Prickly Pear were renowned worldwide for having high work ethics and being hard workers, truth be told, they were sought after.

Nina stretched and tried to rub some warmth back into her hands. If one really thought about it, perhaps the Prickly Pears were better off in some ways. The knowledge they had was gained not from books and lecture rooms, but rather from the battlefields of life, earning their scars by fighting their way tooth and nail up corporate ladders and into boardrooms. Prickly Pears also had an innate sense of entrepreneurship. Not qualified on paper to be welcomed by a certain job sector but have the necessary skills and business acumen regardless? Start your own business and stick it to the Ivy Leaguers. Which would explain the near hero worship of business gurus such as Richard Branson amongst the Prickly Pears.

Her thoughts turned further inward causing Nina’s lips to compress to a thin line. And what was it that she had to offer? What battle scars did she wear to prove her worthiness in the arena of salaried incomes? Baby spit-up, hands calloused from housework and wild flights of imagination aside – none. None that would gain her access to the fond hope of one day perhaps calling Appledom or anywhere else of such prestige her home. She had nothing they wanted or were ever likely to need. Stick it to the Ivy Leaguers…

…a silent gaze drifted to the piles of fake edibles she’d been hard at work making over the passed few weeks for an upcoming craft market. It followed on over to the large monitor where she was in the process of re-designing her website in the hopes of generating further interest, then slipped down to the two dogs on the floor at her feet that were wound tightly against each other for warmth despite the intolerance the one held for the other – and she smiled.

No, she wasn’t highly educated and had no scrolled pieces of paper to offer up as testament to her worthiness to the world outside. But neither was she stupid or useless. She wasn’t even a fruit such as the Apples and Prickly Pears, more of a vegetable really, a potato. Here, in her own little patch of the vegetable garden she was Queen. It mattered not that her grammar was imperfect or that she didn’t hold lengthy discussions over the intricacies of world politics, that she couldn’t cleverly argue various philosophies along with learned scholars, or had read and could do a sterling autopsy of one of the great written works.

Everyone loved a good shiny Apple and even the Prickly Pears once you got passed the spines were valued for their exotic flavour, but Nina was a potato and potatoes were the backbone of any economy. Simple vegetables often not given a second glance, glossed over in favour of the more exotic. But when it came right down to it, they were a staple and filled your belly. Potatoes could be anything that was required of them to be. From a simple unit boiled whole and topped with sour cream, to fluffy mash that adorns comforting cottage pie and right on through to the more flamboyant packets of crisps that emerge at a party to be bathed in spicy dips.

With the weather becoming evermore dreary and bleak outside, Nina felt a warm glow infuse her as she stood and stepped away from her desk to see to household chores. She rather liked being a potato.


Tina Turner – We Don’t Need Another Hero


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