Mary Had a Little Lamb
By Abigail H. Leskey
April 28, 2015.
I am not British. I know that’s an odd beginning, but otherwise you’ll think I am, because I like to spell the British way. Because BBC. And I wouldn‘t want you to think I’m British when actually I’m not. I don’t have any friends (alive ones [real ones]) so I think I’ll name you Anne because I’m Mary and I love Sense and Sensibility.
I can play the tin whistle, and I like to sing. I’m fairly good at singing. I’d like to start a band, but I don’t know anyone to start one with. With whom to start one. I like how “Mangosteen” sounds for a name for it.
May 3, 2015. I spent two hours today bawling on the floor of my bedroom, hugging my laptop. I love my laptop. Don’t think I spend all my time on the computer, because I don’t. I always help around the house, and I crochet, and I draw, and I cook food with too much salt and spice and sugar. And when it isn’t summer I do school. I’m homeschooled. We’re finishing up the school year, which is almost the same as being done only not quite.
“Um, Mary?” Mum opened the door. “Are you all right?”
“OTP,” I wailed. Mum nodded resignedly and closed the door. She is very understanding.
Half an hour later she opened the door again. “You should go outside; it’s a nice day. Remember, you wanted to plant Grandma’s seeds?”
She meant Great-Grandma, who was Russian and wore a kerchief on her head and died before I was born. Somehow these seeds have come to us, and Mum thought it would be nice to plant them. I was fine with the idea, even though I don’t really like gardening much.
I knew where Mum wanted the seeds. She had showed me the empty patch only the day before, a bit of garden beside the house. So I went out and put on gloves and opened the packet. Inside were three seeds, two dark brown and shiny and a third split open. The cracked one had a bit of white woolly stuff inside. I think it unlikely to grow, but I put it in with the others just to save trouble. I’m afraid I’m a bit lazy.
May 14, 2015. Fourteen fifteen! A month ‘til my birthday.
May 18, 2015. Something sprouted, and it was just one ordinary looking little seedling, with roundish fuzzy cotyledons—no, I’m not a science nerd. I had to take biology. I am a nerd, just not a science one.
May 25, 2015. DONE WITH SCHOOL! I’ve ordered fifteen library books, and I’ll read them in a fortnight.
June 12, 2015. Only two days till my birthday. I don’t want to be fifteen. But I do like cake—there’s always a bright side.
June 13, 2015. Something’s odd about the seedling. I was looking very closely at it today because I’d noticed Jason, who lives next door, smile and wave from his yard. So I waved back and then scrutinized it.
Jason is a nice young man. He and his parents go to our church, and he’s saving money to be a farmer. He has goats that want to eat me. But I am terrified of young men. I have no idea how to talk to them. When he tries to talk to me at church I turn red and my palms sweat and I giggle and my voice gets squeaky. It’s funny, really, because I have at least a bit of a crush on five fictional characters (make that four; Mum says I’m not allowed to have crushes on villains) and a British actor, but I can’t handle just shaking hands with Jason.
So I was looking at the little plant. It has a bud, right up on top like a sunflower bud; quite a fat one for such a young plant. And as I stared, it looked like it was just barely—pulsating. I hope I’m not seeing things. Sometimes I hear music.
June 14, 2015. I am fifteen. The first thing I did after turning fifteen was to stand up and start crying. Why. I should have stayed in bed. Poor Papa. The cake was very good, chocolate. Mum and Papa gave me the extended versions of the whole trilogy!
P. S. Jason came over and said “Happy birthday.” I started crying again, and he nearly fell down the steps of the porch, and broke the thermometer catching his balance. I wish I’d never been born. No, I like being born. I’m just in a really terrible mood today—and now I’m crying.
June 15, 2015. Ugh.
June 18, 2015. The bud is bigger, and it still seems to be pulsating. Mum doesn’t see it, and neither does Papa. Papa wasn’t wearing his glasses.
Why does Jason look so happy when he mows? We were mowing our yards at the same time today. Mr. Coul who lives on the other side of us, was mowing his too, which is funny. He used to have a ponytail, but then he had a Mowhawk, and then he lost all his hair. And he likes to play drums. Especially in the wee sma’s. Papa says he wants to be famous.
July 1, 2015. The bud is getting huge! We’re all wondering what it will look like. I think it’s going to be a white flower. The stem is really thick. It isn’t very tall.
July 4, 2015. 2:30 A.M. Mr. Coul is setting off fireworks. I think I’ll read. Is it OK to read something British on the 4th of July?
July 6, 2015. This is true. I can’t believe it. I’m so excited! And it’s so cute, even if—I need to start over.
I went outside this morning, and I saw a little white lamb standing in the flowerbed right on top of my plant. So I ran down; even if it was on my plant I wanted to pet it; and it didn’t run away. And I started petting it, and it has fuzzy ears. But then I looked under it at my plant, and I saw the stem going up, but it ended at the lamb’s stomach! The lamb is the flower!
Mum and Papa are in a tizzy, and I’m in a tizzy, and Grandma’s in a tizzy (Mum called her), and the lamb’s mowing for us, but I’ll have to bring it more food, because it can’t wander the yard. Mum says to go ask Jason about it. I’ll have to go.
P.S. Jason brought some goat food for it, and wouldn’t let Papa pay him. He’s excited too. He thinks he read about this somewhere; it’s called--
Oh, I think I’ll tell it over. Pretend I didn’t say anything today yet. Here we go:
In the early hours of July the sixth, Miss ------ proceeded to take the air. Upon examining the plantings of the garden, she was considerably astonished to discover a creature unknown to science, in the form of a combined herb and lamb. After consultation with Mr. Golde, a gentleman interested in the botanical sciences, it was determined that the species formerly bore the appellation of the VEGETABLE LAMB OF TARTARY.
July 7, 2015. The lamb is growing very fast. It’s a girl, and we’ve named it Masha after Great Grandma. Mr. Coul stopped by and saw it and became very excited.
P. S. We’ve had a time. A reporter turned up. He tried to interview Papa, who’d just gotten home, and he took all sorts of pictures of Masha, and Papa had to get ready to call the police before he’d leave. It was exciting, but Masha was frightened.
She kicks around like she wants to go. It must be boring for her. I think I’ll start reading her stories.
July 8, 2015. Masha’s in the news.
July 13, 2015. Masha’s gone viral. People are stopping in front of our house with binoculars. Mum won’t let me go outside by myself anymore, in the front yard, and that’s where Masha is. I’ve been watching the people. There have been more women than men, and only four children. Two of them were twins with curls. Also I saw a lady who looked like my favourite princess. She was wearing the wrong colour.
July 14, 2015. Papa went over to ask Mr. Coul if he told the reporter about the lamb. He found him passed out on top of his drum-set and called 911. I hope he’s all right.
Masha is scared of all the loud people stopping. She’s trying so hard to get away that she’s loosened her roots. I tucked soil over them again. What if she uproots herself and dies? I know, I’ll ask Mum if I can go ask Jason about it.
P.S. Jason came over with me, and calmed her down. He looked worried when he looked at her stem, though. “They didn’t feed them in the old days,” he said, like he was afraid I’d start crying.
“But we do. So she’ll be fine.”
“The stalk might not be meant to last,” he said. I hope he’s wrong. Poor Masha! I’m crying again. I haven’t been doing that as much recently.
July 15, 2015. Mr. Coul came home from the hospital, and Mum and I took him over stuffed shells and garlic green beans and Italian bread. He really looks sick, like a character with consumption in a period drama. I was a little scared. He didn’t say anything about the reporter. Mum hoped he’d feel better soon, and he said, “Fat chance.”
Masha bared her roots again, and she doesn’t want to eat much. But she’s drinking gallons. I wish the people would go away.
July 16, 2015. Masha was very upset today. I’m writing this sitting next to her. Jason’s here too, playing his guitar for her. I didn’t know he could. He says he’s bad at it. Masha likes it a lot. She’s asleep now, even though there is a loud redheaded lady stopped out in front.
Anne, don’t tell anyone. I think Jason
is handsome. Jason can sing, too.
Today there’s been a few people yelling stuff about GMOs and waving signs. Jason says they’re uncultured—Vegetable Lambs of Tartary have been around since forever. I keep seeing Masha on Pinterest. People say it’s a hoax.
July 17, 2015. Masha doesn’t want to eat. Her stem looks wilty.
July 18, 2015. Mum and I brought Mr. Coul shepherd’s pie, and Jason was there already! Mr. Coul is lying down and teaching him how to play the drums. Mr. Coul was less grumpy today.
Masha seems a little better. It rained last night. Maybe if I water her a lot. I wish it would rain more. The people don’t come so much then.
I made strawberry shortcake today.
July 19, 2015. A letter came from some sort of government body. Mama hasn’t said anything about it. I wonder if it’s about Masha. She seems a bit lethargic; she’s grown until her feet are on the ground now, and her stem is bent.
Jason says he likes the drums almost as much as guitar.
July 21, 2015. LOUD.
July 22, 2015. Masha’s stem is turning brown, she’s going to die, and I should have taken better care of her, instead of reading and watching movies, and why won’t those people just go away! I wish I had ice-powers!
July 25, 2015. The 24th was the busiest, most awful, weirdest day of my whole life. There were more people than ever outside, it seemed like, and Masha wouldn’t eat. Her stem was brown and icky. And Mama and Papa both had to be away, so I couldn’t go out to her until about noon. They’d arranged that Jason’s mum would come over then and keep an eye on me while I fed her.
Jason came instead. “Mom has a migraine,” he said.
“I hope she feels better soon,” I said.
“I think it’s allergies, but I don’t know what,” he said. “She has them a lot. I can’t do anything to help.”
I said something very stupid. I said, “Has she tried blowing her nose?” Then I said, “That was a stupid thing to say,” and I started apologizing. I am so embarrassing. I just wanted to say something that would help.
She has tried it.
We went out, and gave her her food, but she wouldn’t eat again. She drank some water. Then the scary part started. I heard a yell, and I looked up, and there was a man with a yellow shirt and a gun trespassing and screaming about government conspiracies! He looked bonkers.
“Get in the house and call 911!” Jason shouted. I almost started crying, but he plucked Masha and got us all inside. The man yelled again, and I heard a gunshot, but nothing came in the house. I was screaming. Jason handed Masha to me and told me to get into the middle of the house and called 911.
Masha was all limp, and I started crying, sitting in the hallway. Jason was still on the phone, and I cried and cried until there were sirens. I just stared at the police officers. Jason told them everything, and it seems the man had gone away before they came. They asked me questions too, and I tried to answer. They were nice.
Then Mama and Papa came home to police officers, Jason, Masha dead in the house, and me crying, and I just went off and sat in the hallway again with Masha and stopped crying. Jason came.
“You killed her,” I said. “You picked her.”
“I’m sorry, Mary. He meant to shoot her.’
“He thought she was a government conspiracy. I’m sorry, Mary. I was trying—“
Masha sneezed. I nearly screamed. Jason felt her chest and her nose. “She’s alive!”
She was! And she still is, and she’s even eating! She wants to sleep in my bed.
I’m not a science nerd. But I do wonder, if she ever has babies, if they’ll be seeds.
The people have gone away. The man in the yellow shirt has been caught. And Jason and I are starting a band. We’re going to call it “Vegetable Lamb.”
Copyright© 2015 by Abigail Leskey
I first (I believe) read about the Vegetable Lamb in Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs (edited by Claire Kowalchik and William H. Hylton, copyright 1987). I have made use of Wikipedia for this story; the article on the Vegetable Lamb may be found here: Vegetable Lamb of Tartary - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
As for Mary’s fangirling, I have made use of what I have seen online. If you, reader, are a fangirl, I give you permission to ship Mary and Jason.
Find Abigail's other stories on the Writer's Page
Find Abigail's other stories on the Writer's Page