A Radish for You
by Kim McFarland
Wembley and Mokey poked their heads up out of the ground. The stone that formed the pinnacle of Fraggle Rock loomed above them, shading them from the afternoon sun. The garden stretched out in front of them, practically inviting them to come and take what they wished. There was so much food there—it fed three Gorgs, after all—that even if all the Fraggles in the Rock raided it, they still wouldn't make much of a dent.
Well, except if they only picked radishes, that was. Radishes were the most delicious things in the world to a Fraggle. They would take a radish over a melon, squash, tomato, bean, berry, or any of the other things that grew in the garden or the surrounding swamp. It was a good thing not many Fraggles were brave enough to risk the wrath of the Gorgs; if they took too much the Gorgs might try to exterminate them or, worse, stop growing radishes!
Mokey and Wembley listened hard. Mokey said, "I don't hear anyone."
"I do. I hear them snoring."
Wembley had exceptionally good hearing. If he heard Gorgs snoring, then a Fraggle could count on not being thumped. She hopped out of the tunnel exit and said, "Then let's go find your radish."
They walked to the radish plot. Radishes grew quickly, and the Gorgs replanted them all the time, so there were always various sizes to choose from. They walked between the rows for a minute. Then Mokey pointed to one and said, "Look at this, Wembley! Isn't it perfect?"
It was a big radish, but not so big that he and Mokey couldn't carry it together. He said, "It's great, Mokey! But, um, I'm looking for one a little smaller."
"How big?" she asked.
"About like this," he said, cupping his hands as if holding a ball the size of his head.
"All right." They looked around for another minute. Then Wembley dashed to a radish at the end. Among all the bigger radishes it passed nearly unnoticed, but when he looked closely he could see that it was small and neat and smelled delicious.
"This one! This is the one!" Wembley said, excited. He grabbed the leaves just above the root and began pulling. Mokey, guessing what was about to happen, stood behind Wembley. When it came free he toppled backward into her arms. As he got back on his feet, the radish clutched to his chest, he said, "Thanks!"
"Think nothing of it," she said with a smile.
"You go on, Wembley," Mokey said. "I'm going to gather some beans and things. Fraggles don't live on radishes alone."
"All right. Thanks again!"
Wembley, humming and squeaking happily to himself, skipped down the tunnel, holding the radish by the stems of its leaves. It was perfect and smelled delicious and, because it was small, it would be tender and crunchy. This was gonna be great!
First thing he had to do was wash it. There was a stream that threaded through the nearby tunnels. It was narrow and shallow, but the water flowed fast. Red had taken to swimming against the current for the challenge of it. He followed the meandering passages to that cavern. Then he sat on the edge and, holding the radish by its leaves, dunked it in the water.
The current yanked hard. The leaves he was holding tore, and the radish went spinning downstream, out of sight. Wembey yelped, "Oh no! Radish overboard!" and jumped up and ran after it.
"Ow! What the—hey!"
Wembley turned a corner and found Red holding onto a rock at the side of the stream with one hand and the radish with the other. She looked very startled. Wembley said, "Oh no, Red! Are you all right?"
"I was swimming, and then this radish came outta nowhere and thwacked me on the head," she told him.
"Yeah, sorry about that. I was washing it and it kinda got away. Thanks for stopping it."
"Oh, it's yours?" She waded out of the water, carrying it. She handed it to Wembley, asking "Why were you washing it here?"
"'Cause, well, I kinda wanted it to be a secret. You won't tell, will you?" he pleaded.
"Sure. I won't." She rubbed her head. "Like I'd want to admit I got bonked by a runaway radish."
"Thanks a million," he said, and scampered off.
On his way back he stopped by Boober's cave. Technically he just had a room, but then he also had the adjoining kitchen and laundry areas. Wembley found him at a wooden washtub, scrubbing some sturdy fabric against a washboard and humming in time to the scratchy rhythm. Wembley said, "Hi, Boober!"
Boober yelped and jumped. He turned and, one fist on his hip, said, "Wembley! Don't sneak up on me like that!"
"I didn't! I just said 'Hi, Boober!'"
"Well, warn me next time!"
"Okay, I'll tell you before I talk to you."
"Thank you. What do you have there?"
Wembley showed it to Boober." It's a radish!"
"Ask a silly question, get a silly answer," Boober murmured, shaking his head.
"Can I borrow a knife? For, um, this radish."
"Want me to cut it up for you?" Boober offered.
"Thanks, I know you can do a really great job, but I wanna do this myself."
"Okay," Boober said, shrugging. They walked into Boober's kitchen. He had several knives hanging on the wall. Their blades were sheathed in stiff, heavy cloth. He took one down and showed it to Wembley. "Is this what you need?"
"Actually, could I use the small one?"
Boober took down that knife. "This is my fruit knife. The blade is very thin, so don't touch anything but the radish with it or it'll blunt. Put it right back in the sheath when you're done with it."
Wembley started to go. Boober said, "Wait!"
"What?" Wembley turned back, afraid Boober was having second thoughts about lending him the knife.
"Are you going to eat it raw?"
"Well, yeah. I mean, you're the cook. I just know how to toast a radish over a campfire."
"Here, try this. Sprinkle just a little on the flesh." Boober handed him a folded piece of paper.
Wembley sniffed it. It smelled spicy and good. He guessed it would taste delicious on radish. "Thanks a lot!"
"You're welcome. Now let me get back to my laundry."
When Wembley came back to the room he shared with Gobo he was practically giddy with glee. Gobo was out. He was exploring today, and wouldn't be back 'til dinnertime. Wembley had plenty of time to work.
He sat down with the radish in his lap. He looked at it critically, turning it to see its shape. It was plump and ruddy. The leaves were ragged by now, but he hadn't planned to use them anyway. He cut them off, aiming the blade carefully away from himself.
He sat the radish down on a platter and made the first cut, a notch all the way across the top. Carefully he lifted out the slice and set it aside. Then he remembered Boober's spice. He sprinkles a little on one end and nibbled on it. It tasted as delicious as it smelled. Grinning, Wembley continued carving, slicing little bits off the top.
One of Uncle Traveling Matt's recent postcards had described a festival known as Vallen Time. People made little designs called "vallens" that represented their heart, and gave them to the people they held dearest. At first glance it seemed weird, symbolically giving away parts of one's body, but he'd thought about it some more and decided that there was a deeper meaning to it. You didn't give your heart away, you shared it. It was the act of sharing that carried the true meaning, just as the act of giving a rollie or anything else was more important than the gift itself.
Gobo doted on his uncle's postcards. Wembley was sure he had memorized them from reading them over and over. So he had decided to surprise Gobo with a traditional Silly Creature gift. Some of the heart effigies they gave each other were edible, so Wembley was carving one out of a radish. He only had to sculpt the top.
When he finished he stepped back and looked at his handiwork. It was perfect. A little more round-bottomed than the vallen Matt had drawn on the postcard, but the root made a cute little point. It was surrounded by chips of carved radish. Not that many, however; Wembley had been munching on the carved-off bits as he worked.
He'd like to show this to all of his best friends. Mokey would like it; it was nearly art! And Boober would be pleased that he was giving some thought to food preparation. Red—well, she liked radishes.
Wembley's grin faded. He had made this for Gobo, but Mokey, Boober, and Red were also his best friends. They were practically family—no, they were family. Just as he'd do anything for them, they'd do anything for him. It didn't seem right to single Gobo out and ignore them. They wouldn't be upset, he knew, because he'd done something nice and unexpected for Gobo. But he wanted to show them how much they meant to him too!
He started to feel confused and shivery. That was a sign of a big wembling fit. No, no, he wasn't going to give in to it! Not now, not over this! There had to be something he could do! He sat down, put his head in his hands, and thought as hard as he could.
That evening, Gobo came back to a room that was empty but smelled strongly of radish. He didn't think much of it, other than to notice that it made him hungrier than he already was. He put down his backpack and set out to Boober's kitchen. Boober always had supper ready right about now.
The others had had the same thought. Boober had them trained, he thought with a smile, and included himself in that number. He said as he entered, "Hey, how's it going?"
"Hey! Find any new and fascinating rocks? Or maybe some stones for a change?"
"Ha ha. I found a new rumblebug colony and a poison cackler nest. Abandoned," he added quickly, seeing their looks of alarm. "So what've you all been up to?"
"Wembley attacked me with a radish," Red answered with a grin.
Wembley said, "That was an accident!"
"Was that the same radish you picked today?" Mokey asked.
Boober held his hands out. "About yea big? Pinkish-red complexion?"
"Yeah," Wembley answered.
Gobo chuckled. "Sounds like that radish has been having as many adventures as I have."
"Yeah, heh," Wembley said. "Wanna see it?"
"Sure." To Red he said, "Don't worry, I'll protect you if it goes after you again."
Wembley brought out a serving tray. The radish was on it, sliced into pancake-like segments top-to-bottom. He had had the original idea, and Boober, who was much better with a kitchen knife, had helped with the presentation.
Gobo noticed the carved top, but didn't recognize the shape. "What's with the notch in the top? Is that where it beaned Red?"
"Ha ha," she said.
Wembley explained, "I carved it that way. See, that postcard about Vallen Time made me think. It seems like such a neat thing to do, to give someone a heart to tell 'em you love 'em, so I carved a radish heart. But then I realized I wanted to give it to every one of you, because I love all of you! So-" He took off the top slice, with the tasty, ruddy skin on the outside, "-Boober and I cut it so it's a lot of vallens!" He handed the first one to Gobo. "I hope you like it."
"Aw, Wembley, you know I will," Gobo said. "After all, it's from you. And it's a radish!"
Wembley grinned, pleased. Then he picked up another slice and held it out to Mokey. "Thanks for helping me pick it. And, well, for everything."
You're very welcome," she said. She accepted the vallen with one hand and hugged Wembley with the other arm.
Wembley gave the next slice to Red. "No hard feelings?" he said with a grin.
"None at all," she said, and bit the vallen with mock ferocity.
Wembley offered Boober a slice. "Thanks for helping me make this. And, well, for cooking and helping me with my allergies and cleaning clothes and everything."
Boober took it, saying "Just doing what comes naturally." But he was wearing a small smile.
Gobo swallowed a mouthful of spiced radish, then said, "Um, Wembley, aren't you leaving somebody out?"
"I did? Who?" Wembley asked.
Gobo picked up another slice and handed it to Wembley. "Eat your heart out!"
Wembley laughed and joined the feast.
Fraggle Rock and all characters are copyright © The Jim Henson Company. All copyrighted properties are used without permission but with much respect and affection. The overall story is copyright © Kim McFarland (negaduck9 at aol dot com). Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only.