Harvest and the Yams

Harvest was born under the shadow of a half-moon. In the scope of his life, it wasn’t the most significant fact about him but it forever hung there, like the half-moon itself, way in the back of a mind mostly empty and then rose to the front whenever Harvest thought about all the things he didn’t have. In no particular order those things were: fresh food and friends.

Then he’d say to himself, ‘Maybe I was destined to live a half life from the start, because of this moon,’ and in his mind would appear the half-moon in question, sitting as a reverse silhouette in an inky, desolate sky.

Now he saw the moon clearer than ever before. It dangled right above his head and mingled with the luckless smell of another Sunday morning. Sundays always smelled tangy and spiced, although every day smelled this way but on Sunday, when the eastern winds hit heavy, the smell was the strongest. Today was no exception. Except today the Sunday smell mixed with the thought of Harvest’s moon no longer halved. Today in his mind, or maybe in the sky for real, the moon was full and bright.

‘Curious,’ he said to no one and wondered how it was possible to know when a thought was thunk and when it had turned into an actual fact living outside his head, sipping on a margarita of truth and wandering tipsy around the world. ‘Very curious indeed.’

Thinking about margaritas made Harvest remember that it was time to eat his usual breakfast of dust and water but after he finished the entire bowl, the gruel did nothing to satisfy a hollowness that had been grumbling in his stomach since sunrise.

And then he heard a knock at the door.

But before the door can be answered, the stage must be set: Harvest lived alone in a house at the top of a hill and this house was actually a castle and the castle had eight turrets and thirty seven rooms. Thirty six of those rooms remained empty most days of the year except for the third Sunday in March when Harvest would throw himself a Third Sunday in March Party in the room inside the highest turret, which he decorated using any odds or ends he found around the castle. He never left the castle for fear of what might be found beyond, so Harvest’s life blew on and on like the Sunday winds, endless days turning to weeks and months then decades spent alone. And that was that.

Back to the knocking …

Harvest probably should’ve been startled by the knocking when no one had ever knocked before but instead he remained calm and opened the castle door as if he’d been opening it for years.

“Hello?” He asked and when the words left his mouth, he expected the nervousness to set in. Much to his surprise, nothing but calm. Maybe this moment was the exact reason why he was gifted with dimwittedness, he thought. A brighter man than Harvest might’ve questioned such an extraordinary event.

“Hello,” said the man standing before him who was tall and skinny and had two of the largest ears Harvest had ever seen, stretching almost the length of the man’s entire head.

“Can I help you, sir?” Harvest asked, screwing up his mouth and lifting his eyebrows as high as they’d go in order to appear concerned.

“Yes, definitely, definitely you can,” the man answered and put a hand on Harvest’s wood door then let himself inside and walked toward the back of the castle, Harvest following behind.

Harvest had to take two steps for every one the man took. With each stride, the man looked around, taking in the dusty lamps, grandfather clocks and the high walls upon which hung oil-painted portraits of people Harvest had never met.

“Great place,” the man called back, craning his neck halfway ‘round to speak. “Just trying to find a good spot where we can sit and have ourselves a chat.”

“Okay that sounds nice,” Harvest replied because somehow following this man around his castle was making the rumbles in his stomach settle down.

Harvest and his visitor twisted and turned up, down and around the thirty seven rooms of the castle until finally the man settled on the room inside the third-highest turret that had circular walls made of large, picture windows overlooking Harvest’s hill and the hills beyond. The man sat down in an armchair covered in striped red-and-black velour and patted the identical armchair next to him, motioning for Harvest to join.

“Have a seat, mate,” the man said and Harvest did. “Look, I’m not gonna lie to you because I’m an honest fella so I’ll tell you straight out: I’m here to sell you yams.”

“Yams?” Harvest asked, wondering what he might do with them and how they should properly be cooked. His mind was already made up that he would buy two or three.

“Yep, yams. Great, big yams! I’m sure you’re thinking, ‘Do I need to buy yams from this stranger when I can get yams from someone I know? Will the yams be good? Will they be tasty? And the answers to those questions are yes, yes and yes. My yams are the finest you’ll find around town and that’s not a distinction I take lightly.”

For the first time, Harvest noticed the man had with him a brown, burlap sack and he probably noticed it because the man now spilled out all the yams inside and and let them roll across the floorboards of Harvest’s turret-room.

“Check out these beauties!” The man howled and pointed outside the window at the hills. “You won’t find any sweeter anywhere! Not anywhere! So what do you think? Will you buy some yams?”

Harvest pretended to ponder the question, again scrunching up his lips and lifting his brows. “Hm, yes,” he said, a little too quickly than he would’ve liked. “I’ll take four.”

“Woo hoo!” The man whistled. “When the lady down the road told me not to bother going up your hill I knew she was nuts! You’re the kindest customer I’ve met and you’re getting four yams! What a day! What a life! What a morning … or is it afternoon?”

“Seems to be after noon,” Harvest replied, smiling at the delicious idea of a few days without gruel.

“And you know what the best thing about yams are?” The man asked, already packing up the rest of his stock. “They go perfectly with cheese!”

“Cheese?” Harvest asked. “But where would I find cheese?”

At this the man laughed so heartily his ears jiggled like ear-shaped flan cakes of flesh down his face. “Look outside!” He finally managed to spit out between guffaws. “See all the land? It’s cheese, my friend! It’s only cheese!”

That night, after Harvest’s new friend the yam seller was long gone, he sat inside the room at the highest of his turrets and ate his warm, baked yam with melted cheese on top. He looked out at the full, real moon and took in the familiar scent of parmigiana wafting from outside his open windows, wondering when the world had become so wonderful and so very, very strange.

[This tiny tale was inspired by the art of Diego Cusano, fantasy researcher and imaginative artist. See more of Diego’s work on Instagram here.]