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The Yam

by Bennie Trang 2 months ago in humor

A Short Story

The monitor in the jasmine-scented taxi-cab flashed $10.40, threatening the $13 in Ian’s pocket. At this time, he was 3 blocks from school and 4 minutes late, and he could only wonder what upcoming factor in his life would suggest the number 5. He looked to his fingers to find it, unsure if that sort of counting counted. It was hazy and grey across the window’s border, an earl grey rain falling in minuettos. Traffic put a violent dull on the scenery.

The taxi was too expensive however he was too late to catch the bus and lived much too far from campus. He was studying to be an accountant, but it was shocking that he had managed this far into his degree. Not that he was not aptly suited for his area of study, he felt for numbers in the same way some felt for poetry, but he was prone to spacing out. He rarely connected with the world around him, people, action, environment, they flew by his solitary cloud. His life was experienced through a thick haze, it often took him minutes to gather simple sentences, to will his own legs to walk. It was as though his mind was boxed in glass, and stimuli only fogged his casing. His most recent and strong annoyance was that this disconnect, along with his poverty, prevented him from being able to drive. Driving in his own car was Ian’s greatest wish. Perhaps he wished to be encased in an actionable vehicle, maybe as a form of personal agency, of which he felt he had none. Perhaps, as Ian pondered in the back seat, if he had a car, he would be able to find the clarity of unfamiliarity. He could drive somewhere new and confusing, and that way he never had to accept that his disconnect from reality was the product of his own head. It was at the end of this thought that a bus veered in front of the taxi, and the sound of screeching metal and screeching drivers cut halfway into Ian’s cloud. He noticed that although he had lost control of his own life for that second, it still sat beside him idly, as the bus had not done damage enough to hurt more than the front of the cab. The monitor flashed $12.01, then fizzled out with the damaged car. Ian tipped $3 on top of the $0 fare, exited the taxi, and felt nothing but the faint constricted hold on his personal means.

Despite his sore lack of money, Ian had found himself living in a small white-brick house equipped with an 8x8 foot backyard full of wild and untamed weeds. In his free time Ian would often sit among this ruffage, thinking in static. On this particular day, he noticed an organically shaped mound of warm orange. He bent to examine it and found that it was the root of one of his weeds, appearing to have surfaced after the morning’s rainfall. A stroke of good fortune he thought. He was too poor to afford a meal for the night and decided to dig up this yam plant and boil the roots for himself. He began to dig with his hands but found that the yam was much larger than he would have expected from an accidental garden root vegetable. He continued digging, with the drive of hunger, with confusion, with curiosity and qualm, with kitchen utensils and fingernails. After a 30 second half hour, he held in his hands a yam, roughly 4 feet in height and 23 inches in circumference. He marvelled at its size, its warmth, its strange aptitude for yam-to-person connection. He brought it into his house and washed it in his clawfoot bathtub and cut a 3-inch section from the top for his evening meal.

Eating the boiled yams alone in an unclear 8pm dusk was possibly Ian’s most awakened state in ages. He thought his dinner to be the sweetest and earthiest experience. He soon resolved himself to sleep, the warm orange yam contrasting his cool grey organs.

Ian loved Monday mornings, as much as he claimed he loved architecture.

He often recited how a strong foundation was the core of any intricate design. Of course, this was never a statement regarding buildings but rather the construction of his own identity. Ian thought of his environment as a movie set. He hated to admit how he treated other human beings with a strict indifference, as though they were unpaid extras. If any building seemed overly intrusive, or overly daunting he would drop everything he was doing before studying it intensely and rushing over to feel the porous cement on his lizardy hands. Ian was aware that many buildings in movies were hollow cardboard simulations of the genuine article, with doors that stay closed even when pushed and pulled. This fear of emptiness came with pen in hand, rewriting Ian’s daily routine. Most local shops would not see Ian’s face twice. He made it a law to peak his head into every establishment, exactly 6 blocks in every direction, around his house. Whenever he needed to buy milk, sell empty cans, or get his haircut. The number 6 held no significance, but numerical approaches worked like sunglasses for Ian, making his ever shifting world slightly more digestible. Unfamiliarity was a necessity, the further away he got outside of his box the less the details would consume him and the smaller it would seem, compared to the overwhelming landscape. On days of curiosity and faltering rigidity he would dare venture an extra block and grin a grin so wide he would lose track of the numbers of steps he took.

Good morning Ian another free drink today, we spicing things up? said the barista.

Kokoro Cafe was the only place Ian frequented. 2 blocks north, 3rd building on the left. He thought the coffee tasted like watery bark tea but if you buy coffee 6 days in a row, on the 7th day you can get any drink for free. Ian grimaced at the fact that they had a monopoly on this idea and reached in his pocket for his laundry washed stamped card.

Large oat milk latte please.

He spoke cautiously, the concept of milking oats was alien to him, and he did not even know if this Hawaiian themed cafe served it. He had read about the anomaly in an article about how almond milk was destroying the world. Seconds later a plastic cup found his hands and as it emitted aromas of wet forest and cereal, Ian was transported to his living room. He thought about his meal last night and how badly he wanted to acquaint himself with the same warm, orange glow. He thought no matter how much his stomach may shrink and no matter how little money he had, the yam, in its marvellous size, would sustain him for months.

After a day lived in reminiscence of the former, Ian arrived home, through the dust of peeled paint clogging his keyhole, through his picture frame free hallway and into his colourless kitchen. The yam stood across from him in a standoffish stillness, and he stared at it in shock. Where he had previously cut and eaten, the yam remained. Moreover, it appeared larger. Was it larger? He wondered if perhaps a root vegetable could continue growth shortly after being dug up, but a quick internet search proved this as unrealistic as it sounded initially. He measured the yam at 5 feet in length and 27 inches in circumference. Not far off enough to worry Ian, although he did feel he might be losing grip. He was unsure what part of this sequence of events was false. Either he never ate the yam, the yam regrew, or if the yam itself was only the mirage product of his dissociation and hunger. Regardless, he ate boiled yams for dinner a 2nd time.

A 2nd time, 3rd time, a 4th, a 22nd, it was a month of boiled yams. A month of yam regeneration and yam growth. During that time Ian often thought about yam fries, mashed yam, twice baked yam. Do people make jams out of yams? But his curiosity crumbled in face of his cooking skills. A cast iron pot became a permanent residence on his kitchen stovetop. Boiled yams took over 95% of Ian's diet, and although he looked a bit frail, his appetite never diminished.

The yam grew to 10 feet and a stool found place in Ian’s belongings, costing him a hefty $14.45. Along with his measuring tape Ian would relentlessly observe the size of the vegetable every night. The vegetable spread its roots all around the house punching holes through the walls like an airbag knocking out a tooth. It had grown into the bedroom, solidifying itself as a part of the wall at the foot of Ian’s bed. He would fall asleep looking at the yam and its invasion into his bedroom and thought about how it looked like a large plastic rock in an indoor rock-climbing gym.

One night Ian decided to go out drinking with his only friend. A lightly tattooed lady, with light-absorbent, black hair and even darker eyes, whose eagerness to every conversation captivated Ian. Her unfaltering genuine interest was one which Ian had once remarked as something that cannot be scripted. In their joint delights, they stumbled into a bar, enticed by a sign selling 25 shots for $25. Ian’s carb loaded diet allowed 16 shots to his hard stomach before the night of debauchery swept him away into a drunken stupor. He did not drink often; his dad was an alcoholic and he did not care for the substance that brought him so many problems growing up. However, in his dissociative purgatory he bounced at the slightest opportunity to feel alive. In contrast, the booze thickened Ian’s cloud and made him imagine his war hardened father putting on a tutu and performing the most beautiful, tear-jerking performance, that no one would ever see in it’s awe-inspiring majesty.

It was in the chaos of late night, amidst trailing thoughts and 70s classic rock hits that Ian accidentally revealed his recent situation with the ever-growing organic mass that had taken over his household. When a situation, as bizarre as a growing yam is brought up with such a straight-faced seriousness a certain pity and ridicule is expected but as he bit his tongue in embarrassment his friend politely replied with a series of questions that Ian had never considered before.

If it keeps growing won’t it eventually destroy your home? How are you still alive eating boiled yams everyday? No wonder you look so skinny. How in the world are you going to get rid of that thing?

As soon as she stopped speaking Ian’s mind went blank. Reflecting on the yam made him feel uneasy. The yam had found a place in Ian’s heart and simple thought of removing it was inconceivable. The questions were ignored and instead Ian daydreamed about how he could live a functional life with the yam. He thought about repurposing the yam as a car. Genius! Yes! It would not cost him a dime and he would finally be able to drive and capture the world around him as quickly as allowed, and from every angle possible. Sure, Ian did not know how to drive but the vegetable that grows, without fear of obstacles and by its own will, would not let him down. He knew the yam would change back eventually, to its natural form, but he didn’t mind and insisted on joys that were temporal. If they never ended he would have no weight to keep him grounded.

The air was warm and carrying particles of dust that divided evenly into Ian’s two nostrils as he breathed. A vibrant sunrise orange caught his crusted eyelids as they were opening and pried them open to a sort of chalky, yet fleshy hole. Ian bellowed and wriggled around like a worm tunneling through a fresh apple. His efforts were futile and only succeeded in aiding his realization that he was in the yam. At least his head was anyways. After brief moments of attempted recollection Ian came to the conclusion that he must have blacked out, came home and ate his head into a hole. He felt disgusted for not having been more elegant with his method of consumption and wondered where the light must have been coming from. There was no opening in the hole and no reason for the vibrancy of colour that was starting to blind him. Furthermore, he seemed to be breathing just fine. The concerns surrendered their onslaught when the idea came to Ian that he should eat his way out.

The taste of raw yam filled Ian’s mouth as he shoveled the wall as thinly as his limited movement would allow him. He much preferred a yam fresh out of boiling water, but his priority was escape. The walls got thinner and thinner and with all the force he could muster he pulled his head out from the root cage. His eyes took a few seconds to readjust and when he opened them, he was struck still. The root of the yam had grown and created a room the size of Ian’s kitchen with it’s calloused, barky exterior. There was no visible wall, instead Ian found himself completely engulfed in the vegetable. He let out a sigh before noticing that within the yam chamber was his stovetop. Sitting on top, a cast iron pot filled with boiling water.

Bennie Trang
Bennie Trang
Read next: 'Chocolate Kisses'
Bennie Trang
See all posts by Bennie Trang

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