The Watermelon Whisperer

A chance encounter reveals the secret lives of ripe fruit

| November-December 2010

For decades, when summer melons rolled into the produce aisle, my mouth would water and I’d buy the biggest one. Unfortunately, not every watermelon is endowed with inalienable perfection, and I have carted home quite a few duds. Until I met Margaret in the produce aisle.

If this sounds like a soap opera, it’s because I had humongous twin melons strapped in the child seat of my cart. That’s when I saw Margaret. We slowed our carts, paused, and exchanged warm greetings. She had a single watermelon about the size of a soccer ball, a dark and glossy green one that reminded me of unripe fruit.

“Are you going to buy both of those?” Margaret asked me.

“And eat them too,” I replied, flashing a wide watermelon grin. “I hope they’re as good as they look.”

“Well, really, David, they don’t look all that good.”

I was shocked. Normally people who work at the library are quiet types who respect other people’s choices and try to help out when their advice is sought. Margaret had been this and more during the 20 years I had known her, but I’d never tried to talk with her over the business end of a watermelon.