I tried to reason with him—I really did. There had to be something wrong—you just don’t sell good farmland that cheap. But Corky’s mind was made up and he wouldn’t listen. Not to his younger sister, anyway. The fact I was 32 and a college professor made no difference to him. Corky still thought of me as “silly little Jocelyn,” who got nightmares for a week after seeing Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the first version, with Kevin McCarthy and Carolyn Jones—just great!) and who “wasted” all her spare time reading a strange combination of “egghead stuff” and “that sci-fi trash.”
I must admit, I found this a little hard to swallow, coming from a man whose idea of an uplifting evening was Mickey Spillane.
Anyway, he bought the place and moved right in.
Some months later, the story broke: the farm had been an illegal dump site! So Ralph and I drove out to talk him into leaving and to offer him our spare room. And to gloat. Yes, I know—it sounds terrible. Maybe it is terrible, but I couldn’t help it. After all the years of sneering putdowns, I was rather happy to see my smart-ass brother get the royal shaft.
Little did I suspect that he’d refuse to move!
“Ah, this toxic waste thing’s been way overblown,” he insisted as he sat there rocking on his porch. “Just more media hype, I tell ya. They’re always stirring things up—helps sell papers or get TV ratings or whatever pays the bills these days. Heck, I’ve been here nearly a year and I never felt better! And you should see my garden!”
My husband and I exchanged worried glances, all the humor in the situation long gone. Corky was serious—he intended to stay! And after all, he was my brother and I did love him, though at times I wondered why.
And he was in genuine danger—there was no telling what sort of poisons might be buried there. Sleaze-Bag Industries LLC had a real bad reputation.
“You aren’t eating anything from that garden?” Ralph asked sensibly.
“Nothing’s ripe yet,” my brother answered, at once smug and suddenly defensive. Then, bizarrely, he grinned. “Come on—I’ll show you!”
He led us around back, to his garden. Peppers, tomatoes, a few rows of corn. They all seemed all right, though badly stunted. But what could expect to grow well, sitting in the shadow of those big old trees? They…I took another look, a good long look. I stared, my mouth hanging open.
“Oh, Lord,” I muttered, and Ralph nodded.
Corky was grinning at us again. “Some bush beans, huh?”
“The news story,” Ralph whispered in my ear, “the one I showed you, remember? Experimental growth hormones—that’s what they were working on out here!”
The bean pods were at least eight feet long and colored a shiny black. I turned to my brother. “Corky, you don’t really plan on eating these?”
He shook his head. “I’m not that dumb, girl, no matter what you think. Heck, I know they aren’t normal! But just think how folks will react, when I show up at the County Fair with a few of these beauties!” His beady little eyes lit up. “Instant Blue Ribbon, Sweet Cheeks!”
God, how I hated that nickname. And he knew it, too. But I kept my temper for the moment—this was important. I tried to think of something to say, something he couldn’t just brush aside or ignore.
“Give it up,” Corky said, seeming to read my mind. “You aren’t going to convince me. I’m immune to all these paranoid fears you ‘intellectual’ types get all wired-up over. Look, Jo, I know you mean well, but I’m fine. You and your husband are the ones with the problem! Seen too many of those idiotic sci-fi monster flicks, you probably expect one of these big bean plants to sprout legs and—”
“Look!” Ralph interrupted with a shout.
We looked on as one of the gigantic, ebony bean pods slowly opened. And IT dropped to the ground, landing with a weighty thud. My, but IT was ugly—all green and slimy! Ugly—and somehow familiar. IT lumbered to its feet….
We made it to the car in record time, jumped in, and roared off, burning rubber. We were halfway to town when Ralph finally slowed us enough to pull over and stop. He was still sweating, but he turned and gave me a brave little smile.
“You okay?” he asked me.
I nodded and smiled back.
But Corky wasn’t so quick to recover. He was still down on the floorboards, clinging to my leg and whimpering.
I stroked his balding head and murmured something akin to reassurance.
“Th…th…. That TH…THING!” he stuttered.
I sat there; as Corky slobbered on my knee, and I remembered all the heartache he’d put me through when, as a child, I so needed his approval. I remembered all the times he’d made fun of me, of how he’d teased me about what I thought, of what I liked or believed in. I remembered all of it—even where I’d seen Corky’s bean-pod monsters before.
I knew it was mean and ungenerous of me, but I almost laughed.
No, big brother, I thought. Not THE THING!
“Corky,” I said sternly, but with a nasty grin, “I’m surprised at you! A grown man, frightened by a silly old movie!”
“Movie? That was no—”
“Sure,” my even grin only expanded—to monster size, if I say so myself. “What? You’ve never heard of The Creature from the Black Legume?!”
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