It was the absolute height of the summer season, in a little town just south of Charlestown, NC. The Baptists we out in full force having Wednesday night services, Friday night services, and Sunday morning and night services. Vacation Bible School, which was just as much about socializing as it was about the love of the Lord, was going to be starting in two weeks. On top of all that there was the annual summer Watermelon Festival. It lasted a full week with plenty of vendors, carnival type rides, and of course, a big dance at the Church Saturday night.
It was all about that watermelon though, people from all over town, Baptist or not grew watermelons to be judged in the contest Saturday, grand prize $250, and a watermelon eating contest that ended in a trophy, bragging rights, and $100 prize for the winner. There was a Little Miss, Junior Miss and Miss Watermelon Queen contests that were judged during the week alongside the games and attractions (Learn to carve flowers into your watermelon like a pro!). For the kids there were story tellers, singers from all over performing their songs and games galore (watermelon bean bag toss, pin the seed on the melon, and a particularly messy game involving a sledgehammer and watermelons.).
However, the game that all the littles and tweens adored was the Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest. On Sunday, after church and luncheon, children would gather and eat the watermelons that were entered into the Saturday Contest. Students would save their seeds from their melon slice wrapped up in a napkin and take them out to the Baptist church parking lot. There, in groups of five, kids would compete. Sketched out in the parking lot were 5 “troughs” where each contestant stood. The objective was to spit your seed in your trough and be the furthest out. Winners from each group would compete with one another until a clear winner was announced. The winner received a new KJV Bible bound in pale blue leather.
Normally, none of those children gave a fig (or watermelon as the case may be) about that Bible. It was about winning, about the grossness of a spitting contest. It was about being allowed to be vulgar and not get in trouble and be rewarded. The Blue Bible was a plus, a status symbol to show off in church for a year or so (sometimes you lost it, sometimes your mom locked it up in the cabinet for when you were older and “could take care of it.”).
Now this particular year, there was a young girl named Adelaide who against all proper breeding, wanted not only to compete in this contest but to win. She was possibly the only child in it for the prize. She’d seen Sean Spencer with his in church all last year. The cover looked so soft, the words Jesus spoke were in red and all the pages were edged in gold. It also had a place in front to fill in your family tree and maps and pictures in the back to help explain the stories. She wanted it, she did not have a Bible of her own.
Her daddy had been working very hard this year in his watermelon crop just for this event. He had many watermelon plants that he tended, and looking at the size and coloration of each melon he then picked the one he was going to enter. The rest we eaten by the family, a few were donated to the festival. Daddy was not a farmer but they did keep a large home garden out back.
Everyday during the week and some prior to the festival, Adelaide ate watermelons at lunch or dinner and she saved her seeds in a napkin. (Her mother and father did not mind, they were actually tickled because she never had any interest in the spitting contest before.) she would take her napkin out back, or to church (depending on if it were a Wednesday, Friday, or Sunday) and practice when she had some time to herself.
The problem was… she really didn’t know how to spit. Sure, if she coughed something up on a day of sickness she could get it out of her mouth. That didn’t really take much talent though. Spitting far really was a lot harder than it looked.
This particular afternoon she was trying to spit just a foot or so, behind her daddy’s shed, to work up to a longer distance, when she heard a cough.
Caught with a watermelon seed in her mouth she turned towards the cough. A young girl, about her age stood behind her. She wore a pretty frilly gingham dress, all pink and white with white ribbons ending each braided pigtail. Her hair was brown and her forehead was overshadowed by a thick cut of bangs. Wide brown eyes stared curiously at Adelaide and quizzical pink lips asked, “Whatever are you doing?”
Quickly spitting out the watermelon seed, Adelaide addressed the frilly interloper.
“I am learning how to spit watermelon seeds a distance. It’s for a contest, you know?”
“You’re doing it wrong.” She said and approached Adelaide, “My name is Margaret, but everybody calls me Margo. My daddy’s in the house talking to your daddy. They told me to come out here and get to know you.”
“Well it’s nice to meet you, but what do you mean by, I’m ‘doing it wrong?'”
“You’re being too… Lady like. You’ve got to do this.” Margo said coming forward. Margo turned to face the direction Adelaide had been shooting seeds. She stood up straight, made a particularly horrifying noise in her mouth and throat, took a deep breath through her nose and reeled back and rocked forward spitting a disgusting but far flying projectile of spit and mucus.
“For seeds though, I would curl my tongue like… this,” she turned to Adelaide curling her tongue into a smooth cylinder, “like a barrel! My daddy has a shotgun and making your tongue into a barrel helps the cherry pit or watermelon seed go further. I spit cherry pits at my sisters alllll the time,” she said, as if this declaration was really all the proof anyone needed to believe in her spitting knowledge.
“Well, I suppose I should give it a try. Will you watch and tell me what I’m doing wrong?” Adelaide asked deciding this girl must be divine intervention.
For the next hour or so, Margo and Adelaide spat behind Adelaide’s daddy’s shed. Her new friend Margo, for they were fast becoming friends, told her all about the town she moved from. They never celebrated watermelon in the summer like the people of Charlestown did. Margo also didn’t go to the Baptist church, she was something called a Catholic. Catholics prayed a lot. They prayed a lot and confessed things a lot. Like Margo who would steal her sisters’ candy when they were aggravating, which was often.
After the hour was up, Margo’s daddy and Adelaide’s daddy came out back and Margo went home. She promised to visit again, and told Adelaide to “keep practicing her form!”
So she did. Every day Margo came over to teach Adelaide to spit. Sometimes Margo could be very silly. Adelaide admired how free Margo seemed to be, nothing seemed to bother her. They became fast friends and Adelaide even learned Margo’s secret passion.
One afternoon, after they had spat all they could, they decided to play a game of hide-and-seek with their brothers and sisters. Everything seemed to be going well until…
“Damn it!” Margo cried out.
“Margo!” Her sisters admonished.
Surprised, Adelaide went to see what was going on. Margo had somehow ripped one of her frilly dresses.
“Oh Margo, Jesus doesn’t like us to curse,” one of Margo’s sisters said.
“Jesus didn’t rip his new dress.” Margo mumbled, “He certainly won’t be getting a whupping from mama for it either.
Adelaide learned that anytime Margo could curse, she would. It made her feel better, she had confided in Adelaide.
That week, Adelaide learned a lot about spitting, and the many incidences where curing could be used. Adelaide was ecstatic, with all this practice maybe she would win after all.
On Saturday, Adelaide’s family was at the festival when they ran into Margo’s family. Together they walked around playing games and eating slices of watermelon on a stick.
“Adelaide, would it be alright if I entered the Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest? I know you want to win, but I just like spitting.” Margo said to her new friend. She was a little afraid she would upset her new pal.
“Oh Margo, if I had to lose to anyone, I’d rather it be you. Jimmy Jenkins had two blue Bibles already and I couldn’t bear it if he got a third. I wish I could win, it.” Adelaide said wistfully.
“Don’t you worry. I will be getting a white Bible soon, if I win I will give you the blue one. If you win, then we will both have pretty Bibles to take to our churches anyway!” Said Margo happily.
“If I win,” sighed Adelaide, “I hope all our practice has made me good enough to win.”
“You will, just wait and see!” Said Margo. Grabbing Adelaide by the arm, she dragged her friend to the watermelon balloon dart game. The board was painted red with a green rind and was dotted with black balloons like seeds. If you popped a balloon you won a prize. However some prizes were better than others. Neither girl was very lucky, but the both were given a bookmark with John 3:16 printed on them surrounded by flowers.
That night, Adelaide’s father’s watermelon won 3rd place in the Watermelon Contest. Since her daddy had never even placed before, he was very happy.
This puzzled Adelaide, mostly because she thought he wanted to win the $250 prize.
She asked him how he could be so happy with third place when he wanted first? Why didn’t God let him win? He thought for a minute and said, “I bet all of the men and women who entered this contest prayed to God. They might have even asked him if they could win the prize. Could God really let all of us win first place?”
“No, not everyone can be first,” said Adelaide raising a brow at her father as if he should know better.
“Yes, so instead of letting us all win he gave us what we needed. We may not see it now, but given time we will be thankful how we placed. Those who didn’t win will work harder, try new things and hopefully do better next year. Those who won needed something they got by winning, affirmations, money for something important, or confidence from the community. We may not have gotten what we wanted, but we got what we needed.”
Adelaide thought on her father’s words. She knew she needed a Bible of her own. She thought surely God wanted her to have one too. So she prayed she would receive whatever God thought she needed, even though in her mind she had decided what that was.
The morning of the spitting contest dawned. Adelaide dressed in her prettiest dress, blue gingham with a crisp white shirt underneath. The lapels of the shirt were embroidered with pale blue flowers. She put on new white socks with lace trim and her dress shoes. Her mother did two French braid ponytails on each side ending in a bright red ribbon on each. She walked next door to collect Margo. Margo was wearing a beautiful pale yellow concoction all frills and lace. She knew now that Margo wished to wear slacks and a button down shirt with a scarf around her neck, the frills and lace drove her absolutely mad. Even though, admittedly, she looked splendid in every lacy bit.
The walked in a companionable silence to the Baptist church, possibly thinking of all the different ways they could win.
They arrived at the church, and lined up. They had to be entered by age and sex. Everyone then ate up as many slices as they could to save their precious seeds for the competition. After that, the names were put in a basket and drawn randomly for the sets to compete. Then the furthest spitter from each group would wait until everyone had one game, then they would compete and so on until there were two.
Adelaide and Margo did quite well, making it through the first three rounds. Each time they went, they would wait for the other to finish and then discuss how the other did.
It was all cheerfulness until Adelaide lost the 6th round. Disappointed, a tear or two leaked out of her green eyes, but she dashed them away quickly. Margo gave her a big hug and told her not to worry, “I’ll win it for you!” Margo said, with a look of determination.
Margo beat everyone until the second to last round. Maybe she wasn’t hydrated enough. Maybe she saved the wrong seed for that round. Whatever it was, Margo lost to Peggy Brown in the second to last round. Peggy ended up winning that beautiful blue Bible in the end. Everyone cheered for her and people went out and about to prepare for the big Sunday night potluck.
Adelaide did not feel much like talking and socializing with the community. She told Margo that it was alright that she didn’t win, and that she was a good friend. Margo looked at her friend with a worried wrinkle creasing her young face. The friends parted, and Adelaide went home.
At home Adelaide went to her room and had a good cry. She cried for how she lost. She cried for how Margo lost. She cried for that pretty blue Bible and she cried asking God why she hadn’t won.
After a while her daddy came to visit her in her room. He told her how proud he was of her for lasting as long as she did and that next time, she’d do better. All she had to do was practice and grow up a little more. Maybe having more height and bigger lungs plus a full year of spitting practice would make a difference next year.
“You may not see it now, Addy my girl but you got what you needed today. You just need to think about it and you’ll see.” Her daddy went downstairs to check on the dinner preparations. The potluck was also no joke and momma’s 17 layer caramel cake was no joke either.
Adelaide enjoyed the potluck, and she enjoyed breaking bread with her new friend Margo and her family. It was nice to have such interesting neighbors. Margo was truly turning into a really good friend too.
Weeks passed and Adelaide and Margo kept meeting up everyday to talk, to play games, or to spit (and curse a little). They had many sleepovers and camp outs in the backyards. They became as close as any two friends could be. Adelaide often thought of how lucky she was that Margo moved in next door, and Margo felt the same. Starting new at the junior high wouldn’t be too hard now, that they had each other. What a blessing it was indeed.
The summer all but ended when Adelaide received a mysterious package.
Her father brought it inside one day, all wrapped up in brown paper bags from the local grocery and tied up with twine. Adelaide never received letters or packages for that matter. She was quite excited to see what it could be.
She opened it up and inside was a card, with roses on the front. It told her to not worry, that she be getting another one at Christmas. She signed it lots of love, Margo. Perplexed, Adelaide removed the last layer of wrapping. There amongst the wrapping lay a creamy white Bible, edged in gold. It had pages in front to add your family and pictures and maps in the back. It was perfect.
Tears of happiness rolled down her cheeks as she held the beautiful Bible in her arms. She ran upstairs and placed it lovingly on her nightstand and ran back downstairs.
“Mom! I need to write a letter,” she called out. “I’ve got someone to thank!”
Adelaide won something much better than a Bible, she had a true, good friend. One that would last a lifetime.
Sometimes you don’t get what you want, when you want. Sometimes you find, you’ll get what you need.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.