The Parable of the Coveted Cucumbers

The recurring dream is stuck on a loop – The one where Brian’s singer-songwriter EP is on iTunes and his hand cured pickled onion shop on eBay is about to run out of stock – is just that. A recurring pointless fantasy of how things could or should have been.

“Let’s face it,” his reptilian brain’s (survival mode) negative self-talk pipes up. “What’s the point? It’s a waste of money to gamble on a flight of fancy. No family holiday. Sophie will be disappointed. No one wants to hear your crappy songs anyway, why would they? And who’s going to pay six quid for your pickles when they can buy a Waitrose Essential jar for 99p? Aunty Loo always said you were a dreamer.” Resentment makes Brian feel like kicking the dog. He can’t do that though either. They don’t have a dog anymore. She died of old age, his one and only true friend. Expired. Gone. Just like his shattered dreams, ambition and sense of self-worth.

Suddenly he gets a flashback to a notification on his phone from earlier this morning. The talking lizard in his mind spots the advantage. Brian conveniently ignored it at the time (breakfast carnage in prep for school run) but checks it now. Misery loves company so he goes straight to Facebook.

Resentment swiftly bypasses anger and drives straight to rage. The reptilian brain goes in for the kill and Brian loses the plot. ”That bastard!! Are you kidding me?!” It’s the final straw, the last nail in the coffin of hope for his pickled onion business and top ten hit songs. Something that could have made it bearable, to cruise through the nine-to-five. The “Hey dudes gr8 news!” post tips him over the edge. “FFS!!” He tries to roar like the Incredible Hulk but knows it’s too late, he can’t hold back the tidal wave of emotion. His manly chin lets him down as he slams himself onto the sofa, head in hands and sobs out years of suppressed passion and never having felt quite good enough. Always comparing his own achievements to someone else’s idea of success.

“Why is it always someone else’s bleeping turn and not mine?” He moans loudly to no one. It’s pitiful. The news that Jeff the neighbour (three doors down) is celebrating 6,666 views on his YouTube channel has broken him. “Bleeping stupid bleeper!” he’s stopped sobbing now and become indignant. “Why are six -bleeping-thousand-people-bleeping-watching a live stream of Jeff’s cucumbers?” He knew it was hopeless. No chance for his talents in a world gone mad. “Oh well, there you are.” (clears throat, masculine voice returning) he affirms loudly and incredulous. “They can just all get on with it. Beeping Dudes! Dudes? In Essex? No ‘surf’s up high fives’ going on in Dagenham as far as I know. Dickheads! Bleepin’ hate social media anyway. They can all just go get bleeping stuffed.”

With the noisy rant almost over, heart rate returning to normal and with his skin colour surrendering its radioactive glow of jealousy and self-harm, he’s feeling more his usual self now. In an attempt to distract rep brain he gets up to find the TV remote. Checking the football scores will give him something else to complain about without breaking any furniture. He’s embarrassed, feeling awkward and uncomfortable in his own skin.

“Phew!” He laughs out loud. “Good job no one was here to see that.” Physically cringing at his own unexpected emotional mini-meltdown that arrived like a bolt from the blue, he nods in silent respect for Jeff and his Superstar Cucumbers. Even though it stings like hell that Jeff’s personal dream machine won the lottery and his own had not, it cracked a window open to his self-imposed prison. A tiny ray of light came through. Not enough so he could see his way clear to go take a selfie with Jeff’s Celebrity Cucumbers. He wouldn’t admit it in open court but what Jeff had done was inspiring. Jeff’s veg looked like hope.

His thoughts now writing new post-it notes such as “Might be worth looking at square space next time I’m online.” And “Not a biggy but does seem a shame to be the man with the best pickle onions in Ongar that no one’s ever heard of. I could just have a look at Twitter. No need to tweet.” He makes his way to the kitchen, feeling refreshed. Kinder thoughts towards his own dreams and passion project makes him feel like a nice cup of tea.

“Mummy, Mummy!” Shouty whispering coming from the kitchen stops him dead in his tracks. “He’s still there Mummy, what shall we do?”

“Who?” his partner replies vaguely and puts the kettle on.

He has no idea how long they’ve been back in the house.

“You knoooooooooow. You saw him too.”

“Did I? No I didn’t see anyone at all. Who do you mean?”

“The Mon-ster of course mummy.” Sophie giggles and squeaks with glee

“The green monster with the ugly-snot-crying face, the naughty monster.” She laughs then whispers louder.”He’s stopped shouting the B-A-A-D words but mummy he’s still there, oh no, what shall we do?!”

Being busted and humiliated by a six-year-old can be a challenge but Brian styles it out and breezes into the kitchen as if he hadn’t eavesdropped. “Hello! I didn’t hear you two come in.” He picks up his giggling, wriggling offspring and unnecessarily re-boils the kettle. He pulls funny faces as he makes a brew while dancing her around in his spare arm as if nothing out of the ordinary has occurred.

“Let me put the sugar in for you daddy you must be tired.” She chucks half a kilo of Tate & Lyle over everything as she leans to loud-whisper in his ear.“Don’t worry daddy, we’ve all got monsters. They’re all different colours but they go away back inside. They’re not scary they’re just sad and lonely. It’s because they’ve got no one to play with.”

He smiles. As he puts her down to sweep up sweet grit she hits the ground running singing a new made-up song, “Daddy’s got a mon-sta, a naughty gre-eeen mon-sta.” From his laptop on the sofa while he’s checking how Jeff’s cucumbers are doing (having browsed wix templates to see which best suits his style) he hears mother and daughter having a chat in the bedroom. Mummy, how long does Daddy have to stay on the naughty step for all those bad words? Because he’s older than me will he have to stay there forever? Will we still be able to go on holiday?”

With the innocent questions of a six-year-old, filtering into his brain, he opens a new browser window and knows which online builder to choose. Without hesitation, he’s uploading his jars to a clean slate of a free template. “Go Daddy!” says the dreamweaver voice now re-activated in his mind. “Or maybe not,” rep brain warns, “The boss of that company shot an elephant and …”

“Cor blimey! Three quid a month!” Reptile brain self-talk admits defeat (for now) even it sometimes knows when to quit. The moment has gone. “Ha-Ha!” Brian’s appreciating the irony. Domain name offer price is 99p. The same price as a jar of Waitrose Essentials picked onions. Who knew!

“Alright Mate!!” He texts Jeff later on that evening and pings across the link to his new website. “How d’ya like those onions? Wey Hey!” Jeff replies back with a Superman mooning Batman gif and “Oi, Oi! Good on ya’ me old mucker! thumbs up-cucumber-onion-beer emojis + guitar. When ya cushty, hit me wiv tag an will share it 2 cue fans. C U later then mate, nice 2 ‘ere from ya.”

Later that evening with the house quiet and Brian having uploaded his mojo, he remembers that pickled cucumbers are gherkins and with onions, they’re a match made in heaven. It’s the perfect jar for next Christmas, he’ll have to ask Jeff if he’s up for a collaboration. With reptile brain having retired early for the night, thoughts gently flow for Brian. Like memes scrolling past the windows to his heart-mind. ‘Don’t covet thy neighbours vegetable, keep your eyes on your own prize.’

With rep brain asleep and the Incredible Hulk having well and truly left the building hours ago, Brian’s inner wisdom comes through loud and clear. Just because your next door neighbour’s (three times removed) veg is famous on YouTube and your onions are not … doesn’t make him responsible for your thoughts, feelings and behaviour nor any choices, decisions or actions you take, or you don’t. It isn’t the fault of another that your onions aren’t in the limelight. That’s down to you. Own it. It’s yours.

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