We got it in our heads that if we just kept driving, Darwin wouldn’t die. This is because he seemed to be improving by the mile. Although it might have been our destination, Ben reminded me—The World’s Largest Ball of Twine.
The vet gave Darwin three months to live. That was six months ago. I met Ben that Sunday at the Farmer’s Market selling broccoli. It was a gray day. He was having a closing-time clearance sale—two bucks a bag. I liked his sign:
Best Broccoli in the Market
End of Story
He was right. It was great broccoli. Plus, he was funny. He moved in just as I was packing for the trip. “Hmmmm, the world’s largest ball of twine,” he said, staring off. “Absolute mecca for a cat. Tell me, if I were dying, would you take me to Greenfield, California, broccoli capitol of the world?”
“Not Wisconsin, cheese capitol, home of delicious cheese sauces to go over the broccoli?”
“Heresy,” said Ben sternly. “Good broccoli needs no disguise.”
And so it went, as we headed across the interstate towards Minnesota. I took the wheel of the ’83 veggie-fueled Mercedes and Ben navigated. Darwin positioned himself behind the backseat, serenely watching the landscape recede.
“Now Fiona, you know there’s some controversy about this ball in Minnesota,” said Ben, reading from the guidebook. “Built by Francis Johnson and weighing in at 17,400 pounds. After his death the city moved it to a town park and now they celebrate Twine Balls Days on the second Saturday in August. Too bad it’s not August.”
“Didn’t think we could wait that long,” I said. “But you never know. The vet’s been wrong this long.”
“Evidently there’s another ball of twine in Kansas that weighs over 18,000 pounds but it was a group effort, and not the Herculean achievement of a single man with too much twine on his hands and a burning desire not to unravel mysteries, but create them.”
“Imagine,” I said, “what would get into a person to one day start a project like that? What’s at the core of it all?”
“Well, there again there’s some controversy,” said my cruciferous salesman. “Some say it was a cigarette butt. Others, a golf ball.”
“Maybe Francis made it because his cat was dying,” I said. “You can love a cat that much you know.”
Ben looked back at Darwin who turned and gazed at us.
“That’s right, honey, we love you,” I cooed in the rearview mirror.
After the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, the World’s Largest Ball of Postage Stamps was next on our list, followed by the World’s Largest Chicken, and the Grasshopper Chapel of Assumption. And we figured that we’d just keep going like that. Maybe we’d set off to see the smiley-faced water towers, Babe and The Blue Ox, and the Desert of Maine. Sure, the car smelled like French fries, and Ben had a funny little gambling habit of hustling basketballs from kids playing HORSE in their driveways (he had the most unorthodox, wrong-footed hook shot I’d ever seen—my daddy was a coach—but it went in every time and no one else could do it like that broccoli baller), but even he finally petered out at the Two-Story Outhouse in Belle Plaine. My sweet Darwin made it as far as the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices in The Twin Cities. Originally a city kitty, I choose to believe that when he died Darwin had come full circle.
As for me, I just kept driving, thinking I might never touch down for long, and why should I, driving by the mile on corn oil, basketballs rolling in the trunk, dreaming all the while of those six-toed cats in Key West, descendants of Hemingway’s favorite, now 60 strong, ship cats who could handle rough seas and hang on in the surge, clinging to a story that didn’t have to end. Not yet.
is the author of five collections of poetry and short prose, including Nova
Nights (Nomadic Press, 2021) and
Grace (KYSO Flash Press, 2019). His stories have appeared in many journals such
as Bull, Carve, Flashback Fiction, great weather for Media, KYSO Flash, Riddled
with Arrows, and Exposition Review, where he was twice a Flash 405
winner. His work has recently received a Publisher’s Choice Award and an
Editor’s Choice Award, and has been nominated for Best of The Net. His next
collection, Translated From The Original: one-inch punch fiction, will be
published by Nomadic Press in 2022. Guy lives on a houseboat with his wife and salty
cat, drinks black coffee in the afternoon, and walks the planks daily.
Author’s website: https://www.guybiederman.com/
Author’s blog: This Day Afloat: Reflections of Life on the Water