Down round the old lake houses, lake people like to eat watermelon. In their tin-bottomed boats sliding over the lake weeds. In dirt yards with dogs slapping tails against legs. On the porches with red juice sticky-dripping over fingers and reddening everything.
Through the kitchen window, Grandpa laughs from the gut. Says, don’t feed them babies no watermelon seeds, or they’ll grow vines out their ears. Little Dino cries and asks, is it true, Mama, is it true, Mama?
Mama listens to the headphone hiss shaking her ears, the slide and pop of bubblegum in her cheek. She snips off watermelon chunks with tick-bird-beak fingernails and drops them into Dino’s mouth.
Little Dino gums the melon meat and dribbles seeds down his chin. He cries, Mama, I swallowed one, Mama, I swallowed one, and Grandpa shakes his guts with both hands and laughs in the kitchen.
Mama goes to work, and Grandpa puts Dino on his lap. Digs in the boy’s ear with fingers black from engine oil. I feel them vines a coming, little baby, he says, I feel them vines a coming. Dino cries and bites his granddaddy’s hairy arm.
That night in bed, Dino dreams of flowers blooming while vines unfurl in his skull and come falling from his head. They push out of his ears, his nose, his mouth. Dino’s head is a tangle of watermelon vines.
In the morning, Dino can see nothing, hear nothing, speak nothing. He runs through the house rustling his yellow-flowered head and breaks the TV. Mama spanks him so hard that she spits her gum on the floor. She leaves to get a new TV.
Grandpa changes Dino’s diaper and finds watermelon juice inside, pooled like blood between his legs. Grandpa takes Dino outside and digs a hole behind the house. He drops the boy inside, mashes him down with a hairy foot until only the vines show. Takes a slow piss on the mound and hums, grow, little baby Dino, grow.
That summer, Dino becomes root lying like leather in the dirt. His tiny hairs braid into vines that rise and break the gravel round the house. Grandpa’s old shack is an island in a lake of watermelon vines, and he laughs and laughs and laughs.
Watermelons come hatching from the patch, their sloped sides like ships’ hulls breaking water, and Grandpa gathers them into an old wagon. Sells them for five dollars on the side of the road.
Mama gets heart-sick for little Dino now, forgets about broken TVs, seeds in diapers, and ear-aching Mama-cries. Takes an old shovel and tears apart the patch until she pulls her baby up like a potato. Yanks all the vines and roots off, cleans him pink with the hose. The wind and sun hurt his vegetable skin, and little Dino bawls like a newborn in Mama’s arms.
On the roadside, Grandpa makes a killing. New checkered shirts and no more engine grease on his fingers. He breaks a watermelon over his knee to show somebody, a melon-red fetus curled up inside the rind. Don’t swallow them bones, Grandpa laughs, I don’t know what would happen if you swallowed them bones.