Showdown at Periodicals Gap: The Suffering of Digested Vegetables

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Soaking up the amputated features in each month’s Reader’s Digest represented life’s blissful totality to Driedup and Frozen Broccoli.

When they weren’t reading or discussing their adored magazine, the couple might have been found decorating their living room with elaborately framed reprints of favorite articles. At night, they dreamt about future issues. So complete, in fact was the Broccolis’ obsession that they decided to have a child only to perpetuate their love for the magazine.

Long before little Fresh Broccoli learned to walk, his parents had begun putting him to sleep with nightly readings from the Digest. Watching him fall into a slumber as they recited “23 Ways Aspirin Can Save Your Marriage” or J.D. Radish’s “I Am Joe’s Toenail,” the Broccolis initially thought their indoctrination was succeeding. But as Fresh grew into teenhood, he began to rebel against the established monthly.

One morning, after Frozen confronted her son with a pile of unfamiliar magazines she’d found stashed under his bed, he revealed his true allegiance. “You can keep your lousy Digest!” he bellowed. “I’m into Rolling Stone!”

Packing a giant knapsack with his magazines, Fresh charged out of the house. He moved in with his girlfriend, Ripe Asparagus, who cared about the Stone almost as much as he did.

Unlike Fresh, however, Ripe felt compassion for those who enjoyed less hip reading matter. And she fervently hoped that Fresh and his parents might someday transcend their periodicals gap and learn to read together in peace.

While looking for a rare old Stone in a used magazine shop one day, Ripe noticed a complete collection of Reader’s Digests and flashed on a plan that might facilitate the reunion she had in mind. She knew that the Broccolis were dying to get their hands on the many issues published before their lifetime subscription had begun. So she bought the magazines, resolving to offer them anonymously to Fresh’s parents. Then she would convince her boyfriend to personally deliver the set as a surprise.

When Ripe explained the scheme to Fresh, however, he refused to go along with it. She tried to persuade him with quotes from a Rolling Stone article, “Rockin’ with Rotten Vegetables.” He countered by telling her about his childhood, which, he said, had been just like a squashed story in his parents’ magazine.

Exasperated, his girlfriend threatened to leave him unless he promised to do as she’d asked. Not wanting to lose his long-time reading companion, he shrugged his shoulders and reluctantly agreed.

After loading 600 Reader’s Digests in his new VW bus, Fresh headed toward his parents’ house for the first time in almost a year. Meanwhile, Dried-up and Frozen stomped around their front porch and awaited deliverance.

Suddenly, an unfamiliar vehicle tore into the home stretch. Instinctively knowing it contained their treasure, the couple dashed into the street to meet it.

“My stars!” howled Driedup.

“Lord have mercy!” gibbered his mate.

Fresh caught an eyelid of his galloping parents over the Rolling Stone he’d spread against the steering wheel for en route entertainment. He slammed on the brakes but not soon enough. The van struck Driedup and Frozen and, as a door flew open, it vomited a tall stack from its meaty load. Lying on the pavement, the badly wounded couple had only enough time to point weakly at an airborne January 1943 issue before decades of Digests completely buried them.

His vehicle now halted, Fresh Broccoli vaguely sensed that a disaster had occurred outside it. What captured his attention, however, was that, in the fracas, his Rolling Stone had been slightly torn. Greatly annoyed, he alighted to reprimand his parents for causing the damage. But it was too late. Their subscription had expired.

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