The cold weather in January killed my Carolina Reaper plants. They were two seasons old and still cranking out the beautiful and red peppers, and I miss them still. A month or so ago I contacted the people I bought the plants from and they were selling sprouts, tiny and puny looking things for twelve bucks apiece plus shipping. I declined to be robbed and tried to get some seeds to geminate to no avail. It looked grim, and my supply of frozen peppers could not last forever.
Suddenly, a guy at work told me there was a flea market at Exit Five that had Reaper Plants! He had bought one, and they were a foot tall and four bucks apiece! Finally! There was light at the end of the tunnel. Or in the case of flea markets, the end of the funnel cake.
There’s obligatory and ubiquitous background to every flea market and funnel cake, and I still have no idea what a funnel cake might be, is one of those things. You’ll find American flags made in China. You’ll find old bottles for sale. You’ll meet someone selling hats, another person selling knives, and you’ll find a guy, or a girl, selling used books. There will be second hand clothes and new sunglasses. There will be cheap jewelry. And there will be people there who are walking so very slowly, you could put a small stone beside them to gauge if they are really moving at all.
I am a man on a mission. The intent is to get in and get back out, and have pepper plants in hand when I do this. I arrive, park as close as I can to as far away as I can get from the front of the place, adjust my hat, check my shoelaces, and turn on the afterburners. This place sprawls out all over about five acres. I can surely get in and out of here in less than a half hour or so, say, where is one of this kiosks that tell will tell me, “You are HERE!” with a red arrow hovering over my head.
If this were the Mall, or even a big store, or even a strip man, you know, even of this was a gas station in the middle of nowhere, you would think, at worst, someone would know how to find the plant person, right? I stopped at the first booth.
“What kind of plants?” the woman asked. She reminded me of a guy I knew who played linebacker in High School. A cigarette seemed glued to her lower lip and it moved up and down like some sort of smoking genetic mutation as she spoke.
“Pepper plants,” I tell her.
“I ain’t never heard of nobody selling no pepper plants here,” she tells me with a tone that suggests that I might be stupid for looking for pepper plants here to begin with. “You come out here looking for pepper plants?”
“Would I have asked you if you knew where pepper plants were being sold if I wasn’t looking for them here?” and I start backing away from her as she tries to intellectually digest a question that might turn out to be an insult.
There is literally three feet of distance between the first woman, who was selling new shoelaces, used cheese graters, and sun screen, and the next booth, where a man wearing a hat with a rebel flag with a fish embedded in it is selling keychains that have crystals in them that contain dead arthropods. This is why men do not ask for directions; we see the prospects of information and would rather just slog it out on our own.
There are people like me. We raid. We do not shop. We go in, we find what we need and we pay for it and then we get the hell out. Then there are the flea market people. They stand in the middle of the travel way. They stare. They rarely really move. It’s like being in a house fire with a group of people who are there for self-immolation.
Finally, I see plants. I close in on the plants and lo! There are Carolina Reapers and Ghost Peppers, too! But there is no one minding the shop. There is a sign that reads, “I always need bags”.
What the actual fuck?
Soon, a man arrives and he looks like he works here, and she’s speaking to a woman who has followed him, ten paces behind, and they’ve made some sort of sell and he had to carry the plants back to her car, I wait for money to be exchanged and in the meantime, he doesn’t so much as say, “Be with you in a second” or “Good Morning!” or “Five miles out, just keep you heading true”. Just as soon as the woman leaves a small child appears and asks if there are banana plants here. No, just banana peppers, do they taste like bananas, no they taste like peppers, why do they call them banana peppers, they look like bananas, show me one, I don’t have any. Meanwhile, I’m standing there wondering when, as a species, we stopped training children to not interrupt adults. I’m trying to make eye contact with the plant selling guy to try to hurry the conversation about banana peppers on, but the child breaks and runs. I cannot tell you why, unless clairvoyance.
I tell the man I want two Reapers and two Ghosts, and he tells me the price, which is marked, and I try to pry information out of him as to how he grows them. I stop when he gets to the point he is telling me about how lizards eat a lot of his young plants. I’m not sure what he’s doing but he is doing it right. Or not. But lizards are not eating his plants.
I have four pepper plants in the ground right now. Two Reapers, Two Ghosts, and in a month or so I should start seeing some little peppers, if the lizards don’t get them. I’m back in business and I’m thinking about getting a greenhouse started.