Rutabagas Got the Tiniest Peckers by Caleb Echterling

  Dora had a Ph.D. in molecular biology, and like all holders of advanced degrees in the hard sciences, she had an eye for making a buck in a side hustle. So when she saw the local farmers’ market full of vegetables no sane person would eat, a light bulb went off over her head.

  “Hey man,” said an aging hippie who tripped over the extension cord Dora ran from her car’s cigarette lighter, “no electricity unless it’s generated from compostable toilets. Quit harshing on everyone’s mellow.”

  Designer vegetables would be Dora’s ticket off the academic hamster wheel. Everyone in her lab said she was mad. Lightning crashed in the background. She threw her head back and cackled while the camera panned for a low angle close-up.

  Months of cross-breeding and gene-splicing flew by in three and a half minutes, thanks to the magic of a montage set to 80s pop. Dora raised her fist in triumph. She had a product to crush her competition in the goofy vegetable sector. And where does an entrepreneur-slash-grifter go to turn a million dollar idea into cold, hard cash? The farmers’ market, of course.

  Dora’s booth was wedged between a table selling non-essential oils and a cooler packed with free-range turtle eggs. A clown ambled down the aisle selling pornographic balloon art. Dora had a winner, and wrote as much in Sharpie beneath a succinct yet enticing description of her product:

                Brussels sprouts who tell dirty jokes

                It’s a winner

  An old dude with a gray ponytail stopped at her booth. His gaze bounced between the sign and the sacks of sprouts. “Do they really tell dirty jokes?”

  “They sure do. Watch.” Dora hunched over a sack and whispered, “Okay sprouts, do your thing.”

  “Rutabagas got the tiniest peckers.”

  The dude raised his eyebrows. “Sorry, I’m more into knock-knock jokes.”

  For the rest of the morning, Dora prompted her produce to perform for disbelieving customers. The sprouts offered commentary on rutabagas’ lack of intelligence, the undersized proportions of rutabaga reproductive organs, the excretory habits of rutabagas, the farm animals with which rutabagas consort, and the appallingly low standard of rutabaga personal hygiene.

  Fifty inquiries led to no sales. Dora snapped at the latest customer who took a pass. “What’s the matter? Don’t you appreciate dirty jokes?”

  “On the contrary, I’m quite the connoisseur of dirty jokes. But jokes have a set-up and a punchline. The ten-inch pianist, that’s a joke. The Aristocrats, that’s a joke. These are off-color cracks about rutabagas made up by the filthy mind of a small cabbage.”

  “How do you know it’s made up? What if rutabagas have a seamy underbelly to which you’ve never been exposed, thanks to your sheltered and privileged life?”

  The customer pursed her lips and stared into the distance. “If that’s the case, I would prefer to learn about the dark side of rutabagas through a documentary film, or perhaps a long-form journalism piece. I don’t consider foul-mouthed Brussels sprouts to be a trusted news source.”

 Dora packed up the sprouts without making a single sale. “Sorry, fellas, but no one likes you. You’re either too obscene, or not obscene enough, or a bad influence on the kids, or a bad influence on the home virtual assistant. I guess the public’s not ready for Brussels sprouts who tell dirty jokes.” Tears rolled down her face.

  “Does that mean we get to stay with you?” a sprout asked. “We like you. You let us tell truth to power. About rutabagas. And what gigantic clackwankers they are.”

  Dora wiped her cheeks clean. “No, you have a gift to share with the world. I’ve got one more idea.”

Dora’s trembling fingers punched digits into her phone. “Hello, is this the Root Vegetable Channel? Variety says you’re in pre-production for a tell-all documentary, Rutabagas: Nature’s Gigantic Clackwankers. Do you still need a narrator?”

  Caleb Echterling’s recent short story collection deftly combines staid bios with insult comedy, ya filthy bastard. He tweets funny microfiction using the inventive handle @CalebEchterling. You can find more of his work at

3 thoughts on “Rutabagas Got the Tiniest Peckers by Caleb Echterling”

  1. It’s about time that Brussel sprouts get their share of attention in the vegetable story genre–good job!

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