Spargel | Teen Ink

Spargel MAG

March 26, 2009
By Julia_H SILVER, Merrimac, Massachusetts
Julia_H SILVER, Merrimac, Massachusetts
6 articles 0 photos 26 comments

There is only one word that I know how to say in German.

Mappenklemmplatte. Binder clip.

Why my father took this as a sign to pick up everything I knew – from my bed to my dog to my favorite pen to the “Our Happy Home” mat by the door – and move me to Germany with him is a mystery.

From my perspective, we were perfectly fine in our house by the highway, cars whizzing by, providing a gentle hum to fill in the noise of neither of us talking. He doesn’t like talking, my father, and I don’t like it much, either. He is fat, with a bushy, graying mustache, and he likes to cook. All he seemed to do after my mother died was cook, but I didn’t mind the silence much, because it meant I didn’t have a curfew and our dinners were always good, when we had dinner.

At night, the cars would send me to sleep, the yellowish-white of the headlights seeping through my thin curtains and running along the side of my walls, the buzzing providing a distant lullaby I’m sure my mother used to sing.

I liked it there.

And then we moved.

We didn’t move like other families do, with all the hubbub and special arrangements. I simply came home one day and found a suitcase on my bed. My father had scribbled a Post-it note: “Pack what you want. We’re leaving.”

Looking back, I guess it was inevitable. He couldn’t stay here. He had to run away. Run away from the memories, run away from the world, run away from the broken lights traversing his bedroom walls at night. Which is how I ended up here, watching his shining round face as he babbled in German and sold asparagus.

Or spargel, as I am continually corrected.

Bruiser rests his head in my lap. I scratch him behind the ears, sighing, looking up at the sky, straining for even the slightest sound of a passing car. When he had first said “Germany,” mumbling it over his shoulder at the airport, I was fine. I thought of the Autobahn. I thought of the sound of things going at top speed, of freedom, of moving on, of moving forward.

I hadn’t thought of this.

I hadn’t thought of sitting in a godforsaken spargel stand by a dirt road, smiling at ruddy-faced Germans as they scrutinized the spargel we were selling, comparing it to the spargel the other spargel vendors were selling, because not only was it spargel season, it was Spargelfest.

And I had to watch my father change here. Drinking beer until his face turned permanently red, the sweat rolling down the side of his face from the hot sun, and sometimes I would catch him crying, wiping the tears from his eyes and then pressing his fingers to his mouth, as if his tears may have turned to alcohol and he could just drink them away.

I kiss the top of Bruiser’s head, and he knocks his giant noggin into my face as if to acknowledge the gesture. I laugh, toppling out of the plastic chair to get on my hands and knees to play with him, the only companion who speaks my language anymore. My phone has no service here; our computer makes no connections. I am isolated from everyone who used to make me, me.

Except for Bruiser. He doesn’t know two words of German, either.

A blond boy approaches us. My father is busy laughing over something with another fat man, so I stand up, not even bothering to dust the dirt off my jeans. They are already discolored from infrequent washing, splotched with brown; I can’t bring myself to bother anymore.

The guy is cute. His hair is long and windswept forward, and he wears big John Lennon glasses that reflect the clouds. He looks like Josh, my boyfriend before we left. I never told him I was going, let alone where. I never told anyone. We just … left.

“Hi,” I say, hoping that it’s enough to convey that I don’t speak German. I point to the boxes of green vegetable in our cart. “Spargel,” I say. He nods, confirming that the vegetable is, indeed, spargel.

Bruiser, upset that I’ve abandoned him, bounds over. Before I can stop him, he’s kicking up dust in the middle of the road, jumping up, putting his paws up on the German version of Josh. I hoist myself over the stand, the bottoms of my Converse dangling out of the shoes, holding on by a thread. German-Josh is saying something in German, and if I understood it, I’m sure it would have been a long string of swears.

“Sorry!” I say, grabbing Bruiser’s shoulders and pulling him off. He’s a Great Dane and hard to handle. I had forgotten though. He never jumped on anyone back home. “I’m sorry. I really am. We should keep him on a leash ….”

He continues to issue words I can’t understand. I stand there, pulling Bruiser down. “Bad dog,” I hiss, “bad, get down, Bruiser, damn it ….”

“The kid says you need to get a leash,” my dad shouts. I glare at the German version of Josh.

“I know. The dog’s a bastard.”

Josh-the-German rips off his glasses and says something else. I look to my father, who looks slightly confused, then tunes in again. “And he says that dog is a bastard.”

I look pathetically at the boy, and point to our stand. “Spargel.”


I hate Germany.

I have to hate it. It is an obligation, not a choice. Like how you’re supposed to naturally hate a stepmother, or a bratty little sibling. Germany is my new evil stepmother. And I am Cinderella, crawling around on my hands and knees, trying to please it, trying to make things even remotely better for myself.

I’m not doing a very good job.

The day after the German-Josh incident, I snuck into the money my father had been saving and bought myself a German-English dictionary. I sit here now, reading it in the shade of our stand. My father sips a bottle of beer and bellows a crude song with two other vendors. I don’t even want to look up the words.

“Hallo,” says a voice I barely recognize. I look up, squinting against the sun, and see German-Josh. I turn around: Bruiser is breaking the neck of a sheep squeaky-toy I had brought with us, far in the distance. I turn back. My face and the words of the dictionary are reflected in his glasses. I wonder what color his eyes are.

He points to the stand. “Spargel?”

“Spargel,” I confirm, and I stand up, raising my chin, hoping I look like a salesperson. I point to the sign that lists our prices, acting as though I would know the difference. I still have no idea how the whole euro thing works yet.

He buys some. He turns to leave but stops, coming back. He points to his temple, then gives me something wrapped in brown paper that he had been carrying in the crook of his arm. I take it, and he waits. I unwrap it, glancing warily at him to make sure that it is, in fact, a gift for me.

I let the paper fall to the ground and lift the gift up, blocking the sun with it. It’s a leash.

I smile. “Thank you,” I say, hoping he understands.

Bitte schön,” he says.


He comes back for more spargel every day for the next three weeks. We never say anything, and I have no idea whether he’s paying me the right amount; in fact, he’s probably just using me to get cheap spargel for his spargel soup for Spargelfest for his spargel-happy family.

But I secretly hope not.

Today, I stop him from leaving. I hold out my hand, and he turns, looking at me, then warily at Bruiser, who’s at my feet, panting in the heat. He stares, waiting. I swallow, and close my eyes, trying to remember. I can do this, I tell myself. I can do this.

Danke für den Kaufen unseres Spargeles,” I say. Thank you for buying our spargel – at least, I think that’s what I said. I hope that’s what I said.

“Thank you for you to sell the spargel to me,” he says.

I smile. I smile, and I do not know what to say next.

So I say the only thing I can.


Binder clip.

Similar Articles


This article has 148 comments.

Curly_Sue said...
on Nov. 23 2010 at 5:32 pm
Curly_Sue, Sand Springs, Oklahoma
0 articles 0 photos 75 comments
This was awesome! Very entertaining! It was funny at just the right parts. Btw, how are you actually supposed to pronounce however the hec you say binder clip?

on Nov. 23 2010 at 4:20 pm
writerinfinity PLATINUM, Arlington, Texas
35 articles 0 photos 105 comments
I really liked the ending, good job! :D

on Nov. 23 2010 at 1:31 pm
Eer320 PLATINUM, S. China, Maine
20 articles 4 photos 39 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Life is like a box of crayons. Most people are the 8-color boxes, but what you're really looking for are the 64-color boxes with the sharpeners on the back. I fancy myself to be a 64-color box, though I've got a few missing. It's ok though, because I've got some more vibrant colors like periwinkle at my disposal. I have a bit of a problem though in that I can only meet the 8-color boxes. Does anyone else have that problem? I mean there are so many different colors of life, of feeling, of articulation.. so when I meet someone who's an 8-color type.. I'm like, hey girl, magenta! and she's like, oh, you mean purple! and she goes off on her purple thing, and I'm like, no - I want magenta!"

I loved this so so much!  The humor was great!  I really hope that you come up with a sequel, because I think evreyone who read it loved it.  PLEASE keep writing.

on Nov. 23 2010 at 1:30 pm
MysteryHeart GOLD, Thorold, Other
14 articles 0 photos 60 comments

Favorite Quote:
Usted es especial! AKWARD!!! (in an opera like voice), ohhh fasha', what the huh?,who in the name of what?, sanity now!

this was funny and i thouroghly enjoyed it


on Nov. 23 2010 at 9:43 am
thestorycritic GOLD, Hyderabad, Other
12 articles 0 photos 73 comments

Favorite Quote:
Live life King Size

You write so well!! Its really amazing work! I feel like having such moments :P You write like, mast!! (Its in Hindi :P, it means superb, like wow types :D) Write more! People should know such good writers are there!

on Nov. 23 2010 at 9:15 am
Vanendra BRONZE, Blasdell, New York
1 article 76 photos 311 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I just sneezed and it hurt my pelvis."~Jasmine Omg
"A wise girl kisses but doesn't love"~Marylin Monroe
"I didn't tell him nowhere where you live" ~me ^-^
"I like the wolves on this textbook, they have very legs" ~Jasmine Omg

Amazing! I loved it! keep writing more ^-^ <3

on Nov. 10 2010 at 11:20 pm
The_Squirrel GOLD, Port Alberni, Other
15 articles 0 photos 36 comments

Favorite Quote:
I will because I can, I can because I want to, I want to becasue you said I couldn't.

Just one question, well two really. Is this a real story and did 'binder clip' have any real signifigance or is it just like how I knew how to say 'truck' in french (camion) befoe i knew there was another word for in in a diferent language (English).

on Nov. 1 2010 at 9:46 pm
BrookXoxo BRONZE, Andrews AFB, Maryland
4 articles 4 photos 22 comments
loved it  The End was really, reallly funny! please message me somehow if your write more to it? I have so many "subscriptions" to people, i cant keep up who I want to read or not. I loved the dog.

CLC93 said...
on Oct. 25 2010 at 6:53 pm
Hahaha, I feel the same way :D

on Oct. 24 2010 at 8:04 pm
KelleySchorn SILVER, Fort Worth, Texas
8 articles 0 photos 78 comments

Favorite Quote:
Whatever you are be a good one-some president i dont remember which
procrastinaters unite!...tomorrow!!-matt
i'm F-U-L-LLLLL i think i can spellllll-allie =]

haha th end made me laugh i liked it it was cute!

Julia_H SILVER said...
on Oct. 24 2010 at 10:39 am
Julia_H SILVER, Merrimac, Massachusetts
6 articles 0 photos 26 comments
Ha, no problem! It's a blast to talk about yourself/own writing/etc, I'm definitely addicted to it in a slightly vain way. X)

CLC93 said...
on Oct. 23 2010 at 5:28 pm
Lol, it's cool. Thanks for taking the time to respond to my question :D

Julia_H SILVER said...
on Oct. 23 2010 at 1:03 pm
Julia_H SILVER, Merrimac, Massachusetts
6 articles 0 photos 26 comments

Sorry for the belated response, but here goes: It's actually a funny story - I was checking my email, and I have a fun fact bar across the top of my screen. For some reason, Google decided to tell me that "spargel" was the word for "asparagus" in german. Earlier that day, my friend Becca had told me the word for 'binderclip', and the rest is history.

Well, not really. But seeing as the word "Spargel" is kind of hilarious, I was determined to write a story with that title. I did some Googling and found out about "Spargelfest", and I somehow imagined a girl stuck at spargelfest who didn't know two words of German. (: The rest came as I wrote, and I moved actual Spargelfest off-screen: but the essentials stayed the same. Thanks for your curiousity! :D

Julia_H SILVER said...
on Oct. 23 2010 at 12:58 pm
Julia_H SILVER, Merrimac, Massachusetts
6 articles 0 photos 26 comments
I know this response is a little late, but I just have to let you know how much this means to me that you actually connected with what I've written. (: Seeing as I've never actually gone through it, a lot of it was lucky guesswork combined with trying to mold a character's personality. I just know that I have always had difficulty with languages, and still do - so I'm glad that I actually achieved something here! :D Plus, whenever someone says they can relate to something you've written, it's always kind of awesome. (: I'm glad you liked the rest of it to - so, here is a very belated thank you for everyone you've said.

Julia_H SILVER said...
on Oct. 23 2010 at 12:53 pm
Julia_H SILVER, Merrimac, Massachusetts
6 articles 0 photos 26 comments
haha, thank you so much! i'm glad you mentioned the timing, because that's one of my main focuses in writing. (: i know you left this a while ago, but i feel like i have to thank you! comments are always so much appreciated, they never fail to brighten my day. :D

Julia_H SILVER said...
on Oct. 23 2010 at 12:50 pm
Julia_H SILVER, Merrimac, Massachusetts
6 articles 0 photos 26 comments

Thank you! Your specific compliments are so nice to read, because then I actually feel like I did something right, if that makes sense. (: I am so honored for you to say that it's one of the best short stories you've ever read, it really made my day! :D

Sorry this response is so late, by the way. XD I tend to get a bit lazy when it comes to my reviews, and I really shouldn't! I appreciate them so thanks. (:

Julia_H SILVER said...
on Oct. 23 2010 at 12:46 pm
Julia_H SILVER, Merrimac, Massachusetts
6 articles 0 photos 26 comments
I've actually recently been thinking about a sequel, although I can't really flesh out a full idea for it. However, I AM extending it a bit: I'm doing nanowrimo next month - I'd google it if you haven't heard of it, it's the best - and one of my storylines is actually going to have a few similar aspects. Unfortunately I'm sending her to Italy, so no Spargel :(, XD, but it's going to be really cool! least, I hope so. Your compliments mean so much to me, thank you so much!

Julia_H SILVER said...
on Oct. 23 2010 at 12:42 pm
Julia_H SILVER, Merrimac, Massachusetts
6 articles 0 photos 26 comments
Ha, no worries. (: Thank you so much for your compliments, I really appreciate them. It's always nice to have an email about a comment on this! I'm really glad you liked it.

Superblyme said...
on Oct. 22 2010 at 2:00 pm
Superblyme, Phenix City, Alabama
0 articles 0 photos 32 comments

Favorite Quote:
‎"I've said it a million times: I would love very much to be known as one of the great entertainers. if that's me having a big ego, then sorry. I'm shooting for the stars, and if I miss I'll hit the moon an that's pretty high" -Michael Buble

I didn't mean since you commented on my work*** I don't know where that came from

Superblyme said...
on Oct. 22 2010 at 1:59 pm
Superblyme, Phenix City, Alabama
0 articles 0 photos 32 comments

Favorite Quote:
‎"I've said it a million times: I would love very much to be known as one of the great entertainers. if that's me having a big ego, then sorry. I'm shooting for the stars, and if I miss I'll hit the moon an that's pretty high" -Michael Buble

Since you commented on my work I thought I'd return the favor. I liked this, a lot. You were very detailed and wrote it so well. You were grammatically correct and everything. Good job :)