I enter the squash court waiting area, and proceed to look cool and chill out, waiting for my opponent, hereafter known as "Higgy" to arrive. To pass time, I do a little aggressive inline yoga, a technique long lost to the West.

Soon, Higgy arrives, and I look down upon him with distaste and a sense of impending victory; Higgy is an overweight, scruffily dressed mathematics teacher. I find myself smirking, and fill my Nike designer water bottle with undisguised eagerness. Higgy then takes the tiniest squash racket in the world out of his bag. It looks like a tea spoon. He gives it an experimental flourish, and suddenly starts hitting his chest, groaning and panting.

Now if there is one thing my time in the slums of Addis Ababa taught me, it's that the opponent with the least equipment is often the more dangerous one. The little black boys in Ethiopia don't play soccer with boots on; they play it bare-foot, and with a ball made from saliva and the bones of dead U.N. Peacekeepers. These little boys don't need equipment; they've spent their formative years hunting down locusts and avoiding rickets and kwashiorkor.

But due to some strange combination of adrenaline and a Christ complex, I completely forgot this little lesson, and thought to myself: "Look at that pussy racket. How's he gonna hit the ball with that tiny thing?" I take out my racket, custom designed by the finest craftsmen in Pakistan, where squash isn't just a sport, it's a motherfucking religion. In Pakistan, they cut off your hands for making shoddy squash rackets. My racket is a cross between a hockey stick and a tennis net, and comes complete with a built-in flashlight and a microwave oven.

So we take to the court, and I'm feeling confident. I'm feeling good, full of energy, ready to take this fucker down. I flick him a cocky salute, and then point at a spot near the front wall, Babe Ruth-style. I'm trying to get across the idea that "right there, mister, right there, is where I'm going to leave your corpse when I'm done with it, to be fed on by maggots and flies and shit". I laugh, crazy-like, just to make sure he has some idea what he is up against. I think he understands, and looks away quickly. And then it is time to start.

One hour later, Higgy has beaten the shit out of me so badly that I am carried off the court and brought back to life with a bottle of water. I am told that I was clinically dead for 30 seconds after slamming my entire body into the wall of the court. Higgy hadn't moved for the entire hour, just gently bending from side to side as he powered shot after shot at my face.

I hate squash. Not only do I have to now put up with the humiliation of losing to a balding, overweight maths teacher, and the pain of blisters on both hands and feet (and, incredibly, knees), but also the complete shame of actually being killed by a sport that advertising executives play during their lunch hour.

As an added indecency, at sometime during the match, my body stopped sending blood to my brain entirely, in order to preserve enough for basic human functions like breathing and sweating. I was thus not in any state to realise that, about halfway through, Higgy's girlfriend came on instead of him and beat the shit out of me as well. And she hasn't played squash since '87.

I went to the freeweights area to work off my anger, but was scared off by what seemed to be Riff-Raff from Rocky Horror doing bench presses.

As a squash farmer I am incensed by the allegation that squash, nutritious vegetable that it is, can kill you. Firstly, one must distinguish between Summer Squash and Winter Squash. Secondly, one must consider the number of human beings who rely upon squash for sustenance and for the usefulness of a fine gourd as a potential vessel.

Summer Squash, which I assure you is wholly lacking in tendrils pose risk to neither life nor limb. All Summer Squash are part of the species Cucurbita pepo, a fine variety within the kingdom plantae. Summer Squash is, in fact, far more vulnerable to destruction at the hands of human beings than the converse. The gourds are generally harvested immature due to their relatively short shelf life. The most frequently grown types in the United States are zucchini, yellow straight neck, yellow-crookneck, and white bush scallop (patty pan).

Now, Winter Squash are a whole different can of worms. These are large, spreading plants and the terror of that unstoppable growth could potentially endanger the health and sanity of less stable individuals. Winter Squash also store well, compared with Summer Squash, which means that any potential danger could be much longer lasting. Also, they come in all shapes and colours: endangering those threatened by variety and making identification potentially more problematic.

In order to aid those seeking to avoid the potential hazards of Winter Squash, keep the following in mind. A Winter Squash could actually be any of three different species of Cucurbita. Cucurbita pepo types, such as acorn squash, have hard, angular stems. (A potential source of puncture damage to those not accustomed to the vicious barbs of squash, as one in my profession must be.) The peduncle, or attachment of the stem to the fruit, flares strongly, in a manner that may be threatening to those who have managed to flare only weakly themselves. Leaves are lobed (Not to be confused with lobbed, as with grenades). Cucurbita moschata types, such as butternut squash, have hard, smoothly grooved peduncles flaring at fruit. If that doesn’t sound menacing, I don’t know what does. The hard peduncles conjure disturbing flashbacks to my Hardped uncles (Hardped being a town in my native Scotland). They also have angular stems but leaves are only slightly lobed, thank goodness. Cucurbita maxima types such as Hubbard, Marrow (as in the place to which it chills you), Banana, Turban and Turks have a corky peduncle, fleshy round stem, and rounded, relatively non-lobed leaves.

Now, the question of whether the aforementioned Winter Squash can actually be lethal is not terribly difficult to answer. As I’ve already pointed out, some dangers do exist. It must be recalled, however, that in cases of Winter Squash attack, lethality is almost completely unknown. Winter Squash are smaller than Summer Squash and will generally avoid human beings provided they have ample warning. They are quite capable of concealing themselves under prickly leaves. Recall, also, that they have far more to fear from you than you from them. They are under pressure not only from human consumption, a practice that dates back to the First Nations people of North America, but also from habitat destruction. Every time a city grows, displacing squash farms, the remaining native squash territory is diminished. This increases the likelihood of contact and potential conflict.

If you find yourself in a dangerous situation with a Winter Squash, simply follow these instructions. Firstly, don’t move. Squash are completely unable to see animals that are not moving. Also, they have exceptionally poor hearing. Squash are vulnerable to many human weapons, but an open assault is probably a poor alternative. This is a case where avoiding conflict is a strategy that will pay dividends. You will continue unimpeded and sane, unmolested by Winter Squash, and they will continue to replenish the oxygen supply of Earth’s atmosphere as they convert CO2 to O2 through photosynthesis.

If you do get into a fight with a squash, I recommend slowly baking your opponent, preferably with brown sugar and chopped apple spread overtop the flesh of the squash. Alternately, hollow it out and dry it to make a useful vessel for the carrying of various things, such as squash seeds (good both for eating and for sowing in the Earth to add to the squash supply available to future generations). For a more extensive discussion of sustainable harvesting strategies see sustainable yield. For more information on squash, consult your local library or people who you see walking around with sweat bands, racquets, and small black rubber balls. For some reason, many of these people also claim to be experts on squash.

By the way, if you are entirely mad, and believe that the entirety of the above entry was based on fact more than a response to my initial comedic take on the name of this node, perhaps you should check whether you’ve been driven mad by the corky peduncle of a Cucurbita maxima.

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