The State Fair. The Minnesota State Fair. I enter my cumquats every year. I am the only entrant. I've won for six years in a row. They didn't used to have an cumquat category but a quick call from my lawyer fixed that. I don't actually have a lawyer, but if you call and do your best Wilford Brimley impersonation no one will question you. I've used the lawyer voice often and it works surprisingly well in many situations. So back to the cumquats. I had a challenger this year. It came in the form of a four foot nine inch Chinese woman. At the judging, she came over and looked me over, looked at my cumquats, looked at my tagboard display of six blue ribbons and said something under her breath. It sounded like 'pathetic' but I couldn't be sure.
The judges are the same ones who judge apples because nobody really knows what a cumquat tastes like anyway. Plus, with only one person to judge it's not like they needed to know what made a good cumquat. The heat was really on the judges this time. That woman is giving me the hairy eyeball from across the table. The three judges looked over the table. I didn't recognize any of the judges from previous years. In fact I have never seen the same judge twice which leads me to believe cumquat judging is like the initiation rite for judges. The judges looked over both bowls, picked up a few and gently squeezed, sniffed, and poked. All three took a hesitant bite. By the look on their faces I could see they probably had never had a cumquat before. They looked at me, looked at my competition, looked at my blue ribbons and went into a huddle.
I was intentionally avoiding the burning gaze from the other end of the table. The judge huddle broke. The eldest judge held a ribbon in each hand. A red and a blue. He walked to the other end of the table and handed her the red. The look on her face was a combination of disbelief and what ever the yang was to total happiness yin. The judge handed me the blue and quickly got out of range of what was about to happen next. I slowly looked at the woman. She squinted at me just like Clint Eastwood did in those old spaghetti westerns just before he shot someone. I actually stumbled backward a few feet. Here is a little know fact, a fact not known to anyone except me and the woman burning holes in soul with her eyes, my cumquats come from the Asian grocery down the street. I reached for my tagboard and saw her take a quick step toward me. That is all I remember before waking up two days later in the hospital. I seemed to be missing a tooth and was covered in bruises and clutching a blue ribbon in my hand. The one thing I know is that next year i will have seven blue ribbons on my tagboard, a replacement tooth and good chance at blue ribbon number eight.