They arrive in late summer, lurking within paper bags and tattered cardboard boxes. It’s an old menace — one that finds its way to the surface of our hungry society each summer. We bring it on ourselves. The assault is ongoing and unstoppable.

In an attempt to prove ourselves worthy of owning dirt, we decide to “put in a little garden”. Just a small one. With tomatoes. Corn. Onions. And maybe just a few zucchinis.

The garden grows, and the bragging begins. The sizes of green beans are shown with stretched digits. The circumferences of tomatoes are displayed by an “OK” sign at first; they swell to larger circles of various boastful ball-shapes.

Corn stalks climb from knee to thigh to shoulder height, and we report the growth to anybody who’ll listen.

But nobody talks about their zucchinis. It’s a topic best left alone, like Grandpa’s penchant for cough syrup or Aunt Mabel’s smelly feet. The zucchinis are growing, though. Right there, in the last row of everybody’s garden. They are ballooning to gargantuan proportions and in monstrous multitudes.

Harvest time arrives. We eat our juicy tomatoes. Our corn is as tender and sweet as our best memories, and mounds of homegrown green beans grace our plates at every meal.

We are in hog heaven; we enjoy our veggies until we’re almost too healthy to fit into our clothes.

And that’s when we are caught, drowsy and burping, by the glut of a ZILLION ZUCCHINIS. They’ve ripened and are ready to be picked. As numerous as flies on a screen door. As boring as your mother’s appendectomy story.

The zucchinis just keep growing and growing, popping up from the ground like those long balloons clowns twist into swans.

You use your own zucchinis to make bread bricks, and stack them into the freezer. Casseroles covered with cheese and bread crumbs disguise your zucchinis and the whole family works together to make the crop disappear.

They know that the faster they eat them, the sooner they will be gone.

That’s what your neighbors think, too. The ones who also planted zucchinis along the back rows of their gardens. They sit in their kitchens surrounded by buckets of them, frantic to clear the house of so much harvest.

Desperation causes devious solutions to fill their heads.

Bags of zucchinis begin to materialize on lunchroom tables at work. Coworkers cringe through polite smiles. Boxes of zucchinis are abandoned like ugly orphans; their rubbery green skin cooks in the August sunshine on the front porches of unsuspecting neighbors.

Sunday is a favorite zucchini-dumping day. Church-goin’, God-fearin’ people are the biggest zucchinis growers in town. These clever men and women will keep you talking after services while zucchinis-laden cohorts do their dirty work, populating your car’s backseat with offerings of the dreaded squash.

Alas, friends and neighbors. There is no escape. Zucchinis will be grown in bloated globs every year — by all of us — and every year we’ll test the boundaries of our friendships by trying to foist the excess to unwilling hands.

Lock your car doors. Roll your windows up tight. Keep an eye on your front steps, and make sure you don’t linger after “amen” on Sunday mornings. This year’s zucchini crop is ripe and ready for sharing.

Robin is a freelance writer and columnist who lives in Quincy, Ill. Her column, Robin Writes, is published in numerous newspapers in Missouri and Illinois.

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