Camilla Brown

Happy Valley

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny

Putting all the vegetables away / That you bought at the grocery store today. The Flaming Lips song reminded Jenna Taylor why she didn’t buy courgettes anymore. She frowned and turned the radio off. A few weeks ago she had been alone in the house, thinking about what to cook for dinner. Scanning the contents of her refrigerator, her eyes eventually settled on the big courgette that she had picked up at the farmers’ market. She took it upstairs, forgetting about dinner. Afterwards she didn’t want to eat the courgette. It was still there in the fridge, slowly withering. Ashamed, she told herself she didn’t even like courgette, she should never have brought it home, should never have had sex with it. But now, the lyrics brought back that feeling, the fullness of it.

The next day Jenna Taylor woke early and drove to the beach as the sun was rising. It was raining hard, she stripped off, enjoyed the needles against her skin. In the sea, time felt heavier, the swirling waves lapped at her chaos. She longed to become entirely drenched, bloated. A subaqueous being. The sensation of the ocean started to make her feel like she was slipping. One moment she was held by its buoyancy, then she was falling; all became hollow and cavernous. She was submerged breathing saline. It was clearer and brighter below, as if the rays of a strong midday sun were penetrating the waters. A sea cucumber floated into view. It was shimmering, she was shimmering. Sliding fingers across her skin she felt a seam, tingling and running the entire length of her torso. As she explored her seam everything fell away. Then all sensation ceased and Jenna Taylor landed in a deep crevice.

Slivers of light fell from somewhere high above. Jenna Taylor surveyed the walls; they were pink and bumpy. She could faintly make out a series of ruffles and folds, held together by spongy tubes and connective tissue. It seemed like it might be possible to climb towards the light but when she tried to find a foothold she realised that the walls were covered in a mucus substance. After a few attempts, her movements up and down caused the chasm to contract. Jenna Taylor was thrown to the ground, which was populated by small, feathery bushes. The furry surface pulled her down to a deep sleep and she dreamt that she was riding a red canoe down a gorge. Something reflected against a silvery fluid and brought brightness to her face.

There was a beaver standing above Jenna Taylor. A vivid green glow framed the creature, contrasting with the cherry of the crevice-landscape. She noticed that the beaver was dressed in a silky burgundy uniform, the shirt emblazoned Happy Valley ~ Guide with matching frilly shorts. It wore mauve velvet gloves, and in one paw, the source of the viridescence: what appeared to be a courgette-shaped torch. The beaver asked if she liked roast beef. Jenna Taylor nodded slowly, overwhelmed by the beaver’s ability to talk. She felt her hand encircled by firm satin as she was led deeper into the abyss.

The long, thick courgette lit their path. As they moved along together, Jenna Taylor could see beautiful foamy detail; membrane ridges and veined protrusions slipping into unseeable depths. They reached a set of drawn curtains: thick, hooded and discharging an intense humidity. The beaver released Jenna Taylor’s hand and spread the curtains aside, revealing a lush, fertile valley dappled with flesh-coloured light and dotted with blossoming peonies.

In the foreground was a large, inky plate piled with delicate slices of meat: moist, curled and darkening at the edges. Sat atop the beef was a courgette – her courgette, from her kitchen, from her bedroom. It was as if no time had passed, it was as it had been, before the lost time, those needless, shame-filled days. Jenna Taylor looked to the beaver who gave her a gentle, sideways smile and nudged her forward. She rushed to the courgette and fell on it in a deep embrace. They made love again and again, right there on the tender beef.