The Squash That Became the Cosmos

Macedonio Fernández

There was once a solitary Squash growing in the rich soil of the Chaco. Blessed with exceptional surroundings that provided everything, reared freely and without aid, it grew in optimal natural conditions of water and sunlight, like a true hope of Life. Its intimate history tells us that it nourished itself at the expense of the weaker plants nearby, Darwinistically; I regret having to say this, making the Squash sound unkind. But its external history is what concerns us here, which could only be told by the terrified inhabitants of the Chaco who would come to find themselves enveloped into the pulp of the Squash, absorbed by its powerful roots.

The first hint of its existence was the ominous rustling of mere natural growth. The first local farmers to see it must have been astonished, since it already weighed several tons and was growing in volume moment by moment. It already measured one league in diameter when the first wood-cutters arrived, sent by the authorities to cut down the stalk, which itself was already 200 meters in circumference; the workers quit not so much from exhaustion as from the unnerving creaking noise of the plant’s movements as it tried to balance the instability of its bulk, increasing by leaps and bounds.

Fear spreads. It is now impossible to get near it, because it has wiped out everything in its vicinity, while the roots, now impossible to cut, continue growing. In the desperation of seeing it looming over them, the people think about restraining it with cables. In vain. It now begins to be discernible from Montevideo, where our problem is soon perceived, just as we, from here, observe the instability of Europe. It is already preparing to swallow up the Río de la Plata.

Since there is no time to convene an Inter-American conference—Geneva and the governments of Europe have been advised—each country on its own proposes and debates the most efficacious course of action. Resistance? Conciliation? Appeal to a sense of pity in the Squash? Supplication? A truce? They think about growing another Squash in Japan, cultivating it to hasten maximum development, until the two encounter and destroy one another—without, however, either one outsquashing the other. And the Army?

Opinions from the scientists; what the children, surely delighted, think; emotional reactions from the ladies; indignation from a District Attorney; enthusiasm from an agricultural statistician and from a tailor shop measurement-taker; clothes for the Squash: a cook who stands in front of it and examines it, retreating one league each day; a handsaw that senses its uselessness; and Einstein? Enlist the School of Medicine, someone suggests: give it a purge! All these initial jokes have ceased. All too quickly comes the moment when the most convenient thing to do is to move inside. So ridiculous and humiliating, putting oneself inside it so precipitously—one might forget one’s watch or hat, or leave a cigarette burning somewhere—but there is no longer a world outside of the Squash.

As its size increases. so too does its rate of expansion, scarcely is it one thing when already it’s something else: it has not quite attained the form of a ship when already it seems to be an island. Its pores are now five meters in diameter, now twenty, now fifty. The Cosmos appears to think that it might still be able to produce a cataclysm to stop the Squash, a tidal wave or a split through the surface of the Americas. Wouldn’t it be preferable, out of sheer pride, to explode and shatter rather than end up inside a Squash? To watch it grow, we fly over in an airplane; it is a mountain range floating on the ocean. People are absorbed like flies; the Koreans, on the other side of the earth, send up prayers and realize that their doom is a matter of hours.

The Cosmos, in violent convulsions, launches into the final combat. It unleashes tremendous storms, incredible radiation, earthquakes—held in reserve perhaps since its origins in case it ever had to do battle with another world.

“Beware of any cell that comes near you! All it takes is for one of them to find its optimum-growth environment!” Why weren’t we warned? The mind of each cell says gently “I want to take control of all the ‘stock,’ of the entire ‘inventory’ of Matter, to fill Space and, perhaps, Interstellar Space; I can be the Universal Individual, the Immortal Person of the World, the single heartbeat.” We didn’t heed this—and now we find ourselves on the verge of a Squash World, with all people, cities and souls inside it!

What can harm it now? It’s only a question of the Squash satisfying its last appetites, before it achieves tranquility. It only lacks Australia and Polynesia.

Dogs that never used to live more than fifteen years, squashes that barely lasted one, and men who rarely reached one hundred. . . This is the surprise! We said: It’s a monster that can’t last! And yet, here we are inside. The Squash must have said to itself, “To be born and to die just for the sake of being born and dying. . .? Oh no, no longer!” The scorpion, when it finds itself unfit or in a weak position, stings and kills itself, passing directly to the repository of scorpioid life, to its new hope of eternal life; it only kills itself in order to gain a new life. Why not create the immortal Scorpion, Pine, Earthworm, Man, Stork, Nightingale, Ivy? And above all the Squash, the Embodiment of the Cosmos; and all of them, everyone—poker players and lovers—tranquilly coexisting within the diaphanous and unitary space of the Squash.

We devoutly practice Cucurbitaceous Metaphysics. We are now convinced that, given the relativity of all magnitudes, none of us will ever know whether or not we live inside a squash, or even inside a coffin, and if we might not be cells of the Immortal Plasma. It had to happen: a wholly internal Totality, Bounded, Immobile (without Change), without external Relationships, thus without Death.

It appears that in these latest moments, according to the signs, the Squash gets ready to conquer not just the poor Earth, but the Creation. Evidently, it prepares to challenge the Milky Way. In a few days, the Squash will be Being, Reality and its Shell.

(The Squash has allowed me to write, poorly and imperfectly, its legend and history for you—dear fellow members of Squashdom.

We live in that world we all used to know, but now totally inside the shell, with only internal relations and, thus, without death.

It is an improvement over the past.)

SOURCE: Fernández, Macedonio. “The Squash That Became the Cosmos,” translated by William Clamurro, in Macedonio: Selected Writings in Translation, edited by Jo Anne Engelbert (Fort Worth, TX: Latitudes Press, 1984), pp. 54-57.

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