The Taste of Watermelon

by

Borden Deal

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Taste of Watermelon can help.

The Taste of Watermelon Summary

The sixteen-year-old narrator wants to fit in with his new community. Although he is friends with Freddy Gray and J.D., they don’t completely trust him yet, because his family has just moved to their rural community the year before. The three boys want to date the narrator’s neighbor, Willadean Wills. But they are afraid of her father, Mr. Wills, who is a talented and intimidating farmer. He grows watermelons behind his barn, and he is more protective of those melons than anything else. Even though it’s a well-known rite of passage for teenage boys in the community to sneak melons from farmers’ fields, Mr. Wills won’t let anyone near his.

This summer, Mr. Wills is growing the biggest watermelon anyone has ever seen, and he plans to save its seeds for next year. One night, the boys go swimming under a full moon and sit on the river bank and talk about Mr. Wills, who has guarded his “seed melon” every night with a shotgun. According to Freddy Gray and J.D., Mr. Wills loads his gun with lethal buckshot, instead of the salt pellets farmers usually use. The narrator, astounded that Mr. Wills would go to such lengths for a melon, surprises himself and his friends by announcing that he plans to steal the melon that very night. Freddy Gray and J.D. protest, telling him that it’s too risky under the bright full moon, but the narrator’s mind is made up. So the trio sneak over to the woods behind Mr. Wills’s watermelon patch.

Mr. Wills is sitting at his post, his gun gleaming in the moonlight. The narrator crawls the 200 yards over to the giant watermelon, covered by the tall grass in the patch. After finally reaching the melon, he lies down in the field and contemplates carving his name into the melon instead of stealing it, but he decides that in order to prove himself to Mr. Wills and Willadean, he must take the melon. He then laboriously rolls the melon out of the patch, terrified of getting shot. But he makes it out unscathed, and the three boys carry the melon back to the creek. They haven’t eaten half of it by the time they are full, so they destroy the rest of the melon, depressed at the waste, but unable to share the leftovers with anyone. They say goodbye sullenly.

The narrator returns home in time to see Mr. Wills realize that the melon is missing. The farmer runs up and down the patch, destroying all the other melons in an animalistic rage that horrifies the narrator. Ashamed, the narrator runs up to his room, and contemplates his crime until dawn. He feels terrible that he stole the melon with so little thought of the consequences, and he knows he has to try to repair the damage he caused. In the early morning light, he goes back to the creek and collects the watermelon seeds. He then knocks on Mr. Wills’s door and offers him the seeds. Mr. Wills reveals that his sick wife had planned on inviting the neighborhood over to eat the melon. When the narrator apologizes, Mr. Wills admits that he is also ashamed of destroying the rest of the watermelon patch. He then asks the narrator to help out on his farm next year. The narrator agrees, looking up to see the smiling eyes of Willadean behind her father. Finally, he asks Mr. Wills if he had buckshot in his gun, and the farmer shows him that the gun was only filled with salt pellets. Assured of Mr. Wills’s good character, the narrator commits himself to working hard for him next year.