Anya was an Onion. She had green leaves and a pot belly, which is quite proper in an onion, but she had grown a bit wrinkly from crying too much. You see, Anya didn’t have any friends.
Once, when she was a seedling, her father took her to visit her Aunt Shona, who was a Shallot. Anya didn’t much like her Aunt, who was small and pink and took a dim view of sandy soil trod into her expensive loam. However, the main reason Anya didn’t like her Aunt was that her Aunt didn’t like her, and the main reason her Aunt didn’t like her is that Anya was very, very smelly.
All onions whiff a bit, of course, but Anya’s smell was so intense, so overwhelmingly oniony, that even her parents cried whenever they saw her. Everyone Anya had ever met burst into tears straight away. And so, Anya cried a lot as well.
Anya waited in her Aunt’s little patch of garden with the gnomes, who quickly moved to a safe distance, holding their noses, and fished for snails in a ditch. She waited for hours, while her parents ate scones and sipped tea and talked in that droning way grown-ups do about the boring things that they like to talk about – how summers weren’t what they used to be, the decline of the compost heap, and so on.
It began to drizzle. Worms came to chat; they had found that birds stayed away from Anya. Anya didn’t much like worms. They clustered around her silently in the gloom. By the time her parents took her home, it was dark and even the worms had fallen asleep.
Anya made up her mind, that day: If nobody could stand to be around her, then she didn’t want to be around anyone either: She would be a Lone Onion.
Which was all very well, except that, as she grew older and rounder, and even more wrinkly from crying, and being angry about crying, and crying about being angry – Anya began to nurture a secret love for a French Garlic bulb. His name was Gaston.
Anya had never spoken with Gaston; she was terrified that he would find her too smelly. Of course he would: Everyone did. Of course he would reject her – and she could not stand the thought. So, she loved him without his knowing. She was careful to never let him near – yet she yearned to be close to him.
One day, Anya was strolling through the weeds, thinking of the grey clouds overhead, when she heard a strange huffling sound behind a stand of rhubarb. She sneaked beneath a floppy leaf and peeked out from the shadows.
She gasped in horror.
It had munched through his gorgeous green bolts, and was tugging on the straggly remnants. Gaston was digging his roots into the soil, and fighting gallantly, but it was a very big pig, and he was only a small garlic bulb after all.
Anya rushed out from beneath the leaf with no thought but to save her beloved, the wind at her back lending her a most un-onionish speed. The pig snorted and looked around. For a moment, she thought it would eat her too, but her stink was too much even for a pig, and it backed up a few steps.
“Leave him alone!” she yelled. “You can’t eat him!”
The pig’s nose wrinkled. “What is that smell?” he muttered. He tilted his head on one side, and turned in a slow circle, testing the breeze with his snout.
Anya ignored the pig, and helped Gaston up.
“Are you alright?” she gasped.
“Oui, ay am not ‘urt,” he replied. “‘Ay oe yu ma laaf, cherie! ‘Ow can ay everr – but wait – un moment, un moment . . . zut alors! What is zat ‘orrible ztench?”
“Oh -“ she said, her stems drooping a little, “That’s me. I’m a little oniony, I’m afraid.”
“Do not worree, cherie! Yu ‘ave saved me! And ay oe yu a great debt. Come wiz me to ma French Lavender patch! Your ‘orrible stink will ‘ardly be noticeable zere.”
Now that she was talking with Gaston, Anya wasn’t sure she liked him so much after all. He seemed just like everyone else she had ever met.
And then something incredible happened.
“Excuse me,” said a voice behind her. “I don’t think you smell horrible at all.”
It was the pig.
He said, “I think you have the most wonderful scent I have ever smelled in my entire life. Won’t you come to my pig-sty? I promise not to eat you – you smell just too, too good to eat.”
This was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to Anya, and so she went with her true love, the pig, and lived happily ever after. The pig never did eat her, and Gaston soon forgot about her and frolicked with the French Lavender girls long after he had become too old for it.
The moral of the story is: Even when everyone else tells you that you stink, even when you believe it too, there is always someone who sniffs that stinky whiff and thinks to themselves, “what is that delicious smell . . .”