Jerry Zezima: Little kitchen of horrors

I could never be a herbivore — not just because I don’t like vegetables, even though I am one, but because my name isn’t Herb.

But there is a herb living in our house that I fear is about to turn into a carnivore. It is almost 4 feet tall, it stands menacingly next to my chair at the kitchen table and it is probably waiting to eat me for dinner like Audrey II, the man-eating plant in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

This one is a citronella, also known as the mosquito plant, so named because either it repels blood-sucking flies or, more worrisome, it likes to bite people.

So far, I haven’t detected a mouthful of teeth, but that doesn’t mean the jolly green giant can’t ingest me in some other horrible way. I just hope I will prove to be as unappetizing to the plant as its yucky relatives are to me.

My wife, Sue, who loves vegetables and gets perverse pleasure in serving them to me, once asked if I like squash.

My response: “I’d rather play tennis.”

So she went out to her garden, picked a big, fat zucchini and served it to me for dinner.

It served me right.

Sue, who also loves flora (Flora and I are just good friends), has about two dozen houseplants. She waters them regularly and, obeying the instruction of botanists, talks to them. (The plants, not the botanists, who must be very lonely.)

“Talking to plants helps them grow and keeps them healthy,” Sue told me.

“Am I supposed to talk to the citronella?” I asked. “It gives me the creeps.”

That’s because I can’t sit down in the kitchen without practically being engulfed by the humongous herb, which is situated between my chair and a pair of French doors so it can get enough sunlight to grow even larger.

Whenever I want to sit down, I have to push the leafy layabout out of the way.

“Get lost!” I snapped as I sat down for lunch the other day.

“That’s no way to talk to a plant,” Sue said. “You’ll make it sad.”

“Do I have to apologize?” I asked. “The stupid thing doesn’t even talk back.”

“I can just imagine what it would say to you,” Sue said.

It brings to mind (or what’s left of it) the Oscar-winning song “Talk to the Animals” from the 1967 film “Dr. Dolittle.” I hereby present my own composition, “Talk to the Vegetables,” from a proposed movie starring me in the title role, “Dr. Donothing.”

If I could talk to the vegetables, just imagine it.

Yelling at a head of broccoli.

Imagine talking to a turnip, chatting with a cabbage.

What a lousy dinner that would be.

The most demoralizing part is that Herbie II, as I have named the citronella, no doubt gets perverse pleasure, like Sue, in watching me eat greens that leave me green around the gills.

Also, the big guy has teamed with a poinsettia, which Sue has placed on a stool to my right, in surrounding me at the table.

“Christmas is over,” I told Sue.

“It’s still alive,” she replied. “If you want to sit down, just push it out of the way.”

Unless I want to starve to death, an appealing option if veggies are on the menu, I have to push both plants out of the way so I can sit down.

It reminds me of the lyrics to another song, “Stuck in the Middle With You,” by Stealers Wheel:

Citronellas to the left of me, poinsettias to the right.

Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

To add insult to injury (I stubbed my toe on the stool), after I eat, Sue wants me to push the plants back to their spots in front of the glass doors so they can sunbathe.

But there’s good news: Now that it’s spring, my plant pals will soon go outside, the citronella to the backyard and the poinsettia to the patio.

Then I won’t have to talk to them anymore. And I can finally eat their yucky relatives in peace.

Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service and is the author of six books. His latest is “One for the Ageless: How to Stay Young and Immature Even If You’re Really Old.” Reach him at [email protected] or via