24. I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE
Aged about nine, staying with a friend in St Leonard’s, Sussex: “Did you eat that cherry stone!?” squawked his mother. The wee lad nods his head, a bit sheepish. “Don’t you never do that again! Your cousin’s friend ate cherry stones and one sprouted inside her and she had to go to hospital for a special operation with this great big cherry tree growing out of her belly button. She was lucky she never died!” This was one’s first experience of an urban legend – not that they were called that at the time, even among those who recognised them. Anyway it did seem implausible, as Mother confirmed by cackling loudly on being told. “And how much soil and sunlight d’you think’s in your stomach?” she finally snorted, proving simultaneously that she doubted after all that the Sun shone out of one’s arse. While not all such stories fall apart so easily, there are usually clues to their true nature and, besides providing a brilliant compendium of urban legends, Jan Harold Brunvand’s Too Good to be True shows how to spot them and why they’re told. We’ve yet to hear an urban legend that in some form or another isn’t in this book, and it has a fair few we haven’t come across before.