Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Incompetent Gardener, Part III



Supermarket grocers would have thrown it out. If the grocers missed the gaping wound on its flesh, supermarket shoppers would surely pass it up. They would sneer and shop somewhere else next time, at the supermarket on the next corner. Even if light streaming through windows played across the tomato’s skin and made the blemish look more like a beauty mark, the tomato would not be bought. What if worms had crawled into the tomato, the shoppers would think, rare worms from Asia that crossed over in the hulls of cargo ships, worms that cause all the wrong parts of the body to grow to absurd sizes. Also, it would probably taste bad, right? Given that shoppers pay for tomatoes by their weight, not by their appearance, why would someone deliberately choose an ugly tomato when some other tomato in the stack of available tomatoes looks perfect? Only a shopper with an ugly soul would buy an ugly tomato.

But this tomato was never in a supermarket. I grew it. I planted six tomato plants late in the season in 2006. They did not produce. I never saw a blossom. Out of frustration, well after the season for tomatoes ended, I tore up four of the plants. I left two of them in the ground. I left the scraggliest ones as a reminder of my incompetence. As winter arrived, the two tomato plants hung limply. It got cold and their leaves shriveled. Then, in late December, one of the tomato plants started to bloom yellow flowers the size of BabyG’s fingertips. I still didn’t water or care for the plants. Then the flowers turned into tiny green fruit. When the temperatures dipped below freezing, this survivor finally passed and I plucked the fruit from the brittle vines. They were miraculous tomatoes. The ripest one was the wounded one.

I ate the tomato after slicing off the imperfection. Maybe I should have swallowed it whole without chewing, as if it were a big red pill that cures alienation. I sliced the fruit up and put it on a sandwich with cheese and mayonnaise. Before eating it, I smelled the tomato and it smelled intensely of tomato. When I ate the sandwich, I realized I should have plucked the tomato from the vine earlier, because it was mushy. The other ones, which were not so red, tasted better. I’m not interested in memorializing those succulent tomatoes. It’s that first homegrown tomato with its repulsive mark that I sing of here in cyberspace. I will always remember that blackspotted tomato bathed in light.

1 comment:

scribbit said...

I really enjoyed this post. Something about the pleasure of producing something for yourself and appreciating what went into it struck a cord with me or something.