Cherokees

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y mother decided to grow tomatoes in September, she got the idea after reading a book Daddy bought her on indoor gardening. She set up shop in the basement she, and planted her heirloom seeds in galvanized washtubs. A huge fluorescent lamp hung over them, along with a painted a sign reading, “Do not touch my tomatoes or I will castrate you. Love, Mom.”

After several weeks, the tomato plants sprouted and began producing fruit. The dark Cherokee heirlooms were the same color as the ones Mother grew in her summer gardens. And so, each morning, she’d pick ripe tomatoes and hoard them away. If she ever caught Daddy or me pilfering her stash, she’d neuter us with a dull spoon before we could count to three.

One night, Daddy came home late after a football game. He was staggering like he had vertigo, slurring his words. He snuck into my room and woke me up quietly. “Ssshh,” he said, smelling like Wild Turkey and cigars. “Come down to the kitchen, let’s eat some damn supper. What do you say?”

He didn’t have to ask twice.

Supper is exactly what we did. Together, we ate honest-to-goodness tomato sandwiches in December. He ate three, I ate two. We made them with Mother’s homemade bread and slaps of Duke’s mayonnaise.

Then the kitchen light flipped on.

We shielded our loins.

Mother yanked the sandwich from Daddy and said, “You drunk idiot.” Then, she took a big bite, leaving a streak of mayo on her cheek. She took another bite. Then another. And then another.

Castration would have to wait.

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