Frost hit. Mike still had tomatoes on the vine and he jetted out to his rented plot of weeds on the hill to cover the plants with the Styrofoam hoods he had purchased at the ol' boy hardware store on the corner. The stack of the white cones sat in the backseat between the car seats of his boys, Danny and Tyler. The cones were speckled with spots of robin egg blue still like the day sky. Tyler plucked away bits of the cone with his fingernails making squeaks. The bb sized balls dotted the upholstery like snowballs crashed on asphalt. Tyler and Danny laughed as each piece broke off. Tyler would stretch-reach with the shoulder straps and pick the foam apart to the delight of his younger brother.
"Hey, cut that out." Mike yelled from the front seat of the Toyota sedan.
He pulled into the community garden dirt lot and killed the engine.
Wrastling the boys and his cones from the car, Mike walked to the neglected 20X40 lot of dirt. Sections were marked with thin inch wooden stakes and kite string. He urged the boys to "Not touch" the plants as the waddled behind him on the thin dirt path with their too short legs. Mike had planted hearty varieties of sunflowers, pumpkins and tomatoes on the plot with hopes of rain. Despite the dry summer, the plants grew. So did the weeds. The sunflowers fared well with the wet spring and dry summer, they stood haphazardly like a panel of judges over the lot of crabgrass and long forgotten wheat. The pumpkins had been grew tall as corn without weeding and the blossoms never found enough light to spit out a gourd. The tomatoes had been cared for by the mysterious neighbor of the next plot. That owner had placed chicken wire around each of the dozen plants and had weeded and watered the area for Mike's cosmic gratitude. Leaves escaped the wires and hung supported weeping branches of bulbous greet orbs through the square wires. Next to the overgrown weeds they resembled watchtowers, ensuring the weeds wouldn't grow into the neighborhood. Problem was that the plants were so entwined with their support, and the frost cones wouldn't fit over the bulking growth. The boys meandered up behind my perplexed friend as he scratched his chin holding tight to his useless cues in the brisk autumn wind.
"Well fellas," Mike looked into his boy's round upturned faces, "What do we do now?"
Mike peered at the plants through squinted eyes and wondered how spectacular the orange and green fruit looked. His phantom gardener had reaped plenty o' harvest in the past weeks, but a dozen healthy tomato plants were still pushing a couple of bushels. Mike tried in vain to untangle a plant, splitting the sticky stems from the wire. Green filled him while a heavy branch was dismantled under his fingers. About a peck of green tomatoes were left over as he placed the cone over the dismantled drooping leaves. He gathered the crop, using the next cone as a container while the boys grew restless, Danny was tugging on one of the mesh supports wriggling it out of the cracked slate ground while Tyler scolded him. Mike looked over the ridge of the hill and saw a heavy overcast sweeping in from the Superior, WI side of the lake.
"There it is! Boat! Danny mumbled in an 18 month quiver, pointing to the heavy loaded shipper embarking on the Great Lakes..
Mike had heard about fried green tomatoes, and decided to pluck half the crop. He tore them from the plants with a reckless vigor.
While the boys napped, Mike paged through plastic-spiral bound church cookbooks for a recipe. He got close enough with fried eggplant and thought he might improvise. When the boys woke up crabby, he fed them cereal while he wondered if his wife would ever come home. Mike ate a bologna sandwich with ketchup with a Bud chaser while the tomatoes rested in their cone cooler in the corner spilling out like a green tongue of bountiful marble harvest. They stayed there for days and began to shrivel.
Bob swallowed hard, his faith was wreaked with thoughts of suicide. He thought the gall would offend God enuf to warrant a blessing. Really, he just wanted God to leave him alone. Depression is an awful conflict, stir it up with alcohol, grass and a splash of bitter and you have yourself a cocktail of the Molotov kind. Bob spited life despite his love for Otis Redding. The Otis Redding thing isn't a joke, Bob lived for things like the music of Otis, but he also lived for ideas. His greatest ideas were forgotten with sleep and the pawns that remained were like Mike's forgotten tomatoes. The drift is like the storm coming in over the lake when a little boy points out a boat. The drift is what you get and when it makes things choppy, holding on is the best thing to do. Letting go is jut an idea: a system to observe the fateful alternative, something left to last for hope. The spite is just a system of self for Bob, he wants to believe, but people just keep leading him on.
Girls in bars that he takes home and loves don't stand a chance if he make waffles for them in the morning. God bless the girls, they're only human to love the charismatic, boisterous attention giver. Bob gives them what they want, he listens and cares. We know Bob only pretends to care, but they be so daft that they think his apathy is interest.
These girls aren't dense, they just sense the weight of sorrow he bears and admire how intense he is underneath it all.
"Underneath it all?" Bob thinks his editor will surely edit something so ambiguous.
Thinking about the layers, potential buckles while history succumbs. The girls think nurturing thoughts about things growing and gag potential. They don't understand that the author is already too sick to be something 'more'. He is lost, their faith in his alteration is as menial as waiting in line.
Hey, sharing a bed with a soft girl is the best thing in life. Can't beat spooning.
Some days, he never spoke a word to another soul. He wouldn't even leave his apartment. Cooking elaborate recipes and drinking Spanish Wine. A few of the girls hung around like the glowing orange harvest moon. He told these girls that the emotions he gave them were mere crystals of salt to be licked from his sand stuck tan skin, and he could always go back and swim in the ocean. The less that stayed, he adorned with flower petals picked on the walk home from the bar. Bob would design serious collages of daisy, marigold and petunia on their bellies of tender flesh. The variegated petals formed only his kaleidoscope mirage of love, childhood and loss. One girl told him that she was Charlie Brown and he was Lucy and he "Kept pulling the football" away from her. Bob hated the girl the instant she said that and immediately decided to ignore her until she faded away. She was the first girl to tell him he was dreaming.
Philosophy maintains that we should question our being and the presence it precedes. Science Fiction spilled out plenty about alternative realms of consciousness, dreaming life wasn't a new idea, and when the first girl suggested that he was dreaming, he sighed. When the second girl said it, he stirred alone in bed all night long to think of witty come-backs. He thought of one,
"If I'm dreaming, I can't wait to wake up."
The third girl, the first he said it to, called him a sick bastard after he said this and brought up the topic of cremation, complete with lots of impending death doom references.
Just like any joke, this one wore thin and Bob wondered if he was dreaming if he would even want to wake. He pondered his real non pseudo psychotic dreams and longed to be back in some of the dream wonderlands. He recalled waking and forcing himself back to sleep for just another glimpse of a long lost love filed away in his subliminal, unconscious mind.