The Trouble with Tomatoes

The Trouble with Tomatoes
or
The Transmutation of Topography starts with Tomatoes

Chapter 1

Viktor grimaced. He then said, “So, let me clarify your request. You want to hire me to fix your chandelier? Oh, it’s not broken then. Ah, I see. Your chandelier is too slow? And you want me to increase the acceleration of your dawdling chandelier, so that it raises and lowers at a more rapid rate.” He gripped the phone tightly.

“Sir, I am a scientist. I study the majestic mysteries of the Universe. I literally see worlds in a grain of sand, or even a grain of… of….” he paused. Then, suddenly exhausted by the audacity of the request, he slumped into the chair and set down the phone.

Einida picked up the phone and calmly said, “Sir? Yes, I’m afraid we won’t be able to… excuse me? No. We will definitely not be able to…as you say, ‘pimp your shambolic chandelier.’” She hung up.

“What in blazes is going on here?” asked Viktor in dismay. “The phone has been ringing constantly, but the jobs that people want us to do are perplexing pedantic! They want us to make their pool fountains more efficient, or to add programmable LED lighting to their china cabinets, or to create a cryogenic champagne cooler. Someone even wanted me to make a device to warm golf clubs. And now this… THIS – a slow chandelier! That’s not science!” He leaned forward and put his head in his hands.

“…Why are people expecting us to do the work of a repair shop, rather than of a Science Laboratory? And why would there be a golf course in this area? We’re in the desert! ” He leapt from his chair and began to pace.

“Maybe we need to take a trip to the General Store and pick up some supplies. A day away from the Laboratory should be a refreshing diversion. I’m sure there will be interesting projects waiting for us, when we return.” said Einida.

“I cast my pearls before swine… ‘I must bear what is ordained with patience, being aware necessity doth front the universe with an invincible gesture…’”[1] Viktor began quoting as he took off his industrial lab coat and put on his linen lab coat.

And so Viktor and Einida prepared for the long, tedious drive through the remote desert to the General Store and Trading Post.

 

Chapter 2

After driving through the lonesome landscape for several miles, a sudden anomaly appeared at the end of the road.

“Is that a road sign? These roads don’t have names.” sputtered Viktor.

Einida slowed the van down and peered out the window. She said, “Apparently, this road has been named ‘County Road #1A.’ How quaint.”

nonameroad

Viktor sputtered and said, “What? We don’t need road signs! Everyone who lives out here knows exactly how to get to where they’re going. If you tell someone to turn at ‘Skunk Gas Pass,’ they’ll know exactly where you mean, and they’ll even be sure to roll up the windows.” Viktor tittered at the thought of the all blissfully unaware people who had driven, with their windows open, through ‘Skunk Gas Pass.’

That was a lesson no one ever forgets.

“Or when someone tells you to turn where the rubble from the old Post office used to stand. Everyone knows where that was.” said Einida, as she rolled down the window to take a photo of the street sign.

Viktor threw up his hands in exasperation and said, “Well, there goes our remote neighborhood. First come the roads that have names and then come a flood of suburban, suckling, namby-pamby, milquetoast…”

Einida interrupted what was most likely to be an entertaining rant. “Whoa! Calm down. This might just be a sign that the dastardly Department of Transportation finally got around to installing. You know how they always get lost out here. How many of their engineers have we rescued from their inability to read maps? This sign is probably their version of a #16 Rue Street.”

Viktor sniffed and said, “Nonsense. A sign is always a sign. And in this case, it is an ominous sign of terrible things to come. This sign will ultimately lead to sighs.”

Viktor scowled and shook his fist at the sign and said, “I dare say to you, to you… the tyrannical Transportation Department:
‘Fiend, I defy thee! with a calm, fixed mind,
All that thou canst inflict I bid thee do;
Foul Tyrant both of Gods and Human-kind,
One only being shalt thou not subdue….
Thou art omnipotent.
Over all things but myself I gave thee power.’” [2]

He finished the startling quote with mildly maniacal laughter. And then, he muttered grimly, “How can one possibly live in an undisclosed location, if the dreaded Department of Transportation is going to go around naming roads? Don’t they have better things to do?”

 

Chapter 3

 

They had not gotten far on their journey on “County Road #1A,” when they ran into yet another mystery.

At the corner of “County Road #1A” and “No Name Road #207”, there was what appeared to be a farmer’s market. At least, that’s what the placard on the side of the road said.

Einida slammed on the brakes of the van and stared in disbelief. Viktor rubbed his eyes and then stared in disbelief.

“It must be a mirage… people just don’t have farmer’s markets along rustic, ranch roadways…” said Einida, astonished.

The curious hand painted sign read:

“Welcome to the Tomato Rendezvous”
“Welcome to the Happy Tomato Place”
“Welcome to the Tomato Happy Place”
“Welcome to the Thrilling Tomato”
“Welcome to the Tomazing Farmers Market”

tomato001
“Well, this is an unexpected mystery. We must investigate it fully.” whispered Viktor suspiciously. He was not optimistic about what the results of their investigation might yield.

They got out of the car and walked towards a table that was covered with stacks of various vegetables.

“Excuse me, madam. What is this place.?” asked Einida with a strained smile.

“It’s a Farmer’s Market! I’m building a wondrous place of awesomeness that focuses on nutrition, vitamins, vegetables and well-being.” said a woman, who was sitting on the ground unpacking a crate.

“What on Earth are you doing way out here? There aren’t many people that drive down this road.” said Einida brightly.

The lady stood up, tilted her large sun hat and said, with unparallelled exuberance, “Hello, I’m Frau Pomadora and I’m here to sell tomatoes. My goal in life is to sell people the sunshine collected in the spheres of the world’s finest, freshest, fantastical, organic tomatoes.” She stuck out her hand and began to shake Enida’s hand vigorously.

Einida recovered her hand and took a step back from the palpable enthusiasm and asked, “What kind of tomatoes?”

“Well, I’ve got big Beefsteaks, awesome Oxhearts, pleasing Plum tomatoes, pretty Pear tomatoes, cherubic Cherry tomatoes… I’ve even got great Grape tomatoes, and the incomparable Camparis…” said Frau Pomadora enthusiastically, then she paused for breath.

“Isn’t it strange that some tomato varieties are named after animal parts and fruits? I dare say that an Oxheart tomato sounds rather ghoulish.” mused Viktor. He continued, “While I do admire the botanists who got to name these varieties, I’ll have to challenge myself to see if I could come up with even more interesting names…” He paused for thought.

Frau Pomadora quickly said, “That’s not all they’re named after. Why, I’ve got some exalted Arkansas Travellers, and some super San Marzanos, I’ve even got some smashing Sun Golds, beautiful Better Boys, juicy Jersey Devils…” Frau Pomadora took a breath..

Viktor, realizing that he would have to think about his version of vegetable names later, stopped thinking. He was about to say something, but Frau Pomadora got her breath back and continued speaking, “…Sweet Baby Girl cherry tomatoes, divine Virginia Sweets, top notch Tastefuls, superb Sweet Millions, bewitching Brandywines…”

“You certainly do know your tomatoes.” interrupted Einida admiringly. She always loved a good list. But she knew that this list was sure to be an endless catalog of tomato varieties, and they needed to get back on the road, soon.

“Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!” Frau Pomadora said while hopping up and down with great eagerness. “I also sell pizzas, fresh baked breads, dips, pies and many, many other vegetables. I love food so much that I have to share it with the world, at this very table. Isn’t this going to be the greatest?”

Viktor appreciated her passion and excitement for being a purveyor of produce. But he had doubts about the feasibility of starting a business in such an unpopulated area. So he said, “Madam, you are aware that the population of wildlife in this area far outnumber humans? The only thing around these parts are vast ranches that go on for thousands of miles.”

Frau Pomadora’s smile faltered. “Oh dear. It seems as though you don’t subscribe to ‘The American Journal for Region Reestablishment.” It’s a monthly magazine.” She leaned over and pulled out a tomato stained magazine from under a crate.

“This area has been on the cover for the last three issues. Congratulations! You are living in the most actively sought out real estate in the whole country. And I’m here to feed all the people who are going to be moving in.” She grinned and handed the magazine to Viktor.

journal“Pish Posh! Unconventional scientists can’t have neighbors! That simply isn’t done.” sputtered Viktor, losing all aplomb. He stared hard at the magazine in his hand.  Then, he rolled it up, so he wouldn’t have to see it, anymore He could feel a rant building.

“Tosh!” exclaimed Einida. “How can we have the freedom to experiment, the freedom to push the very boundaries of physics and nature if we’re surrounded by… by…”

“…people?” gasped Viktor, horrified by the thought of living next to actual humans, neighbors and city slickers.

Viktor took a deep breath and began to speak, “They all told me I was mad! Mad! For wanting my lair so far in the uncharted country. But now they’ll show me… the whole world will show me… they want to be here too. MWUAHAHAHAHAHA!” He laughed maniacally as he shook his fists dramatically at the clouds. Then, he took a deep breath.

He glowered and rubbed his forehead. Then he lofted the rolled magazine into the air and declared, “This is a disaster… a total disaster! How will I continue to experiment unhindered if the masses of non-scientific humanity are near? How can I experiment with rockets, automatons, satellites, pumpkin launchers, potato cannons, Ludwig Van Beethoven at 125 decibels, trebuchets…” He trailed off, the magazine fell from his fingers.

Einida continued, “…sonic booms, aerial balloons, mobile rumpus rooms, boulder rolling studies, trebuchets…and various assorted flingers, of course.”

Frau Pomadora smiled and said, “Wow, you must really like trebuchets. But don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll be fine. And no one will mind if you continue your little experiments.”

“That’s what the village people told Dr. Frankenstein and look what happened to him! His most brilliant creation and his favorite windmill were destroyed by a mob of unenlightened, angry villagers.” grumbled Viktor [3]

Einida looked around furtively and whispered, “What will the Evil Minions Local 208 say if they learn that we’re going to have neighbors? This is just ghastly! This could ruin our Lab’s reputation as being ‘in a desolate, remote location’” She waved her hands in the air as she made air quotation gestures.

Viktor looked down at the magazine on the ground. It was slowly being buried by the blowing desert dirt. But he could still see most of the cover. The cover was of a satellite image. Viktor studied it intensely.

He came to a conclusion and sighed. “At least, they didn’t take a photo of our land. Maybe we’ll be far enough away from this impending sprawling, suburban madness to not be affected.” he said with gloomy optimism.

Frau Pomadora’s smiled gently and said, “Embrace change. Things always change for the better. Besides, I’m going to need a tomato tossing catapults for my ‘Tomazing Tomato Tossing Festival’. Catapults are good Everybody likes catapults. Right?” She patted him on the shoulder.

Viktor looked down at the magazine that was barely visible. He picked up a handful of sand and said solemnly, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings. Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare. The lone and level sands stretch far away.” He tossed the sand into the wind. [4]

Einida picked up a handful of sand and said gloomily, “Like dust in the wind of an hourglass, these are the days of our lives.” And she let the dust blow away.

Frau Pomadora’s smiled slyly and said, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. If life gives you tomatoes, make Bloody Marys.”

Viktor then smiled and said earnistly, “In the immortal words of Grumpy Cat, ‘If life gives you lemons, you will have some pretty bad lemonade, unless life also gives you sugar and water.” [5]

THE END

References
[1] Prometheus Unbound by Aeschylus
[2] Prometheus Unbound by Percy Shelley
[3] Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
[4] Ozymandias by Percy Shelley
[5] Grumpy Cat