In the Garden of Pretzfeld Castle. 1905. Curt Hermann.
Image Courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art

Lucia Salazar 
20 November 2020

Stringy beany, stringy beany. The worm wriggles in my tomato and in my heart. My friend, Melody, gave me three tomato plants— all of which she propagated from a single, store-bought tomato. Magic does exist! She dropped the three plants outside my house and told me to look up videos on how to repot and prune them. Her sister was in the car, and she waved to me when they drove away. Gardening girls!

I used to have a garden before the river rats found out. They would eat my peppers and cilantro, and then found a way to get inside my home. We’d hear them in the walls at night, during which they ate my mom’s old yearbooks in the garage. They occasionally held dinner parties; we could hear soft jazz under our feet (probably something off of the Spotify “Jazz Classics” Playlist) and could smell them cooking our vegetables. The aroma of the sauteed onions, garlic, and root vegetables made our mouths water. We got rid of the garden, but the rats still show up occasionally; last year my dog grabbed a dead rat and chased my mom around the yard with it. I thought about those rats as Melody and her sister rounded the corner of my street in a white Corolla.

I took the plants to my backyard, wiped their pots down with a soapy cloth, and washed my hands for 26 seconds. “Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to Melody, and Happy Birthday to me.” And again. “Happy Birthday to me. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, dear tomato. Happy birthday to you.” I washed my hands like in that one oddly calming CDC video, where the person rubs their palms together with soap between each finger and far up the wrist. They have control, they have control, they have control.

It took a while for the plants to reproduce anything, but one of them eventually delivered small green orbs of tomato-y flesh. The other two plants shriveled out in the sun like dried-out worm carcasses seared on the sidewalk.

Weeks later, all of my tomatoes had been chewed on by some wriggly, green bastard. I decided to let the caterpillar have my plants; I came to this realization after I poked the thing with a stick, and it attacked it. It stopped munching on the innards of a small green tomato and stood upright to look straight at me; I couldn’t see its eyes, but I knew they were there, looking at me. I guess it needs the plant to actually, legitimately, literally survive. I could always go to the store and buy a tomato if I needed to make a salsa or spaghetti sauce or a salad. I don’t think I ever need to make any of those things, actually.

“Fine, you win!” I waved my finger at the caterpillar creature and looked in its eyes I couldn’t see. I didn’t think it understood what I meant until I found one tomato un-munched by the hungry worm. Then I knew exactly what the worm meant so say to me in response to my exceptional moral code: “LucIIIiiiiAAAAA! I’ll let you have a-THiisSSS one!” Careful not to be too nice to it, I responded with “Fine.”

Listen to John Cale’s song “Dying on the Vine”

I was right not to be too gracious. That neon worm gave me nothing because the saved tomato had a fatal flaw; its bright red top was a deceptive façade to avert the eye from the rot at its bottom. Thanks a lot, worm! It was bright red like the Glossier lipstick shade “poppy red”, and the bottom was dark like Glossier’s eyebrow product in “black” mixed with their “jam” lipstick shade. I’m saying this so you can visualize the tomato rotting on the vine, spared by the wrath of my worm frenemy, but dying, nonetheless. At least the colors are still pretty, and they really do accentuate certain features when they’re added to vats of vanilla-scented makeup and stuffed in tubes and plopped on a human face. Or maybe the face needs to be conventionally pretty in the first place. Man-made aesthetics imitate my garden that eats itself and wilts away.


I misspoke. I thought the green devil only spared me one, worthless tomato. But no. There is one more. Thank you, wormy. The tomato is still green like the monster who decided not to eat it, perhaps for me. Soon, it will be red like my intestines and be in my intestines after I chop it up into a salad with mixed greens, a little olive oil, and balsamic vinaigrette. I’ll eat it and think about how I made a big deal about it, and why did I do that?

The caterpillar is currently in the process of becoming a moth. She’s using this time to learn and transform! Her knotted green flesh is turning into delicate moth wings, and soon she’ll be munching on my wool sweaters, not my tomatoes. Take, take, take with this one! Her cocoon-transformation is hanging from the stem of one of the plants Melody gave me, that she propagated from a seed that an essential worker sold her, that the worker shelved and thought, “My job is the worst because people don’t even look me in the eye when they ask where the Kombucha is.”

This afternoon, I saw a squirrel bury a nut in the tomato plant’s box, and I thought, “What is happening to me?” And I banged on the window, and the squirrel couldn’t hear me (or could it?), and my Dad said “Hey! I’m working here!” And I thought, “There’s no escape! These animals, these animals! Haha!”

Did you know that squirrels forget where about eighty-percent of the nuts they buried are? Think about all of the trees that were just forgotten nuts at one point. Maybe it’s the one outside your window that gives you allergies, or maybe it’s the one you fake-read under to seem interesting. Maybe the squirrel will forget about the nut it buried in my tomato planter, and an oak tree will grow and grow and grow.