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Growing tomatoes.

In 1944 when I was very young, my family lived in a huge house outside Chungking, just a stone's throw from the river that flooded every spring. We had goats, ducks, geese that chased after me, and a vegetable garden. I remember my father gathering giant tomatoes from his garden and juicing them into a large porcelain bowl on the square dining room table. I still remember the glassfuls tasting dank and dark. To this day I still cannot stand its rawness, but drink it camouflaged in a Bloody Mary.

Since I've moved to Idaho and live in my own house, I've been raising vegetable gardens in the backyard every season. Among the corn, squashes, eggplant, spinach and beet I've always saved room for a few tomato plants, even though I never eat them but give them away to friends at harvest time.

In the middle of the summer I would sometimes walk out of the house and listen to these plants grow, often flicking tiny black aphids from off their stems and leaves. In these moments the tangy odor of their leaves draws childhood recollections of a father dead nineteen years, images of his hands immersed in the white bowl of tomato juice from his garden, his saying Drink it, drink it, it's only good for you, it's vitamin C.

Tonight, at exactly my father's age in 1944 and nearly five thousand miles and fifty years from my past, I wake to hear the tomato leaves brushing gently against the back door of my house in the breeze, and soon after, the fruit bursting like blood in the burgeoning quartermoon.
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Title Annotation:short story
Author:Kuo, Alex
Publication:Chicago Review
Date:Jun 22, 1988
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