Because it seems untidy to leave narrative threads dangling (though I suppose that’s what life is full of, dangling narrative threads, and besides, this is a particularly frayed thread to keep going), I have to report that what the squirrels left us, the tomato hornworms got.
About the middle of July, the squirrels washed their furry hands of us. Too late for the apples, or the early tomatoes — the Brandywines, the Chadwick cherries I’d had such hopes for. But the Juliets — a type of Roma — flowered later. Or maybe the squirrels didn’t like the way they tasted. Or maybe the stinky stuff we’d been spraying on the tomato plants for months finally drove them away.
Because I didn’t trust that the squirrels had really moved on, I picked most of the Juliets green. Which meant I then had to go to the Google and type in “how to ripen green tomatoes.”
O glorious information superhighway! It may not hold the secret of how to write a commercially successful short story (is there such a thing?) but it’s full of information about ripening tomatoes by putting them in paper bags.
The past week or so, though, I got careless. No sign of squirrels, lots of tomatoes on the vine. I left them to ripen on their own (surely better than ripening in a paper bag?). Until a few days ago, when I figured there’d be at least a cupped handful to harvest.
There was — there had been. But each and every one had been half eaten away. The plants themselves — what happened to their leaves?
Nibbled down to the quick.
It took me five minutes of examining the plants to see the hornworms that’d made themselves at home. The exact same green as the stalks of the plants; as long as my fingers. They’d be beautiful, if they weren’t so full of my tomatoes! I knocked them off the plants and used a stick to toss them over the fence into the street.
Where a police car promptly pulled up at the stop sign and ran over them.
Who says law enforcement’s not around when you need it?