ripening tomato

April 7, 2019 § 8 Comments

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Part of a story that died… 🙂



The month before Romy came into the world was hot and listless. Everyone in Norfolk was waiting for the thunderstorm that wouldn’t come, and Jenny spread herself over the overstuffed sofa and wouldn’t budge. ‘Too hot’, she grumbled, scowling at her swollen ankles. ‘Too big,’ she muttered as she massaged the skin stretching itself tight across her belly.

The days were long and shapeless, and at night she tossed and turned under the crisp cotton sheet in the bed she shared with William. She fretted over the constant trips to empty the half full bladder Romy kept prodding with her tiny feet, and William took to camping on the sofa.

The River Waveney, a mile as the crow flew from the old house where Romy would soon be born, grew green and turgid in the drought; and the government made it a punishable offence to use anything other than grey water to keep Jenny’s precious garden alive. Six yellow plastic buckets were lined up every day outside the kitchen door waiting to be filled with water full of dirty bubbles for William to douse the roses, but they wilted anyway – their sap leeched by a sudden plague of greenfly; and their leaves, infected by black spot and mildew, littered the soil like last year’s stained confetti.

Jenny took to weeping at the slightest provocation. Tears fell as she watched the bindweed wind itself madly around everything, and she mourned loudly for the thirsty hedgehogs out in the daytime desperate for a drink, now lying flat as prickly pancakes in the lane.

Ten days before Jenny’s due date the rains finally came. The tomatoes ripening inside the conservatory exploded and scattered their seeds over the glass like insects on a windscreen, and the lawn turned an indecent green. Thunder rumbled crossly every night and exploded in glittering forks along the valley keeping everyone awake. The lane turned into a river, and the septic tank in the orchard gurgled and overflowed leaving stinky puddles around the base of the apple trees.

Jenny took this as an omen and got out some baby clothes. She heaped them into a neat pile next to her favourite blue jellaba she would wear during her labour. She lined up the homeopathic remedies on top of the bookcase in the bedroom. ‘I’m making a list,’ she told William. ‘In case you can’t remember which one I’m supposed to have.’

‘If I do forget,’ he said gently. ‘I’ll just ask you.’

‘You won’t be able to,’ she replied. ‘I’ll be too busy having the baby. And in any case, I might forget.’ She read out the list. ‘Caulophyllum if the contractions stop, Pulsatilla if I get weepy, Sepia for backache – and I might need a back rub as well. Staphysagria during transition if I get cross and sweary at the midwife, and…’ she stopped and breathed in deeply.

‘It’s all right sweetie,’ soothed William. I’ve memorized the lot already. You’ve forgotten about the Secale if the placenta doesn’t come out, and the Arnica and the Aconite for afterwards.’

Jenny woke up the next day at half past six. ‘I’ve got a pain. Right here!’ She prodded at her tailbone. ‘It’s happening.’

‘Try to get a bit more sleep,’ sighed William. ‘I expect we’ve got a while yet.’

Jenny sat on the beanbag in half lotus and waited, and soon the contractions stopped. She went to sit in the garden but all the weeds made her cross. William made her a cheese and pickle sandwich – which made the contractions start up again – so Jenny got on all fours like she’d been practising in the yoga class. The midwife raced down the drive in her Ford Fiesta, had a cup of tea, and went away. ‘You’re nowhere near,’ she announced.

William took Jenny for a bumpy ride on the tractor, but the noise just gave her a headache. She was in the bath meditating when the waters broke. ‘Ouch!’ she cried. ‘Romy’s really coming!’

The midwife came back and made Jenny get out of the bath. ‘I’m getting rather cross,’ she glared. ‘I’m going to swear very soon.’

‘Good,’ smiled the midwife. ‘Means you’re ready.’

Jenny pushed, and the top of Romy’s head came out. Then it went back in again. Romy bounced back and forth like a ball on a rubber band, until the midwife reached inside and unlooped the placenta from her neck.

‘That’s it,’ she said. ‘Push.’

Jenny swore and did as she was told, and at half past midnight, eighteen hours after Romy had shown an interest in seeing what the world was like, she was catapulted across the room.

The midwife pulled at the placenta and it slithered onto the plastic sheet.

‘Ouch,’ said Jenny smiling broadly. ‘We’re keeping that. We’re going to plant it under a fig tree.’

Jenny got back in the bath and closed her eyes. William appeared with hot buttered toast. ‘Born in a thunderstorm,’ she said to William munching happily. ‘Listen. One, two, three seconds. It’s really close.’

Then the lights went out.



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