NPR logo Ripening


For the fourth round of our contest, we asked you to send us original works of fiction that contain each of these words: "plant," "button," "trick," "fly."
A boy eathing a tomato.

He told me to get out of the mud. I told him that I would never leave my kingdom. He demanded that I put the hose away. I told him that I would not settle for a birdbath when I needed a moat. He told me that I was wasting water. I couldn't tell him to stop dickering — that there were lives at stake. Even though my warriors were winning the imaginary battle, the here and now slowly began its siege.

"Your mother's going to be furious," he said. I didn't reveal that she was mending the chain mail and preparing the feast. "Where did you get the carrots?" I would've felt funny saying they were flames. "Is your homework done?"

I didn't tell him the truth, just said, "Maybe."

"What's my staple gun doing out here?" I never had time to explain. He became an ogre and planted his fat hand around my forearm.

He leaned his stench into my face. The vein in his forehead wiggled. His nostrils widened. His eyes were swamps that caught fire. I heaved back, wrenching myself from his hold. I flew barefoot through the yard trying to avoid my mother's tomato plants and into Fig and Fern's garden where I'd dug up the carrots earlier that day.

I ran into Ian, who held a half-eaten tomato in his hand. He was crouching. When he looked at me, he couldn't talk. I could see the button. His eyes were hands that gently pushed me down to the ground. Fifty yards away, his father was slowly stomping around their house, bellowing Ian's full name as if that would lure him back for his due punishment.

We were in it together — both of us out of tricks. The only thing left to do was hide. We didn't say a word to each other. Both of us ran for the row of cedars behind Stanley's house. Ian offered me a candy cigarette, and we both puffed away until the fireflies came out, until our mothers finished their mending and called us home for the feast.