After her first child was stolen away, victim of twofold greed, the mother sat transfixed for ten days. She moved only to feed her second baby, neither speaking nor putting the child down. On the eleventh day, she began to return to herself.
"Pomodora," she declared.
"What?" Her husband blinked. He had grown used to the silence.
The mother pushed away the salad he had tenderly placed on her bedside table. "Lettuce was all very well when I was pregnant, but now I crave tomatoes. Her name shall be Pomodora."
"Very well," replied her indulgent husband, and went to the market to purchase tomatoes.
When he returned, his wife surprised him with another demand. "No one shall steal this daughter from me! You must build a tower, deep in the forest, far from the prying eyes of neighbors. There we will raise her in complete security. It is the only way."
"Really?" The husband considered it a strange idea. But he had never been able to deny the wishes of his beloved wife (which is how the trouble began in the first place), so he soon selected a parcel of land and engaged the services of builders. Before little Pomodora learned to walk, her mother whisked her away from the town to the obscurity of the tower. Her father carried the only key to the door. He used it often to bring supplies and gifts, but continued to build his mercantile business in town.
The mother threw herself into nurturing her daughter for the first few years. After Pomodora had learned to walk and talk, to dress herself, read, and write, her mother was not quite sure what to do with her. Leafing through a magazine one day, an article on hydroponics caught her fancy. Soon she persuaded her husband to build a glass dome on the top of the tower, where she could grow her own fresh tomatoes, year-round. Still concerned for her daughter's safety, she kept Pomodora locked in her room with the curtains closed during the construction. The father paid the builders well to not tell tales about a greenhouse in the middle of the forest.
At first, Pomodora's mother tried to engage her in the hopeful work of growing things. But as the mother became obsessed with growing perfect tomatoes, Pomodora was left to herself more often. She would spend hours watching the birds in the trees, learning to whistle their songs. Her father heard her at it one day. Delighted with her musical talent, he brought her a harp. She learned to play it readily, so every time he visited, he would bring her the latest tune from the town. He loved to hear her play and sing, and she dutifully practiced so she could please him.
She could not make sense of most of the lyrics, though. She understood "falling;" she had tripped often enough on the spiral staircase. But what was "love?" Her parents used that word. Would "falling in love" be something like plopping on a pile of presents at the bottom of the stairs? Or perhaps a pile of tomatoes? She began to improvise with minor chords, devising her own lyrics.
I am a fair maiden,
living in a tower.
Mama just feeds me tomatoes,
and I'm feeling kind of sour...
For she was growing into a fair young lady, pale and slender for want of activity. Her mother tried to help. "You are looking ashen, dear. You need more lycopene." But Pomodora found the tomatoes hard and tasteless, utterly unworthy of the attention her mother lavished upon them.
As she sang to herself one afternoon, her mother entered her chamber, full of excitement. "Do you remember the new type of seeds your father brought? They came from across the sea. Who knows what he traded to obtain them! They have finally fruited. Sweet little Pomodora, won't you take the first taste?" Pomodora accepted the proffered slice. It was bland, dull, mushy. She tried to smile at her mother, but felt tears coming to her eyes. However, her mother was not paying attention to her daughter's reaction. Mumbling with her own mouth full, she was already returning to the greenhouse to make notes on the fruits of her labors. Pomodora spat the pink mouthful out of her window, leaned on the sill, and let her tears flow. Watered by her lonely tears, the rejected seeds quickly took root in the rich soil of the clearing. Overnight a strong vine grew up, clinging to the tower. Broad leaves unfurled in the warm breeze, and when the sun rose in the morning, bright buds blossomed in greeting. Pomodora watched, surprised, as a green globe grew beside her window. By the next afternoon, it had taken on a bright scarlet hue. It looked like a tomato, but it smelled good. At the slightest touch, it dropped into her hand, gleaming in the setting sunlight. She could resist no longer, and took a bite. Flavor exploded in her mouth. She smelled the nurturing of the earth. Sweetness and tanginess danced around her tongue. She felt sunshine seeping through her veins. Overwhelmed, she fell onto her bed. Her mother stepped in just then. "Oh, no, the poisoned apple trick! After I've tried so hard to keep you safe . . ." She began to sob. "No, mother, not poison." Pomodora sat up and grasped her mother's hands. "Ambrosia!" In the weeks that followed, Pomodora ate many of the miraculous tomatoes. They brought roses to her cheeks, and a smile to her lips. She took to climbing the spiral stairs more often, to reach ripe fruit from various windows, and her slender figure began to fill out. Moreover, she began to feel an attraction to the earth, curiosity about the people who lived in the sunshine, and a longing to experience the mystery of love. One day, as she reached for a ripe tomato outside her window, Pomodora saw another hand reaching for it as well. It did not look like her father's hand. She gasped. A cheerful, freckled face appeared above the sill. "Good morning, m'lady," the young man said. "May I pluck this tomato for you?" "No, please, you take it. But tell me, who are you?" "My name is Zack." He took a bite of the tomato. "Hoo-ee! That's tasty!" "Why are you here?" "My cousin, Jack, climbed a giant beanstalk and got rich. So Mama told me to quit climbing the furniture and go find some treasure, too." Zack popped the rest of the tomato in his mouth and chewed it up with a contented grin. He looked Pomodora straight in the eye, and declared, "I've found it, right here." "Really?" Her heart beat a little faster. "Absolutely. These are the best tomatoes I've ever tasted!" "Oh." "Why, thank you, young man." Pomodora's mother bustled in, willing to take credit for the miracle outside. "Won't you come in and get acquainted?" Zack decided to camp in the tower's clearing. Each morning he set out to find something new to climb. In the evening, he would regale the ladies with tales of his excursions and life in his village. Pomodora would play her harp and sing for him. He liked the popular songs, but her original compositions touched his heart with their longing. The next time her father paid a visit, Zack boldly asked for Pomodora's hand. Her parents were pleased, as he was obviously an honest young man. Pomodora knew no words for her feelings, but sang blithely all evening long. Her father left again, but soon returned with gifts and clothes suitable for a beautiful bride, and a priest to do the honors. He sent the newlyweds off in a new cart to seek their own farmland. Pomodora carefully wrapped her harp and music for the journey, and Zack packed a knapsack full of tomatoes. "Keep her safe, now," the parents called as they drove out of sight. Then they packed their own wagon. Pomodora's mother was ready to move back to town and take up a new hobby. She was considering weaving wreaths out of human hair. Zack and Pomodora journeyed for many days. Once they saw a bent old crone walking along the road. "Good day, mother," called Zack, raising his hat. "May we offer you a ride?" "Why, thank--" The old woman looked up at Pomodora's face. "You! What are you doing with him? And how dare you cut your hair, you ungrateful wench?" She tried to grab Pomodora by her medium-length hair, but Zack pulled his wife out of the way, and whipped up the horses. After several miles, he allowed the horses to slow down. "Well, now, that was odd, wasn't it, Dora?" She simply shivered. The next day, they reached a fork in the road. As they paused to choose their direction, another cart came toward them. Zack lifted his hat toward the richly clad, but travel-worn, couple in the other cart, then stopped and stared. The other man stared back. "Dora," Zack whispered, "she looks just like you!" As the two young ladies surveyed each other, Pomodora had to admit it was true. She had thought the cart was a hay wagon, but, no, it was full of golden hair. The owner of the hair was perhaps a little plumper than she, but she had seen the face often enough in her own mirror. "Good day," Zack greeted the surprised couple. "I believe we met someone who was looking for you." "Oh, no, not the witch!" The lady buried her face in her hands, and two small faces peered out from behind her. "Which way?" asked the husband, and quickly steered toward the other road. It was a broad road on an open plain, so Zack caught up and drove along. As the horses trotted, the ladies introduced themselves and compared their histories. "And these are my twins," finished Rapunzel. "I guess they run in the family." Pomodora gave each twin a tomato to play with. They smiled shyly. Just then a fierce, shrieking wind blew up from behind. "Here comes the witch! And we've run out of things to throw at her," Rapunzel moaned. The men sped up the horses, and Pomodora contemplated her wedding gifts. No one in town had known of her existence, so all the gifts were provided by her own father. But for some reason, he had given her two identical sets of toasting forks. She hurled one package behind her. Immediately the forks sprang up like tall trees, blocking the wind. The crone could not get through, at first, but soon she was on their trail again. The witch cast lightning bolts as she pursued the young women. Pomodora threw a silver dish into the air. The lightning shattered the platter, but ricocheted back at the witch. Struck down by her own weapon, the witch gasped for breath. But she recovered quickly and followed the carts again. This time, before she came very close, the witch conjured a cliff that blocked the road. The horses shied, and the twins cried, but Pomodora sang until they were calm. Meanwhile, Zack grabbed his knapsack and scaled the cliff. Rapunzel's prince was impressed. "How does he do that without any hair to hold onto?" As soon as the wailing witch was in range, Zack began pelting her with squashy tomatoes. The tangy tomato juice neutralized the witch's base nature, and she dissolved into a heap of bubbles. A sparkling, pure fountain burst up from the spot as the relieved families embraced. Zack decided that it was a perfect place for a tomato farm. The land was level, the spring provided plenty of water, and there was a great cliff to climb. Pomodora knew nothing about tilling the ground, but she trusted her husband. And as the road no longer led any further, there was nowhere else to go. Rapunzel and her husband decided to stay as well. "Should you not return to your kingdom?" Pomodora asked, puzzled. "I'm just a younger son," the prince replied. "They can get along well enough without me, and I'd rather have my own place." "And his father's castle has too many towers," Rapunzel put in with a shudder. Pomodora nodded. No further explanation was necessary. The families lived together happily, raising crops and children, allowing them to climb to their highest potential. And every year, Pomodora would compose a new jingle for advertising their produce at the market.
With summer's flavor at your lips,
your tongue will turn triple flips.
You'll keep coming back for more of
tomatoes grown by Zack and Dora!