An unburnt offering

I have a proclivity for tomato hornworms. While I ultimately despise them, their dedication is very nearly inspiring. They ensnare even the most devoted organic farmer’s crops. But the secret is that they don’t only eat the plush tomatoes; if you give a mouse a cookie.

After a springtime caprese, they might sample a honeyed melon with mint, or even a DiGiorno’s oven-ready pizza. Voracious in all things, they eat and eat and guzzle wine until the harvest is dead and the next a full year away, with frosts besides and no syrup for Italian ices.

But it wasn’t until I gutted Samson that I learned tomato hornworms would consume even the gamiest of entrees. I returned to the garden the next morning to find….ripe tomatoes? The shock of a crop borne all the way to my unwashed hands! I couldn’t understand it until I saw the verdant worms nibbling on the eyeballs, which really are exactly the same degree of moist. They lapped up the eyelashes like soft peach fuzz and munched through cartilage as if the sacrifice was their right.

They’d gotten all the way to his once elegant neck when the earthquake hit Shenandoah. The earth’s poles shifted ever so slightly, —a hands breath or a degree, it didn’t matter—and my alibi was ended. The worms revolted, their tiny hearts clenched in vertigo, and started devouring each other. Brother tore off the limbs of brother, sister grasped the antennae of mothers; it was macabre, to say the least. I offered them a few stunning tomatoes and a liver in hopes of diverting their feasts, to no avail. The worms ate as worms eat and felt no remorse.

I pinched a beefsteak tomato from the vine, glowing with the sun’s warmth. It had a comfortable weight, like a baseball. I rinsed the fruit and patted it dry with a fresh paper towel. The mandoline was sharp enough to shear slices as thin as nickels, and I salted them liberally. I spooned the wafers into my mouth and the sweetness reminded me of the smell of skin after splashing in a lake. I prayed that the earthquakes would continue.