Grow Your Own

by Treehouse Editors

Peter Amos

“Hey’all got’dem garden-maters?”​  The sun sank and his wind-cut chin followed the line of my finger to a table full of Better Boys, Beefsteaks, and Lifters heaped in shoddy pyramids on plastic trays.

Hours ago I threw the wheel of a rusty Chevy and lurched off Montford Rd in a cloud of rusty dust. Jimmy looked up from a low, bushy mass of cucumber tendrils and grimaced as I parked the truck alongside an unruly forsythia bush.

Stakes over my bare shoulder, hammer in hand, I waded into the rows. Sun scorched my back and sandpaper stems scraped hot pink lines over my dirty arms. I lifted the hammer high and brought it down with a thud. Again and again, metal drove bleached wood deep into the mulch where thistles gathered in bunches.

Twine crisscrossed the row, one stake to the next, searing a line into the crook of my neck as I tugged. I smeared wet clay on my face, embraced three sticky tomato vines, and lifted the fruit clear of the fetid puddles on the ground. I yanked the coarse string tight, wringing a drop of blood, and the plants jerked to attention.

In the next field, Jimmy walked with an armload of tiny light green plants; three or four leaves each and a curl from the sun. We’d cover them from the heat and weed ceaselessly in the coming weeks. By September we’d be dragging twine again, bent double in the sweltering air.

We slowly filled dusty black crates, plucking green fruit from the vine at the first hint of color. Smart shoppers buy that way, ripen three or four in a brown bag on a window sill, and eat when they’re ripe. Sliced thick with salt and pepper on white bread. With the flat-bed loaded, we bounced onto the pavement and drove carefully back to town. Jimmy leaned out the open window and grinned a watermelon slice in the highway air. We were scarred by sun, bloodied by thistles, and covered in mud with two hundred pounds of produce in tow. The only way to be.

The heat rose off the blacktop in waves, blurring the potted verbena and delicate vinca that wilted in the soggy air. I rested one hand on my hip and the other on the side of the dusty table in the tangerine light of the sinking sun. He evaluated the day’s haul, holding each fruit close to his scornful eye.

“Ya’ll pick ‘em too early.”​ He spat through a mouthful of dip.

I rolled my eyes from behind the ancient register. Good thing Jimmy left for the day.

His nose pointed and brow arched as he inspected a limey pink variegated Better Boy in the shade of the tent.

“​2.49 a pound? Shit boy, ya’ll robbin’ me.”

Peter Amos is a native of rural Virginia. The son of an English teacher and a librarian, he studied music in college and moved to New York where he works, performs, and writes. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Brevity, The Museum of Americana, Bitter Southerner, and others.