The Northville Review
an online literary journal
Inside Joke, Explained: Homegrown

Joe Kapitan

That year, we were the Tomato People, she and I, Mr. and Mrs. Homegrown.

During the winter of our twelfth anniversary and third year of counseling, my wife, ever the gardener and recycler, decided to harness all her thoughts about me, about us, and put them to better use by trapping them pre-speech and holding them liquefied in her mouth until spring, when she finally let them drip from her lips, one at a time, into the holes she had made in the garden for her tomato seedlings. Where we lived, near the Chesapeake, the natives had done this centuries ago with their excess fishes, to great success.

No one on the cul-de-sac could remember a harvest like we had that season. The plants bowed under the weight of their endless clusters of fruit, and we gathered such a bounty that we sent them by the bushel-full to the neighbors, who always smiled when they answered their doors, saying what great timing, you two, we just finished up the last bunch.

It wasn’t until after the divorce, when people talked, that I learned the truth – that the neighbors had dumped the baskets of tomatoes into the trash as soon as we were gone, because they’d tried them once, and found their hollow and lifeless flesh inedible, and the small amount of juice that they had tasted defeated, and it weighed on their tongues like penance, and made some of them want to cry in their beds at night, and even canning couldn’t overcome it, so the red mason jars ended up in rows on pantry shelves – uncomfortable reminders, like tallies on the walls of prison cells.

About the author

Joe Kapitan works and writes and sleeps fitfully in northern Ohio, proud birthplace of seasonal affective disorder. Some of his recent short fiction has appeared (or will appear) in Annalemma, Smokelong Quarterly, PANK, Fractured West, and others.