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July 22, 2024

Reverse Robbery

By Pierrino Mascarino

"Trouble is perzactly, me growing too derned many vegetables," she said, "an' too much lonliness just eats me up inside," she said pushing aside her long stringy hair, "and folks getting tired of 'em," shaking her head, "an' tired of me. Used to be, growing me nice mess of eggplant or tomatas, even okra -- even if it's slimy, okra -- but, back then, folks'd still be glad see me coming -- now -- even me not chargin' nobody nothing for vegetables here in Montecito Heights, they still don't dare answer a door, afraid it's me with my talky vegetables ta give away, but me wantin' ta actually talk to them. And, the absolutely worst of the worse part, was me sticking that Yes On Prop 8 sign out front here to protect the sanctity? Everybody talks about tolerance for minority opinions. Now I'ma neighborhood anathema-pest to these alternate sexuality's -- can't even give away my stigmatized homophobic vegetables no more. Bigoted people wanna just be by theyselves alone with they TV sets, and their electronical sex gadgets, together with their non-talking ghost husbands or non-talking ghost wives or sullen ghost children they already ignored so much that the kids turned into see-through little Casper-the-Friendly-Ghosts or even their pathetic pets, lonely wailing lost dogs nobody pets no more and their poor kitties left out to get killed by speeding felicidal cars or coyote suppers.

"Saw a computer sign, with a pretty little cat portrait, said 'Miss Tinkles is Lost' -- Miss Tinkles ain't lost, she's tore to pieces, digestin' in the belly of a coyote. "

"Look over there will ye? at the eye-popping orange a that California poppy," she said pulling up a thistlely weed, "didn't plant it -- just a volunteer. It's a wonder people can ever break loose from they TV's ta even have kids nomore, probably do their procreating watching the Tonight Show, all they dreary life is in that flickering, pernicious TV's shadow. Why even bother ta get married no more, 'cause mostly they just eat themselves into morbid obesities to not risk feelin' some emotional feeling."

Here she looked from her hilltop house yard over the desolate sprawl of smoking Los Angeles, "always hoped that with a good mess of young string beans, baby summer squash, so tender it melts in your mouth, that I could wake people up to God, cause my beans are fulla prayer and sanctifying grace. Eat' em and they're warranteed ta make you feel better. Gin up some inner peace inside for you ta see the world again more clearly; here, try one of these succulent Brandywine tomatoes for instance, see if it don't visible perk you up."

She had a big basket full of bulging in all directions wine-red tomatoes.

"Here's a clean handkerchief I keep somebody wanting to try a tomato." She pulled it out of her apron. "Vera tristful for me, this modern capsulation, dreadful alleyienated bovine feces, but I'm talkin to God, having converse with the universe, just growing these comestibles. Also, may God forgive them, the rotten Hollenbeck division police: liars, mean neglectful and most of all vera lazy, down there to the Figueroa 7-Eleven? you'll, see 10 police cars hanging around, wobbling their fats, cutting up, laughing ta beat the band, eating garbage to get so waddley morbidly obese, sure ain't my vegetables doing that buddyrow. Report something to those morbid obesity's? like somebody coming in your yard and stealing vegetables rippin fruit off your trees? even show the police pictures of who's doin it an nothing happens, because a this awful very lazy officious deputy prosecutor, this fat lady Racquel Perez, something like that, don't ever do nothing. Report street bums layin out here in my Montecito gutter that come up own my property -- and malicious neighbors? why, next door, this alternate sexuality here, next door to me jammed a sharp pipe in my face, gave me a concussion and made a disfigurement right here on my chin and this Hollenbeck female police Sgt. promised me an a felony arrest, didn't do it, lied to me, she-they think I'm crazy anyways for just given away vegetables like this."

She was now shaking her head looking around in a forlorn way at the neighborhood, "it's the police that cause all the nasty incivility up here. They come in, bungle whatever little investigation of an incident and then leave, at least they did the last 30 times, these Hollenbeck police people, and we're worse off than we were before they came because they encourage wrongdoers to think they can fool the police.

"How's that Brandywine, want another? Full of sweet and sour, tart flavors never dreamed of from eating store-bought? That's a heirloom tomato. Commercial growers, them that still got any water up north, can't even grow Brandywine's, too hard to ship. California tomatas're picked hardgreen for shipping and taste like Styrafoam."

She was sticking a bamboo stake into the soft fertile ground, with knobby arthritic fingers.

"Gotta confess," she went on, "part my fault for talking too much, bringing a big cauliflower plump and fresh with dew and then stay too long, maybe even five minutes. Took to timing myself with a egg timer in my apron that'd ring and I'd go way. Still too long. Foisting off my loneliness on other people. But you need to hear a human voice and exchange few simple sentences, maybe even -- Lord God above --" she raised her eyes to heaven, "I know this here's going some -- maybe even a whole thought or two, for charity has a human voice and pity a human face. I gin up so many thoughts planting and cultivating up here that they just keep spillin outta my head. Steep, isolated Montecito's the worst, most unfriendly part of Los Angeles to live in."

Her deeply creased smile wrinkles squirmed as she spoke, and wiped her hands on a long stained apron, brownish black kneeling soil stains in the very steep front yard.

A passing car hit one of the street safety bumps hard and sprang off the ground landing with a clatter.

"Slow down!" She yelled, "50 mile a hour in a 15 zone. People speed by their lives so they haven't gotta look at them. An me? Nobody needs you might as well be dead -- sometimes they're slowing but only for my big, tall, purple flowered, bristly artichoke plants, and only for a minutesecond or two. Beauty can't tempt nobody no more."

"Used to be married, but I drove him crazy with dreams, luminous fairy tales bout children, a wonderful family, good times I thought we were gonna have. But men just don't have time for no intimacy. Hide in they work, their mind killin' anesthetics: beer anesthetic, food fat anesthetic."

She pulled a small carpenter's pencil out of her apron and made a notation on a paper slip, "Gotta give fish emulsion tomorra. Course -- look up there -- still got my sweet little Hummers, hear that swearing, squeak-squeak? That's hummingbird blasphemy, cussing, vulgarity, call each other the worst insulting names, squeakin' and spaytin' --never get tired of fighting, time was folks'd spat like that, there was still sexal passion in marriages but now men got detestiticulated by they mommies -- oh look!"

She suddenly was whispering and pointing her faded, red shirted arm, "Look up there! See that flash of yellow, that's a blessed oriole, hardly ever see'em -- oh that's a visitation, yellow's the color of God The Father."

She made the Sign of the Cross.

"Anyways," whispering now, "please don't tell nobody, I'm doin reverse robberies: sneaking my beautiful shiny fresh vegetables down to the Figueroa Food for More, they call it For Less but charge high prices for garbage vegetables -- shipped Mexican stuff, gives you salmonella, diarrhea, constipation and pyorrhea.

"Look at this," she gestured at the stalks of budding broccoli, the voluptuous rows of tomato cages, "silly bein prouda my little empire that nobody else in the world thinks is worth nothing, like my garden. No lazy Montecitan grows a vegetable garden up here these days, just go down Food for More an drop those lifeless, wrinkled, over priced garbages in that little shopping cart cage on wheels; but nothing beats the Godly joy of planting something, growing little baby sprouts, making up soil pellets, watching 'em sprout, making that same little sprout grow into the miracle of a great food producing plant -- I pray over evraone a these sweet sturdy plants, pray against those rotten gophers, the subterranean equivalent of rotten Hollenbeck police officers, pray to save plant roots from those underground menaces tunneling this soft holy ground, the bountiful pillow of mother Earth!

"Look, for instance, at that holy purple glowing over there, it's from cowshit tea and me kneeling here in my garden at night like Christ in the Garden -- they's a flavor and texture from fish emulsion, difference in vegetables coming outa my prayer and Stone's special fertilizer. Holy Ghost power -- that shiny purple of that egg plant's same color as the shrouds they put on the church statues during Lent at St. Therese church? Well I defy you grow egg plant like that -- big, beautiful, heavy tumescent fruit like that on it -- grow it without the prayer? -- can't be done, leastways I don't know how -- gotta pray it fulla Holy Ghost power."

She now peeled up a slimy slug from a tomato plant, "These little beasts're greedy, eat terrible holes," she put the curling greybrown creature in a small tin can, "in yer tamatas," that was riveted to the wide leather belt at her waist and then popped back down the hinged lid.

"This is God's miracle dirt out here, an every plant's a Lazarus, coming forth a the earth. Me growing it and consecrating the fruit, vegetables to God -- people need the good God's sanctifying grace they get eating it, so I'm sneaking my vegetables down to Food for More.

"In the Food for More's parking I said to them Spanish coming in, 'Free Gratis' and give' em a mess lettuce or hot peppers, you know -- Spanish like'em hot peppers and I can grow big orange Mananzos peppers that Food for More charges 7-8 dollars a pound for? Bringing all my produce downhill -- whole sackful slung over my back and tied on the backa my Tomos moped, load her up, my little Argenta, means the silver one? -- isn't she sweet? Look at her little fenders shining up there, only 49 cc, so small with 130 miles per gallon gas mileage.

"But, I got some hard looks from the manager so just started sneaking right into the produce section with my fruit concealed, to give it a place of honor mongst the ugly commercial produce, me a saboteur desperate spy -- doin reverse robbery, most people steal vegetables out the store, I steal'em in, hidden in a dark bag past that the Rent a Jerk guard. Slip on in with a whole crowd that's talking joyful to each other -- wisht I could hablo Spanish -- my brilliant tomatoes, inspiring and refreshing, in a little rear section I named Myra's corner with green redolent leaves still on and vines. Anybody ast me I tell them, 'Oh, these is my tomatoes I grew with God's grace, you want some? All I can do is serve God -- first thing a person's gotta do's save they own soul and then help everybody around them.

"Like a other Brandywine? I got a striped variety also's vera tasty. And a little salt, got salt in my apron here. Should I cut it for ya? I lik' em sliced with a little salt. You know, old days, they thought tomatas was deadly poison? a type of nightshade and tried to assassinate President George Washington with tamatas. Course old George, he foxed 'em, ate the tamatas and smacked his presidential lips and said, "Poison me some more," between sips of his homemade good whiskey."

Article © Pierrino Mascarino. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-12-21
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