“Why don’t we go into the pantry anymore, Gramma?” you ask your grandmother.
“Well, child,” she explains as she would to a child, because you are, in fact, a child, “a score of seasons ago your grandfather worked hard all season and managed to turn up a harvest of tomatoes as blue as your beautiful eyes.”
She punctuates the sentence with a smirk and a soft poke on the tip of your nose, eliciting a joyful laugh and a bashful smile.
“You see,” Gramma continues, her playful demeanor fading and replacing itself with grave reflection, “the ground had gone sour. What we thought was a fortuitous accident was, in truth, a horrible warning from the land itself. ‘Don’t eat the fruit of the soil,’ clamored the putrid earth – but we did not listen.”
Though you do not fully understand Gramma’s dour disposition nor her solemn expression, you feel a shiver run up your spine. You curl your legs up under the oversized Ghostbusters t-shirt which serves as your pajamas and retract your arms into the sleeves.
Gramma presses on in her explanation. “We brought the harvest to the state fair, sure we’d take home a blue ribbon and a pretty profit, but all we took home were broken hearts and nightmares of the screams of our friends and neighbors. They just…kept…coming…”
“Gramma?” you interrupt, still not grasping the meaning of her disassociated ramblings.
She seems to snap back to reality for a moment. “Yes angel?”
“Whys that mean we can go in the pantry? Why’s the sign say ‘Keep In’?”
“We canned a few dozen tomatoes before we left for the fair. We kept ‘em in the pantry. When the police dropped us off in the morning, we heard knocking coming from in there. That’s when we nailed in the boards. That’s when we broke the lock. That’s when we posted the sign. Don’t go in, child.”
“…and angel?” your grandmother calls as you walk out of the kitchen to play outside.
You turn to face your elder. “Yes, Gramma?”
“Don’t eat your vegetables unless you’re sure,” she says, completely straight-faced.
“Sure of what?”
“...that it’s safe.”