Tomatina Tommy

This looks very clean
The giant creatures were ruthless
His name was Tommy, and he was ready to fulfill his duty as an officer of a the Red Pulp Army. He was ripe for the good fight, he was eager to prove his worth to his people, and he had just cut his stem into a trendy fringe. 
Tommy glanced at the mirror one last time, his innocence lingering as though it were the only thing keeping him from stepping forth into his destiny. 

“If I die today, I die protecting my people,” he said to his reflection, an image he might no longer recognize after the mission. Hesitation barely registered against the crease of his smile, the acknowledgement of a grim reality manifesting as a sheen of blushing red coating his cheeks. He was born to do this, growing in the vines of the charming and quaint town of Extremadura, Spain. There was no turning back; there was no giving in to fear. 
“You finished flirting with yourself, soldier?” 
Tommy turned even more shiny and crimson than usual and joined the ranks quickly, ignoring the giggles. 
Their fearless leader, Commander Leif, spoke frankly. “This is a dangerous but important mission,” he shouted across the field. “Nobody should go forth with Operation Buñol unless they are comfortable with not coming home. I want to offer my deep appreciation for those willing to step forward and defend their boundaries from the tyranny of those evil humans who wish us harm every year. We must defend our people!”
This was met with the inevitable cheers, the soldiers squished together with rounded bodies bouncing off each other in a camaraderie group-bump for courage. 
Leif knew he had their attention. “This bloody battle has gone on far too long, since its inception in 1945 when we were taken from our homes in Extremadura and catapulted into our deaths! They took us from our homes, they created chaos within our families and cities with the Bloody Battle of Tomatina. They call it the Tomatina Festival.” His body shook with disgust. “Festival? We know what it really is. Every year we try to fight, but every year they fight back harder. This time it will be different. THIS TIME WE SHALL PREVAIL!” 



The supporting cheers rolled and collapsed against Tommy’s ears. He wondered what it would be like when they arrived in Buñol. Whatwould the humans look like? What kind of evil horns did they have attached to their heads? (According to Rosalinda, the humans all had horns made from steel and shot out poison from the tips). He nervously began rolling back and forth and muttered an apology as he rolled into his neighbor, a small soldier with a shade of green like a stripe across his midsection. 
“Are you even ripe enough to participate?”
Tommy asked the poor young fellow.
“I can! I want to defend my country,” the little one chirped, eagerness radiating from his skin. Tommy understood that the younger ones were better fighters due to their unripened hard bodies, but they lacked the emotional maturity to really know what to do in a serious fight. 
A loud rumble interrupted their pep talk as the trucks pulled in, the metal brakes screeching against the pavement. The soldiers fell silent, waiting.
Tommy observed the giant creatures with fascination. They wore white cotton clothing and had hair pulled back in braids, surveying the field with long smiles and two strange protrusions coming out of their bodies. Tommy remembered from his training that these were called legs. He looked down at his own soft, rolling body and wondered how legs would function. They seemed very awkward and lanky. 

They were gathered into the truck, the humans scooping them up and hurling them into cages within minutes. The drive to Buñol was silent as the little red soldiers were forced to sit on top of each other. Every emotion – fear, hope and anticipation for the battle that was yet to come –was amplified in the darkness. Tommy tried to hold the hand of the little green soldier and then remembered that tomatoes don’t have hands. 

 

“Sorry, Tommy! I just have this small leaf,” the little green tomato squawked, handing the vegetation extension to Tommy’s outstretchedstem. They awkwardly held “hands,” leaf to stem, for the entire ride. Neither of them could have been prepared for the battle ahead, but in that moment they tried to focus on breathing. 
The vehicle stopped.
The tomatoes held their breath and waited for their Commander’s orders to attack, but nothing happened, and they waited patiently for Commander Leif. 
Bright light rushed into the truck like a waterfall of sunshine. The festival had begun and still no Commander, still no orders for their surprise attack. 
Tomatina festival-goers were wearing less than usual. White clothed frocks had been tied into crop tops, tank tops were snipped into bras that barely counted as clothing, and the boys all went shirtless for the occasion. Music played from a distant speaker and crowds laughing, singing and cheering could be heard from every direction. The humans carried alcoholic drinks in each hand and held waterproof cameras around their necks. Crowds and crowds of people filled into the streets, temporarily dry, and happy to be part of the affair. 
“Welcome to the World’s Biggest Food Fight.” A booming voice carried across the crowds from an unknown source. It was in Spanish and English. Tommy overheard two cadets whisper that there were only 20,000 people allowed into the arena, because previous years had seen upwards of 40,000 or 50,000 participants and the streets were much too crowded to handle all the extra tourists. Locals were guaranteed a spot. 



“We must be internationally famous,” Tommy thought, slightly pleased with the influence their rebel organization had worldwide. The humans won’t know what to do. They’d be on the news for sure after the humans suffered their final defeat against the self-organized rebel militia tomatoes. He would soon find a place in the ranking of the heroes of the Red Pulp Army! 
After 20 minutes had passed without orders from Commander Leif, Tommy grew a bit concerned. From his vantage point in the truckhe could see the crowds of humans standing together, perfectly aligned and oblivious to a surprise attack.
Tommy couldn’t see the great pole from the open slates, but he knew the ominous Ham Grease Pole was there. Tradition held that thehumans would fight each other to get up the pole, slippery with the thickest layer of grease to prevent them from achieving the inevitable capture of the Great Slab of Ham.
Tommy knew it would take a while for the disorganized humans to scramble their way to the top of the pole, but it had almost been an hour now and they were becoming more and more clever about strategy. 
“They’ve almost reached the Ham,” a squishy tomato soldier cried out from the top of the crate. “One of them stepped on another human’s shoulder! They’re making a ladder out of their bodies! We’re running out of time!”
Another echoed his concern. “This wasn’t the plan. We should have attacked them by now.”
Yes, we should have, sighed Tommy. We shouldhave been pelting them from every angle, clobbering their heads and making them wish they’d never begun the massacre of tomatoes in the first place. Instead, we sit here waiting to turn into spaghetti sauce or gazpacho in the heat. Where was Commander Leif anyway, and why wasn’t he giving them orders? 
“Commander?” he asked the group, hoping someone would provide some clarity. “Is he even here?”
Silence. Tommy realized that their leader had either been kidnapped or abandoned his post, and the former was soon confirmed as the tomato soldiers were suddenly witness to Commander Leif’s guts squirting out of the split in his skin as a festival goer stepped on his body, crushing him. Their leader was gone. The epiphany had no time to sink in, because at that very moment there was a roar that carried like a wave throughout the streets. 
Truck engines came to life, and they began their regularly scheduled march to the battlefields of the Tomatina Festival. The tomatoes all began a compulsive and anxious dance around the crate. 
Moments later the tomatoes were hurled, catapulted, thrown, tossed, surrendered to the death pit of white shirts and bare chests and goggled human soldiers still armed with cameras and phones in ziplock bags. Tommy screamed as a human threw him straight into the head of a tall, top-heavy human, missing the fellow’s eyes by just a fraction of an inch. He watched in horror as his friends all streamed across the air like scarlet shooting stars, but then fell shamefully to the ground before he had a chance to help. Now all he saw were busy human feet, rushing around and narrowly missing Tommy’s head. 
Tommy looked at his new surroundings, his body still very intact, his wits still sharp, his meat still firm. Okay. I’m Okay. We are going to get through this. The human didn’t even bother picking him up from the ground, and Tommy was pretty sure he could roll over to the side for a safer perspective of the battlefield. 
In the beginning of the festival, tomatoes were usually safe and unharmed, having the distinct advantage of an aerial attack as they catapulted into the crowd like vegetable bullets. Damage to a person’s face was possible in the initial stages of attack without risk of casualties. It was the next phase, the Stomping Phase, which they had been warned about in the vines, that their trainingwas supposed to prepare them for. 
Tommy watched in horror as humans jumped on his fellow tomatoes with gleeful smiles plastered on their faces and senselessly beganmurdering dozens of tomatoes against the steaming, unforgiving pavement. They smeared tomato guts against the other humans’ faces, hair, and shoulders, juice staining their white clothes like a canvas for a produce massacre. 
He shuddered, huddling further into the shadowed enclave that had been blessed to him by a happy accident. There was no shame in that, was there? He would fight eventually to fulfill his heroic destiny, of course… but, like, it was reallyicky out there. He yelped suddenly, as a bit of tomato skin peeled off of his body. Ohno, Tommy thought, I do not enjoy this as much as I thought I would! War is not as fun as I’d hoped. 
The struggling tomato had grown up believing in the Cause, believing in the value of sacrifice, in the idea that valor and fighting for it was more than individual happiness and diplomacy. But this was too much, even for a self-proclaimed tough guy like Tommy. He had earned the nickname Tough Guy Tommy in training, and was known to as the guy who constantly said things like, “there’s no crying allowed here. I’ll make salsa out of you if you don’t cut that shit out.” But even they knew it was all bravado, and the nickname was actually more of an ironic twist on Tommy’s actual personality, that of a hesitant, idealistic young tomato who just wanted to be part of something greater than himself.



“Oh, I made a huge, tiny mistake,” Tommy said as the streets filled with the guts and sauce of the entire tomato population of Extremadura.Chaos ensued, the humans screaming with laughter as they hurled red bodies at each other, slipping and sliding against the river of tomato paste and rubbing their faces clean of the red sauce every chance they had. Some were shielding themselves with visors or goggles from the constant pelting of tomatoes, and others were embracing it and catching them in the air, throwing them on the ground mercilessly as bodies split open. 
“Tommy!”
“Little One!” Tommy perked up when he saw his favorite junior cadet, the green tinted one from the cage. “I am happy to see you. How did you get out of this mess?!”
“Tommy, I’m so scared. I have someone’s skin on me, and there’s all these people smashing tomatoes everywhere, and I think I might be hallucinating, but someone said they wanted to make a Bloody Mary out of our remains. I think she was joking, but… I don’t know, I didn’t think war would be so gory and awful! I imagined it more of a competition of athleticism with each side taking a proper turn.” 
The streets now almost measured a foot deep of tomato insides, and the humans were splashing around in it. They emerged from thecarnage with their white shirts stained with tomato, the massacre like a badge of honor. 
One hour after the human touched the top of the greasy pole and claimed the ham, the slaughter was officially complete. Tommy andthe Little One were afraid to move or breathe. What if the humans found them and decided to smush them just like the others? 
“We have to make a roll for it,” the Little One suddenly said, nudging Tommy’s behind so that he had no choice but to tumble down the hill. 
“Wait!” Tommy started to shout but then he rolled. He rolled and rolled, rolling faster and faster down the hilly streets, coming into contact with human feet but bouncing right off immediately. Luckily no humans took any notice of the two tomatoes innocently rolling down to the bus station. Along the way, they tried not to scream in terror as they passed bottles of ketchup squeezed onto French fries, advertisements for salsa, and a stand serving the drink that Tommy secretly always assumed was an urban legend, the infamous Bloody Mary. 
“Oh my,” the Little One squealed. “The vodka, oh how that must burn! Who would do such a thing?” He shook with panic, bumping into the bus tire at the end of the hill. “Tommy, we gotta get out of here!” 
“I know, little friend, I know.” The bus door opened. The destination: Valencia. They looked at each other for a long while trying to decide if what they were about to do was betraying their vine. 
Sometimes it felt good to put in the sacrifices for the greater cause, but Tommy and the Little One had to admit, it felt even better to sacrifice nothing and instead gain a lovely tan against the beaches of Valencia. 
“How’d you like to become a couple of sun dried tomatoes?” Tommy smiled for the first time that day, and helped lift the Little One onto the bus. 
Tomato hill
The fallen and the falling

Published by

Megan Kojima

Megan Kojima is an expert traveler who is published in Cosmopolitan magazine, Megan Kojima is the original Newdie Mag contributor (that’s right, the OG, she’s brought you everything laughs from her First Date Follies to scares in Gore-met the Halloween article). Every Wednesday she will take you on a food journey around the world to experience different cuisines and cultures.

Leave a Reply