Why Bill Hates Tomatoes

By Mona Morstein

It was the tomato sauce on the pizza that did him in. Sure, he'd been having some general discomfort in his stomach, some little burning now and then, for the last year or so, but it was the tomato sauce that caused the searing agony which seemed to go through to his spine, and made him perspire in dripping trails down his face. He started skipping pizza and downed TUMS by the handful, but when ketchup on his burger and a couple of tomato slices on a turkey sandwich caused magma to flow in his gut, twisting him over, having the waitresses ask if he was all right, he wrote off all tomatoes, and anything having to do with tomatoes.

But, the pain this time didn't go away, even when his waste paper basket was so over filled with TUMS wrappers they spilled out onto the floor.

There was no alternative. Tomatoes had done the one thing he hated most; sent him to a doctor.

The doctor asked him question after question, like some Commie commander interrogating the good guy US soldier. Stress? "Nah, nothing stressful going on. Yeah, I marked widower on the form, but that was a year ago. Life goes on, right?" Any other complaints? "I get headaches, but who didn't? Right here, both sides. Take aspirin a couple of times a week." Work? "Yeah, lately been doing sixty hours a week, more or less. I turned my Supervisor in for stealing cases from me and other agents, and as a result they're kicking me out of Phoenix back to Los Angeles. That's okay. Get rid of my present boss, and I've got a couple of friends living in L.A. Not so hot there, either." Sleep? "Who sleeps? Five hours maybe a night." Dreams? "Yeah, some bad dreams, but what are you, a shrink?" What type of dreams? "I don't know, dreams of her, the war, junk like that." Coffee? "Buckets a day." Alcohol? "That's booze to me, and yeah, I get along great with Agent Scotch, we hang out a lot together." Diet? "The café special, burgers, sandwiches." Exercise/Hobbies? "Bowling, softball. I get out to the desert or go north to the mountains and hike around. Fish. Sometimes I just walk around the city at night, stopping at a bar or two, or just, I don't know, walk."

The doc wrote out a prescription and handed it to Bill. The doc then clasped his hands professionally together on his desk and said, "No aspirin, no coffee and no tomatoes—too acidic, no fried foods, no Scotch, for a month. Keep those up and you'll be vomiting up blood in a few weeks. Only work 40 hours a week. And, maybe think about dating again. It'll do you good. Help get you over your wife's death."

He yakked another minute or two, but Bill tuned him completely out; meaningless drivel made his eyes water. Bill filled the script and took the pill daily, washing it down with a strong cup of java. He cut out the tomatoes, turned to Bourbon for a week and then went back to Scotch, but only drank a shot a couple of times a week. He took Ibuprofen for his headaches, and skipped the fries when he ordered burgers. He kept working after all the guys with families went home. Too many creeps out there for him to head home early. Even still, somehow, his constitution healed his ulcer up and he only suffered a slight irritation at times, not red hot logs making a bonfire in his stomach. Manageable. The kind of recurrent pain Bill believed was part of life and you just had to suck up and ignore. When the prescription for the pills ran out, he stopped taking them and got by on half a pack of TUMS a week. That seemed reasonable.

Yeah, the doctor was a quack, like most of them. Bill was sure the answer was simple. It wasn't overwork, or drinking Scotch, or moving away from her grave, or dreams of her, or lack of sleep; it was the tomatoes. Anything made of tomatoes. No doubt he'd developed an allergy to them; anyway, the thought of eating them made him nauseous. If he avoided those, things would be fine. Everything would just be fine. It was nice when things were simple. Hell, he didn't even like tomatoes that much. He wouldn't even miss them when they were gone.

The End