A Green Tomato and an Old Nursery Rhyme

by Marcelo Medone

Half an hour after the last explosion, I decided to go out to investigate. The alarm sirens could no longer be heard.

I asked Valeria and Roman to wait for me and began to climb the narrow staircase, helped by my flashlight.

I lifted the door that connected the basement with the rest of the house and suddenly I was flooded with midday sunlight.

What had been the dining room of our house was now a ruined place, with a brutal hole in the roof through which the sunlight and the cold of the harsh winter were pouring in. Little was left standing. I found no traces of bombs or explosives; the missile had probably grazed the roof and fallen somewhere else.

Except for the whistling of the wind, the silence was absolute.

I peered into the cellar shaft and saw my wife and my little six-year-old son helpless and frightened.

“Come on up! It’s clear,” I told them.

We trudged through the rubble. The small treasures of a lifetime were devastated. But the most precious treasure, our lives, were still safe.

Roman rummaged through some pieces of wood and rescued his harmonica. He tried to put it to his lips, but I stopped him.

“Not for now, Roman. Save it for later.”

He looked at me with his big brown teary eyes and obeyed me. I hugged him with all my fragile humanity. Valeria joined us. For an instant the universe operated in our favor.

We put on our coats and left the house. Chaos was widespread. Most of the buildings on the block showed damage from the bombing. The small supermarket next door had been hit hard, perhaps by the same bomb that shattered our roof. A group of looters were squeezing through the gaps to take what they could. Although perhaps I should simply call them survivors.

I could now clearly hear the various sounds of the tragedy: intermittent cries, muffled screams, the occasional vehicle driving out of sight.

We met other neighbors, who were equally frightened but safe. We greeted each other with distant gestures.

We returned to our house. In the back garden, the vegetable garden had been buried by debris from the roof. Amidst the shards of shingles and wood, a lone tomato plant stood, with a single tiny, unripe fruit.

Roman approached it, stroked the green tomato and smiled.

“All was not lost,” he said. He sat down on a pile of rubble, took out his harmonica and began to play an old nursery rhyme.

I looked up at the clear blue sky and told myself that my son was right.