When I was three I murdered some tomatoes. This was a crime and I was punished.
Our landlord grew tomato vines along his garage wall which was on the other side of our driveway. One sunny day, I got on my trike and rode over to the vines where some smelly tomatoes had dropped to the ground and were rotting. I had stomped my foot on rotten tomatoes before and loved the splat they made in the dirt. This time I had a better idea: drive over them with my trike. My trike was red with white trim and chrome handlebars.
To get to the tomatoes and squish them under the front tire I had to back up my trike up and get a run at them. As fast as my chubby knees pumped the pedals (so hard they banged on the handlebars) I still struggled because there was a ditch between the driveway and the vines. Lurching into the ditch and grinding up the other side was hard work, but I'd been training for awhile. I soon got lost in the expedition of finding and quickly smashing as many tomatoes as I could.
The goal and the glory was to hit the tomato in the center and watch it explode beneath my tire. Some juice, shredded skin and even seeds got on my legs. Never mind that, I backed and forwarded my trike repeatedly. I'd shout "Yah!!" as each one flattened into the dirt. I squashed more tomatoes than I could count.
Soon it was over. All of the tomatoes on the ground were dead. I looked at the vines where ripening tomatoes still hung. What about the tomatoes still on the vine? The really red ones?
About that time my sister toddled over. Having an onlooker encouraged me to show off my skill in triking and trashing tomatoes. But I had to have more tomatoes.
I picked the reddest ripest tomatoes. Then I lined them up all along the ditch. Then I backed up the trike and struck out again killing all of the live tomatoes; smashing them into the ground until everywhere there was red juice and tomato guts. These ripe ones were harder to drive over and sometimes it took two or three tries before they were pulped out on the ground.
At first my sister chortled and jumped up and down, totally entertained by big sister's attack on tomatoes--which we refused to eat as food. After awhile she became quiet. Then, I heard a sound. It was a car coming around the landlord's house on the driveway to our house.
A blue Plymouth raised some dust as it drove by. It stopped by our little yellow house. A man got out and went inside without knocking. I had stopped the slaughter to stare, mouth open, heart beating, and I knew--like kids know--that I was in Big Trouble. Mister Man, as my mom called him, was home.
Shortly thereafter my mother arrived at the scene of the slime. My dad had seen me and gone straight to her because it was her "fault that the kids were up to no good." The choice I was given after being yelled at for my bad behavior was a spanking (involving a switch) or I had to give up my trike. And, I had to apologize to the landlord.
I remember crying most about having to apologize to the landlord. Knocking on his door was scary even though his nice wife always answered. But since she was so nice I didn't want to be the one to tell her about her tomatoes and how their juice was a red river running down the dirt into the ditch.
With the apology over, the worst was yet to come. Standing by the tool shed as Daddy put my trike up on its roof, I begged "No, Daddy, please don't put my trike up there." The tool shed was about 10 feet tall in my little world and seeing Little Red up there in the sun and rain getting bird poop on her was terrible. Day after day I checked on her.
I had known something like this could happen. I'd been in trouble for riding my trike down the landlord's gravelled garden path and messing it up. I'd been in trouble for coasting my trike too fast down the lane and not turning around until I got to the pavement road. I had been in trouble for making my sister ride the trike while I stood on the back of it with one foot on the ground making it go too fast for her and scaring her. I had even been in trouble for not sharing my trike with Tommy Teapot, the landlord's grandson.
When the long long days of repossession ended it seemed like my tricycle had been on top of the shed forever. When it came down, there was juniper tree sap on it and fade marks from the hot summer sun.
After that, I must have stayed out of trouble. I don't remember anything else except the day my trike was lifted down from the roof by my dad, and his stern voice told me to "behave." Knowing me, that evening when my dad left for his job, I probably rode down the forbidden gravel path--just once since he couldn't see me--and then back and forth in the driveway until dusk, just enjoying the motion and the power of moving myself around on my tricycle.