Tomatoes (A Dystopian Novella) – Chapters Seven and Eight

Chapter Seven

Two weeks after that fateful night, at five to three in the morning, Eva felt with her key for the keyhole. She closed the door behind her, quietly kicked off her shoes, and ran up the stairs. She sat gently on the edge of Abby’s bed and kissed her sleeping daughter’s forehead. She repeated the little ritual with Ben, his bed now standing close to Abigail’s. Then, she hurried to her bedroom. She took a deep breath, sat down, and rested her head on Adam’s chest. Only then, did she finally allow herself to feel about that precious commodity of all, hope.

“Hey,” he said, immediately wide awake.

“Hey,” she replied.

“Did you eat something?” Adam asked.

“No,” she said. “But in a few days we’ll all eat.”

Eva felt his muscles tense.

He pushed her gently and sat up.

“Tell me,” he said and turned on the bedside light. His voice trembled.

Eva nodded, giant butterflies swooping through her. She needed to get reacquainted with the idea of food. “I, no, we, well together, Dreyfus’s team and mine, we found a way. I reported tonight to the international steering committee that we have good results. They gave the green light for production.”

“Is it really true?” Adam asked, and the hope she heard in his voice was worth the Sisyphean effort, the sleepless nights, the despair and dread, the stress, and the crushing self-doubt that lodged permanently in her belly like an unsheathed knife.

Eva lifted her hands and made the butterfly in front of Adam, her two thumbs touching.

“Yes, it’s true. Yesterday and today we coalesced all the data and triple-checked all the isomers. The original ones, conscious ones, and the copied ones, without consciousness. That’s it. We confirmed that the copied, engineered isomers had no consciousness. I’ll tell you all the details tomorrow. We can start mass-production. The International Agency for Nutritional Research has already been working on the infrastructure for the mass-production for two months. They were waiting for the green light from us. Within three to four weeks we will have conscious-free, inert, safe food.”

“Enough for everyone?” Adam asked softly.

“Very close to it,” she said. “Can you see? The kids are saved. We’re all saved.” The excitement she kept to herself for the last few days began to percolate, first in thin, transparent bubbles, then in growing, swelling balloons, and finally, in surging volcanic currents.

“Oh my, oh my,” Adam said, and he sighed deeply, and then he pulled her tightly against him and pressed her to his chest. “I always knew you’d make it, honey,” he said, but his voice cracked, and a moment later, Adam burst into tears, and he cried loudly, gripping her tightly, hiding his face in the crook of her neck, the fear and tension that he took upon himself to hide for months, finally erupting.

Eva clung to her husband with all the strength left in her, rocking him, waiting for the tide to subside. She held him through the violent tremor that gripped his body, and finally, she held him until he was able to take slow, deep breaths.

“Abigail will be all right. Ben will be fine, we’ll be fine,” she whispered in his ear, over and over.

“They’ll start eating again,” Adam said. “They will grow. Live.”

I must have enough motherly love in me, Eva thought, and kept hugging her husband.


Chapter Eight

Two months after the mass-production started, on a cool autumn evening, the Blum-Ben-Gigi family piled into the car and drove to Jerusalem, for the President’s formal reception and award ceremony. The speeches were lengthy and emotional, and the children fidgeted on the long, yellow couches.

Embarrassed to be the center of attention, Eva got up to receive the award from the President. The guests exploded into length applause. She motioned for Adam to come stand beside her, then said a few words, not remembering what she meant to say. The president pumped her hand with much enthusiasm and said something about next year’s Israel Prize. Adam whispered in her ear, ‘Nobel Prize’, but she ignored it.

On the way home, after two, long hours and two glasses of wine that made her head spin, Ben asked for Hotdogs. They stopped at a hotdog stand that carried a big neon sign. It read, “Juicy Lucy – a fresh and clean like-meat product, produced by Agrexco from state-of-the-art engineered corn that doesn’t fell a thing!” Adam bought too much food and the family sat at the picnic table on the side of the road, and ate. Ben drowned his bun with ketchup after checking the label carefully and assuring everyone the tomatoes were completely indifferent to being eaten. Abigail gave an artistic ballet performance with a pair of hotdog ballerinas. Eva ate too much and laughed at Adam’s hotdog jokes. She decided a good mother doesn’t have to fry potatoes, she can engineer them.

At home, after carrying the sleeping children to their beds, Adam sat down on the sofa.

“Let’s sit for a bit,” he said.

Eva sat next to him and handed him the envelope that’s been waiting impatiently at the bottom of her bag for two days. She was saving it for after the ceremony.

Adam opened the envelope with great care and pulled out the single sheet of paper.

“To Professor Eva Blum Ben-Gigi,” he read, “The National Research Institute of Plant Genetics. Grant of tenure.” Adam stopped reading and looked at Eva. His face was radiant.

“You read so beautifully,” Eva commented, about to burst with her pride and joy.

“So which path do you choose now?” Adam asked. “Mom, or scientist?”

Eva knew that he knew the answer.

“Both. I choose both,” she said and climbed on Adam’s lap with her belly full of hotdogs.


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