After today, I’m not sure I ever want to see or smell another tomato ever again! It all started this afternoon. I had just finished hanging the laundry and was headed back inside when I heard galloping hooves nearing the house. I deposited the basket on the back porch and made my way through the house.
As I opened the front door to step out, I was immediately overwhelmed by a strong smell that every person around these parts knows well . . . skunk.
More than likely Tucker had gone and found himself one of the critters. It had happened before, and I was glad the pantry was stocked with canned tomatoes, most of them from Mother.
However, as I stepped out on the porch, Tucker was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Riley was walking up the steps, his hands held away from his sides and his hat in his hands.
A moment later, the horrid truth hit me. Tucker hadn’t been sprayed by a skunk. No, Riley had!
I couldn’t keep myself from laughing. He looked . . . well, he looked like something the cat had dragged in. His clothes were moist and limp, and perspiration streamed down his forehead. The late afternoon sun hadn’t decided to do us any favors, and that fact caused the smell from the skunk to be more acute.
He looked up at me, his eyes rivaling anything I’ve ever seen in Tucker’s puppy-dog look. “Andi, help.”
I smothered my laughter. Riley was suffering, and here I was amusing myself at his expense. I told him to head to the washtub in the back. It was still filled with water from the washing, which was just as well. He could rinse off in it before I brought out the tomatoes.
I grabbed several jars of the quickly diminishing tomatoes and headed out to the back. As I did so, I caught sight of Tucker cowering under the porch. I smirked. The smell must have reminded him of all his encounters with the smelliest four-legged beast that ever lived.
Riley had removed his shirt and rinsed the best he could, but it didn't help one bit. The water had done nothing to help the smell. I popped the lid from one of the jars and made my way over to him, holding my breath. I quickly decided I’d have to snatch a clothespin from the line when I went back to fetch the second jar.
Shutting his eyes tight, Riley braced for the smooth, slippery goo. I quickly emptied it over his head and ran back to the porch. I grabbed a second and third jar, and then snatched a clothespin from the line.
After making sure my nose was tightly closed, I opened the second jar and dumped it over his shoulders.
I had just tossed the lid off the third jar when I realized something awful. A dark, red rash was appearing on Riley’s face and chest, right in the path of the tomato juice. A horrifying thought crossed my mind, and I spoke it aloud. “Riley… are you allergic to tomatoes?”
His gaze followed mine, and his eyes widened. Without answering, he quickly dove under the water. Once, twice, three times, till every speck of the canned vegetable was floating in my laundry water.
“I can’t say that I’ve ever had to have a tomato bath before, so I’ve never had a chance to find out.” He scanned the rash. It wasn’t leaving as quickly as it had come, and I made a mental note to be careful whenever I cooked with tomatoes.
Riley grabbed some clean clothes off the line and the bar of lye soap that I'd been washing with. Then he headed down to the creek to get as much of the smell off as he could.
After he left, I set about putting the place back in order. I had only lost three cans of tomatoes, meaning there was plenty left for whenever Tucker decided to get into a mishap again.
Riley came back smelling slightly better, though I have to admit, I can’t wait till it all wears completely off. He’s promised me he’ll do his best to stay away from the small, white-streaked animal . . . now if only the skunk would agree to stay away from him!