Morton, a sixth-grader in Sheila Kendall's class, wrote this winning essay for a California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom competition.
Tammy Tomato is excited! This is her first year at Ketchup Junior High. She can't wait to show her friends from last season the leaves she sprouted. This season is going to be her juiciest!
When her mom, Tarrie, dropped her off, she said, "remember, the kids might be different this season. They may have changed on the outside, but it's their tangy insides that matter."
Tammy rolled her eyes. "MAAAWWWMM!!!! Please stop worrying!"
Tammy turned on her green bottom and bounced toward school.
Her mother shouted, "Tam Tam! Don't forget! If the temperature goes above eighty, you are to roll yourself into the shade! The last thing you need is to get scalded! An early blight would be awful!"
Tammy yelled back, "MAAAWWMMMM!! I told you not to call me that anymore! GO HOME NOW!"
"I'll leave! SOOORRRYYY!" With a worried look on her face, Tammy's mom finally left.
Tammy shook her stem in frustration. "Thank goodness I'm not like that branch of the family. They are all drama queens! With the way she freaks, you'd think I was going to school with horn worms!"
As she rolled toward class, Tammy noticed every tomato around her looked different. She was shocked, she didn't recognize anyone! The students appeared red, round, and ripe. They looked mature and like the plants in the movies!
Tammy felt like a freak. Panicking, she bounced toward the bathroom. She wasn't going to let anyone see her yellowish-green skin. Everyone seemed to have grown so much, and she had stayed the same.
Tammy thought about all the soil tricks she had used trying to become plump and juicy. She had soaked her roots in straw and grass clippings. She even rolled around in fresh fertilizer and slept with leaf dew on her skin like the Little Miss Tomato magazine had said. It had promised six to eight inches of growth and a thick, stocky stem. She had followed the directions all during vacation! The smell made her sick, and her brother kept calling her Stinky Stems.
Tammy couldn't believe she had spent the first day of middle school hiding in a bathroom stall. It was so boring. She wanted to spend time with her friends, but what if they were ripe and she was the only green tomato left? She couldn't risk the humiliation.
She couldn't wait to get home. Tammy slowly scooted home, trying to figure out what was wrong. She must be the only green tomato left. Tammy thought everyone was supposed to grow the same way. Oh, no, Tammy said to herself. What if she was sick? What if she had ANTHRACNOSE! Her parents had always warned her about the disease. Oh, gosh! That had to be it! She must have the fungus! Or maybe it was those darn FLEA BEETLES? Could it be BLOSSOM END ROT?
As Tammy reached her patch, she saw her mom waiting by the front vine. Tammy began to sob. "It was awful!" she cried. "Everyone was ripe except for ME! Also, I'm pretty sure I've got the rot or fleas or BOTH!!! And I didn't get to see any of my friends because I spent the whole day hiding in the bathroom!"
Her mother sighed deeply. "And you call ME a drama queen!" she smiled. "First, dear, you are not sick! When you didn't show up for class, the principal called. She said this happens with a lot of junior high tomatoes on the first day."
"Tammy, if you hadn't rolled for the first bathroom when you saw the older tomatoes, you would've noticed that a lot of your friends are still green. They are scared, too! Yes, some of your friends will be ripening and turning red soon as well! It is that time, and one day soon it will be your time. If they are your friends, they won't care what you look like. Give them a chance before hiding in the bathroom. That's just silly, Tam Tam.
"Yeah, not to mention BOOOORING!!!" Tammy agreed. Mom, if I go to class and promise never to hide in the bathroom again, will you stop calling me Tam Tam?"
"Sure!" laughed Tarrie. "Also, if you have a question about ripening, please ask or at least check your father's Farmer's Almanac."
"Sure, Mom!" Tammy giggled. "WOW! Being a green teen, drama queen ain't all that easy!"