“No one really understands the tornato,” Sid says to Claire.
“Half tomato, half tornado—a whirling dervish of deadly nightshade death,” Claire agrees. “What are they doing here? Why do they kill? Where did they come from?”
Sid and Claire are driving through the heartland. They’re using their vacation to hunt down a tornato because they saw an amazing docudrama about tornato-watchers and thought it was incredibly romantic.
“Where did they come from?”
“No one knows,” says Sid.
They look out their windows for a while.
“I think we’re getting close,” Claire says. “Looks like a tornato seed over there on that broken truck.”
“Some people say that Tomato Man loved Hurricane Woman,” says Sid. “So that’s why Genetic Engineering Man combined them, back in the before time.”
Claire tries to beat that one. “Some people think that evolutionary pressures forced local tomatoes to emulate weather patterns as camouflage.”
“I think that the Romans went looking for tomatoes to throw at Jesus,” says Sid. “And most of the tomato sellers refused them, but one man sold them tomatoes and God turned him into a tornato as punishment.”
Claire whistles. “That’s pretty good,” she says.
Tornatoes are a natural, normal phenomenon caused by the jetstream.
“I can see it!” Claire shouts, suddenly. She practically stands up in her seat, bumping her head on the roof, and points. “Tornato!”
They can see it.
“What’s it doing?”
“It’s just sitting there,” Claire says.
They drive closer.
“Oh,” swears Sid. “Those bastards.”
They park. They get out. They look at the tornato. It is whirling and wailing. It is caught.
“Easy there,” says Sid.
The tornato does not trust them. It whirls grimly. It sheds a cow to make itself more limber, just in case Sid and Claire try anything.
“It’s okay,” says Claire. “We’re here to help you.”
The cow lands. It totters for a moment and then begins to graze, ruminanting distantly on the uncertainties of life.
“It’s bad,” says Sid. He gets down on his stomach so he can inch closer to the tornato and see the trap it’s caught in. “It looks like a pit filled with sugar, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon.”
“These poachers like their ketchup bland,” curses Sid.
Claire sighs. “Can you help it?”
“It’s too late,” says Sid. He backs away. “Look at it. It’s thickening as we watch.”
“Heinz,” sighs Claire.
So they get in their truck and they drive away.
“Maybe it’s not poachers,” Claire says. “Maybe it’s a natural part of their reproductive cycle.”
“Or the pit is made by ketchup antlions hunting their natural prey.”
“It could be that tornatoes are the cause of the sugar pits that litter Kansas, not the effect.”
“They could be the footprints of Shiva in his dance, sugar pits to drain the poison from the world.”
They drive on for a while.
“I miss objective journalism,” says Sid.