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illustration by jonny voss


b y   A l a n   M c C o r m i c k




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Tomatoes at 50 pence for a pound were too much of a bargain to pass by. So Hilda Tumbum filled her bags up and bought ten pounds worth.

‘Seeing as you’re a fatty, you can have an extra pound free,’ the greasy grocer told her.

‘Thank you, but we won’t accept or need charity,’ Hilda Tumbum replied.

‘Please your fat self,’ said the greasy grocer, and Hilda Tumbum walked away with her ten bags of big red tomatoes.

Walking along the wasteland with her square shaped pet pig called Norris, Hilda Tumbum was already planning a tomato feast: a giant tomato and basil salad, followed by pasta and tomato sauce, finishing with a tomato sweetened red mousse or tomato sorbet.

Unknown to her, the greasy grocer had inserted holes in all the bags with a tomato-sized pencil; one he’d specially developed in the greasy grocer workshop behind his greasy grocer shop. Tomatoes were cascading all over the ground, but Norris was doing his best to roll them along the ground towards his owner, Hilda Tumbum.

Meanwhile, the greasy grocer was sharing the joke with one of his customers: ‘I made the tomato-sized hole with this pencil.’ He showed the tomato-sized pencil to the customer. ‘And the bags were all ‘SHOP TILL U DROP’: you see?’ The customer saw. ‘And those tomatoes will now be dropping all over the place, hee hee, hee hee.’

‘Hee hee,’ said the customer, but in a sarcastic unamused way. ‘What you’ve done is most unkind, most uncalled for’.

‘Want to buy a banana?’ said the embarrassed greasy grocer trying to change the subject.

‘Why, have you made a banana-sized pencil?’ asked the customer, in an even more sarcastic tone than he’d used when mimicking the greasy grocer’s laugh.

‘Oh, go away,’ said the greasy grocer. ‘If I can’t even have a bit of fun, I’m shutting up.’

And he did, and the customer left without buying anything.

Meanwhile, Hilda Tumbum and her pig, Norris, arrived home with ten bags and no tomatoes. There, Norris proceeded with the aid of a piece of chalk, a blackboard, and a rubber, to give Hilda Tumbum a lesson about overspending. His final point, made with a raised and clenched trotter, was that a bargain isn’t a bargain just because it says so on the label; it has to mean something, and be of use to the purchaser.’

‘I know,’ said Hilda Tumbum. ‘I don’t even like tomatoes, they bring me out in a rash.’

‘Probably the pips,’ said Norris.

‘Probably, said Hilda Tumbum. ‘Maybe it’s just as well that the greasy grocer did what he did,’ she added philosophically, bending down to stroke the head of her clever pet pig.
Norris smiled and sung ‘tomato, tomaytoe; lets call the whole thing off’. He knew all the verses, and Hilda Tumbum joined in when she could.