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Odd Tales with Questionable Outcomes  by Grey Wonderer

This was originally posted to my Live Journal and is also posted to The Last Ship.  I am just now getting around to put it here.        GW

*****

Pulling up Stakes

“What do you mean they just got up and walked away?” Frodo frowned. He turned in a circle and surveyed his garden and then faced Sam.

Sam swallowed hard and then looked down at the upturned earth below his feet. “I don’t know if I believe what I saw right enough to say, Mr. Frodo,” Sam said shaking his head.

“Did you dig them up for some reason that you don’t want to discuss?” Frodo asked trying to keep his tone of voice even in an effort to encourage Sam to explain things.

“No, I didn’t dig none of them up,” Sam said looking insulted. “I planted them. I worked hard on this tomato patch. I weeded them and I watered them and I put in the stakes when they got tall enough to need support. I’ve spent a fair amount of time out here.”

“I realize that, Sam,” Frodo said. He bent down and picked up a handful of soft soil and crumbled it in his fingers letting it fall back to the ground. “But you and I are standing here looking at an empty tomato patch. Yesterday there were a great many tomato vines growing in this very garden and now all I can see is soil and the holes where the tomato stakes used to be.”

“Well I didn’t dig ‘em up and if I was to tell you what I saw then you’d think I’d been at the beer barrel in the cellar all night,” Sam said looking very uncomfortable.

Frodo looked at Sam. “Try me. What exactly did you see?” Frodo asked.

“Well, I had been having a beer with the Gaffer,” Sam began. He did feel that it was only fair to admit the truth of it all. He had been drinking but he didn't think he'd had nearly enough to explain this. “Comes down to it, I’d had several.”

Frodo arched his brows and frowned but he didn’t interrupt.

“We was just sitting out in front of number three talkin’ and enjoyin’ the evening air,” Sam said. “The Gaffer was havin’ a pipe. I must have nodded off at some point because when I woke up the Gaffer had gone on inside and it was full dark out.”

“You drank enough to fall asleep?” Frodo asked.

“I spect that I done so, but that don’t change nothin’, Mr. Frodo,” Sam said quickly. “I still saw what I saw and I’ll stand by that.”

“You still haven’t told me what you did see, Sam,” Frodo reminded him.

“I was getting ready to get up and walk over here to Bag End,” Sam said. “I was tired and I was talkin’ to myself sayin’ things like how I was likely to be of no use at all today for havin’ spent the night sleepin’ out on the stoop. I had just started to walk in this direction and that was when I seen ‘em.”

“Who? Who did you see, Sam?” Frodo asked. “Did someone dig up my tomato plants last night?”

“No,” Sam said looking very uncomfortable. ‘No one dug ‘em up. They just got up and left on their own.”

Frodo’s mouth fell open. “What do you mean they got up and left on their own?”

“I know how it sounds, Mr. Frodo,” Sam said embarrassed.

“Do you?”

“Course I do,” Sam said. “I been standing out here for hours tryin’ to think how I should go about tellin’ you that your tomato plants just up and walked off in the middle of the night.”

“Tell me again how many beers you had?” Frodo said.

“It didn’t have anythin’ to do with the beer,” Sam objected.

“You are going to stand there and tell me that you watched my garden stroll off into the night and that has nothing to do with beer?” Frodo looked very skeptical indeed now.

“The plants are gone,” Sam said with a shrug. “They had to go somewhere. If I only imagined it all because ‘o the beer then where are the tomatoes?”

“Well, someone obviously dug them up,” Frodo said. “Tomato plants don’t just walk off. I’ve seen many strange things in my years but I have never seen walking tomato plants." Frodo sighed.

“Are you all right, Mr. Frodo?” Sam asked. Mr. Frodo suddenly looked very strange as if he was recalling something.

“Am I all right?” Frodo frowned. “You see my tomato plants march out of the garden and you want to know if I’m all right? Sam, you and I have been friends for many years now but when you are the one spouting nonsense then I know something is wrong.”

“It’s only that you had this queer look on your face for a minute there,” Sam said. “And they weren’t marchin’. It was more like they were trudgin’ about. They seemed to have some difficulty movin’ at first. It was like they were strugglin’ to pull their roots up and a couple of them had trouble with the stakes. One of the littler ones fell but it got up again and off it went trudgin’ along after the others.” Sam smiled. “It was smaller but it weren’t about to stay behind on its own.”

“You actually believe you saw this don’t you?” Frodo said amazed.

“I do,” Sam said looking a bit embarrassed but still determined to stand by what he knew to be true. “I know it don’t seem sensible and that it can’t really have happened but it did all the same.”

“Good morning,” Merry said cheerfully as he and Pippin walked out to the garden and joined Sam and Frodo. The two of them were still in their night clothes.

“Is it?” Frodo asked looking pained.

“I’ve made tea,” Merry said gesturing with the cup of the steaming beverage in his hands. “There’s a pot of it in your kitchen.”

“Where are the tomatoes?” Pippin said. He looked about the garden with a trace of what might have been panic in his eyes.

“Ask Sam,” Frodo said. He reached over and took the cup of tea from Merry’s hands and drank deeply from it.

“You’re welcome,” Merry said slightly annoyed. He had made tea but that had been his cup.

“Sam, where are my, er, your tomatoes?” Pippin said his voice filled with concern.

“They up and left,” Sam sighed. “Pull up stakes and moved right along.”

Merry chuckled. “What’s the joke?”

“When did they go and which way did they go?” Pippin asked. He didn’t seem to find what Sam had just said at all odd.

“They went down the hill just there toward the road,” Sam said pointing.

Pippin turned and started off in that direction but Frodo caught him but the collar of his dressing gown. “Where do you think you’re going?” Frodo demanded.

“To see where they went,” Pippin said as if that part should have been obvious. “How long ago did they leave, Sam? Do they have much of a head start?”

“Have all of you gone round the bend?” Merry asked reaching over and taking his tea cup back from Frodo who was occupied with holding onto Pippin.

“I thought Sam had until just now,” Frodo said. “I came out here this morning to find Sam staring at our empty tomato patch and then Sam tells me that he has seen all of our tomato plants walk off in the night. Now, I was very skeptical about it all to say the least. I was blaming it on the beer that Sam had told me he’d consumed but now I am thinking that my answers to this mysterious event do not rest upon beer-induced dreams but that they may just be found elsewhere.” Frodo looked at Pippin. “What do you know about this?”

“Pippin, did you dig up Frodo tomato plants?” Merry looked shocked.

“Of course not!” Pippin said.

“No one dug ‘em up,” Sam said. “I’d swear to that. I know what I saw and there weren’t no diggin’ involved.”

“Explain, Peregrin Took,” Frodo said releasing Pippin’s dressing gown. “What do you know about all of this?”

“I thought it would make them grow stronger and taller,” Pippin said looking nervous now. “I thought they would be the largest tomatoes in the Shire. I thought that the plants would be healthier and they would produce more tomatoes. I was only trying to help.”

“What did you do?” Merry asked.

“Yes, what exactly did you do, Pippin?” Frodo asked.

“It wasn’t anything really,” Pippin said.

“My tomato plants went walking down the road to Hobbiton in the night and you say that it wasn’t anything?” Frodo frowned.

Pippin looked toward the road. “We don’t know that they went to Hobbiton, Frodo. They could have gone anywhere. I think that we should try to find out where they did go. Why didn’t you follow them, Sam?”

“I-I-I don’t know,” Sam stammered. “Do you think I ought to have?”

“They might get lost,” Pippin said looking worried. "i was getting rather attached to those plants."

“Are we still discussing tomato plants?” Merry asked. It was too early in the day for this sort of foolishness.

“What did you do to my tomatoes, Peregrin Took?” Frodo asked again and this time he sounded very stern.

“I watered them,” Pippin said.

“You watered them,” Frodo repeated.

Pippin nodded. “But I do think we should find them, don’t you?” He looked ready to run down the hill and out of the gate but Frodo put a hand on Pippin’s shoulder and held him in place.

“What did you water them with?” Frodo asked.

“What does anyone water tomatoes with?” Pippin asked trying to avoid looking directly at Frodo or Merry as both of them were now glaring at him. "I used your watering can of course."

“Pippin,” Merry said knowing full well that there was more to this.

“Fine! It was supposed to be a surprise. I only wanted for Frodo to have the biggest tomatoes in the Shire. I just thought that if his garden did especially well this year it might make up for some of the hard times the Shire has seen recently,” Pippin said. He looked at Sam. “The tomatoes were doing very well this year, weren’t they?”

“They were at that,” Sam said. “Right up till they walked off that is.”

“What did you put on my tomatoes?”

“I had a wee bit of Ent draught left that Treebeard-“

“You put Ent draught on the tomatoes?” Merry howled.

“Only a wee bit,” Pippin said. “I mixed it in with the water and I only did it twice, Merry.”

“You watered my tomatoes with Ent Draught?” Frodo looked beyond stunned.

“Well, that explains how they was able to walk off like they done,” Sam said looking toward the road.

“It wasn’t supposed to make them walk,” Pippin said. “It was supposed to make them grow like it made me and Merry grow. I was trying to make them bigger not more mobile. The Ent draught didn’t make us walk when we drank it.”

“You could already walk before you drank it,” Frodo reminded him.

Merry looked down toward the road now. “Where do you suppose they’ve gone?”

“Hard to say,” Sam frowned. “Where would you go if you was a tomato plant and all ‘o the sudden you found that you could walk off?”

“I'd go someplace where no one would be able to find me so I wouldn’t get eaten,” Pippin offered.

Merry swatted Pippin on the back of the head.

“Ouch!”

“You had that coming,” Merry said. “Of all the barking mad notions that you’ve had this one tops the list.”

“You’d all have been thanking me if we’d have got giant tomatoes out of it,” Pippin said rubbing his head.

“Yes, but we didn’t get giant tomatoes,” Frodo said. “Now, we don’t have any tomatoes.”

"They didn't even say good-bye," Pippin said looking mournful. "The other day when I was watering them one or two of them waved their leaves at me as if to say thank you. That might have been the breeze but I don't think so. I thought they liked the Ent Draught."

"They waved at you?" Merry groaned. "Well, maybe they were saying good-bye then."

“Maybe they’ll come back,” Pippin said. “They might just be going for a stroll. Maybe they’ll turn back up when they’ve had their fill of sight seeing.” He looked at Sam nervously. “They didn’t have eyes did they?”

Merry gagged. For just a minute he had this vision of a plate filled with ripe tomatoes sitting on the table and when he reached for one its eyes snapped open and it stared at him.

“Not that I noticed but it was awful dark,” Sam said shivering a bit.

“Tonight, we lock the doors,” Merry said nervously. “And the windows.”

"You don't think they'd really come back do you, Mr. Frodo?" Sam asked.


"How should I know? This is the first time I've ever had walking tomatoes before," Frodo winced. "Let’s go inside and have that tea now.”

"Don't mention none of this to Rosie," Sam said. "I'll think 'o somethin' else to tell her. This'd keep her up nights."

"It won't exactly make me sleep peacefully," Merry muttered swatting Pippin's head again. "If those tomatoes come back for us, you're dealing with them, Peregrin Took."

"What if they attack me with their stakes?" Pippin whispered nervously. "They might run me through."

"You should have considered that before you decided to experiment with Frodo's garden," Merry hissed.

"I'm sleeping with my sword tonight," Pippin declared.


The four of them hurried toward Bag End looking in the direction of the road as they went. The tomato plants were never seen in the Shire again. Where they went remains a mystery that no one is really very anxious to solve. The story of the wandering plants did become a favorite and was recounted every year around harvest time but most of those that heard it never realized that they were listening to a true story.

The End?

GW 01/27/2008





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