Late summer tomatoes were candy, sweet and red. I bit down, and juice splattered out onto Linsell's face.
"Fuck man," he said with a bubbling laugh. "Watch that shit."
"No regrets," I said and grinned wide, teeth covered in pulp and seeds.
We found the settlement torched, bodies in the road smoldering, stinking thickly of oil and burnt hair. The calvary went through just hours ahead of us, like they always did. Heat from fading fires radiated off of ravaged fir huts and patches of brush, making the muggy summer afternoon more uncomfortable than it already was.
I tied a rag over my nose and mouth and started digging. Kevlar work gloves protected our hands from lingering heat. Obsidian dagger? Makes a good weapon. In the bag. Lightly-scorched metal medbox? Could save a few lives. Doc will be thrilled. Unmarked square bottles of brown liquor that nips as it goes down? One for me and Linsell; five for the boss.
Then I saw it, a secret kept by fire and then ash, a basket of five ripe tomatoes somehow not boiled or withered by the raid. I seized one instantly, ripped the rag from my face, and bit down. I closed my eyes. Summer in my parents' backyard, before everything. Glory off the vine, tangy and hot.
I devoured the first tomato, wiped my mouth, and flagged Linsell frenetically. He trudged over with one of those what the fuck now looks on his face. Then he saw the four tomatoes. We each grabbed one, and tired disgust became dripping euphoria.
"Our secret?" he asked.
"Fringe benefit," I said.