Tricolon (tri-co-lon): Three parallel elements of the same length occurring together in a series.

I grew up in a part of New Jersey where it was so fertile that you could plant a corn seed in the ground and yell “Corn!” and a cornstalk would start growing. If you did this in the morning, you’d be having corn on the cob with butter and salt for supper. Ok, I’m exaggerating a little, but I’m not far off the truth. We loved corn, but tomatoes were the holy grail. A big ripe red juicy tomato, warm from the sun, would make older men and women get down on their knees in front of the bush and cry. I was only 14, so I didn’t have those emotions yet. But when August came and the tomatoes ripened, there was a sort of tomato mania that swept the neighborhood.

My neighborhood was predominantly Italian. I was the only Protestant. I traced my ancestry to Scotland. Every one of my friends told me I was going to hell, yet they enjoyed it when I gave them synopses of the condemned movies I saw, that they weren’t permitted to see. We’d meet in the falling-down garage behind my house—they’d sit on dirt floor while I stood and recounted the movies, sometimes acting out scenes.

It was in the garage that our plan unfolded. Mr. Stromboli had magical tomatoes. They looked better than the tomatoes pictured on the plant markers by each plant. They were so red. They were so big. They we so beautiful. All five of us wanted to eat one, but Mr. Stromboli was stingy. Every time we asked, he’d yell “No! Get outta here you little bums!” And then he’d pet one of his tomatoes just to taunt us. So, we came up with a plan.

We would hop his little wire fence that night. There was no moon. It would be very dark and would provide us with cover. We would each carry a shaker of salt, pick a tomato, bite it, and sprinkle it with salt, and keep sprinkling and biting until the tomato was gone, throw down the remains, jump back over the fence, and go home.

That night we met at the garage, checked our salt shakers and headed off to Mr. Stromboli’s garden. I was first over the fence and landed on Mr. Stromboli. He had a tomato stake driven through his chest. He was dead. We stood there for about five seconds and then ran home. This was New Jersey where you learned at a very young age not to report, talk about, or acknowledge the existence of a murder. In short, none of us respected the law that much. All of our fathers were, in one way or another, involved in crime—from tax evasion to protection rackets. All I could think was that Mr. Stromboli was mobbed up somehow too. When I thought about how he dressed—black banlon shirts and a black stingy brim hat. He drove a black Coup de Ville, smoked Di Nobili cigars, and supposedly ran the produce stand at Fortunado’s supermarket, but he was never there.

Then, we heard that Mrs. Stromboli had torn up all the tomato plants and stomped them into the ground, without picking a single tomato. Then, we saw a young woman dressed in black wearing a veil and crying by Mr. Stromboli’s fence. I put two and two together and it added up to three. That’s the wrong number for a marriage, especially a Catholic marriage.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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