Curtis is very proud of his tomato plants. Ripe and juicy, they're as big as billiard balls. He soon earns the nickname "Tomato" from his friends, who find it amusing to see that Curtis spend so much time in his allotment.
Not unreasonably, Curtis wants to protect his tomatoes from anyone who might want to steal or damage them. Therefore, he enlists the help of Royce, a fifteen-year-old boy who's run away from home after being hit by his father. Royce's old man has thrown him out, and in any case, he doesn't want to go back.
Curtis shows Royce a place in the allotment where he can stay. It's close to Curtis's tomatoes and hidden by corn so that the police won't be able to see Royce in his sleeping bag. Speaking of which, Curtis buys Royce a brand new sleeping bag and gives him some money for food. In return, Royce is to guard Curtis's tomatoes at night. Curtis gives him a pitchfork and tells him to attack anyone with it if they mess with his tomatoes.
In the daytime, when Royce isn't around, Curtis puts up a large sign in his allotment that says “Lateesha's Tomatoes.” He does this because he figures that people will be more likely to leave property alone if it belongs to someone rather than the city or the US government.