The Sinner

I am going to hell. There is no getting around it. I stole something. I am not proud of this. I am ashamed to even write these words.

Before I say anything else, it’s important for you to know that I am not a thief. I was raised in a moral home. I was a Boy Scout. And whenever I leave public restrooms, I sometimes wash my hands.

But a man can only take so much temptation before he succumbs to pure evil.

Yesterday, I was walking past my neighbor’s house. It was a serene, sunny day. In the side yard of my neighbor’s house is a large tomato garden. The garden is unprotected. Unfenced.

There must be 40 tomato plants out there. These plants produce more tomatoes than any rational human being could ever eat.

I stood before my neighbor’s garden, staring at the giant tomatoes, rotting on the vines.

I gazed upon the tall stalks and saw the plump things, glistening in the sunlight and the Devil started talking to me.

“Whoa, check out those tomatoes,” said Beelzebub. “It’s be a shame to let them go to waste.”

I told the Devil to get behind me. So he did. He got right behind me and pushed me straight into my neighbor’s garden.

There I was. Standing before a row of suggestive tomato plants. I glanced both ways. Nobody was around.

So I stepped a little closer to take a look. No harm in taking a look, right?

“Right,” said the Devil.

“After all, looking and sinning aren’t necessarily the same thing, right?”

“Took the words right out of my mouth,” said Lucifer.

I touched one of the ripe beefsteaks and felt a cold thrill shoot through me. I cupped my hand around its supple base. The thing weighed as much as a Chrysler. It was warm. And so soft.

My mother used to grow tomatoes. One of her most beloved varieties was called the “Baby Maker” tomato. It was a hybrid. A cross between a Brandywine (for sweetness) and a Scarlett O’Hara (for tenderness of the flesh).

The memories I have of wandering through my mother’s garden are golden. I could get lost among those plants.

Tomatoes are illicit, temptatious things. The smell of their leaves is spicy. Their appearance is R-rated. The stalks are somewhat prickly, and just a little dangerous.

A Birmingham Police patrol car drove through the neighborhood slowly. I stepped away from the garden. I put all sinful urgings behind me. I told myself I was leaving. This was wrong. I was dancing on unholy ground.

But my feet wouldn’t move.

When the cruiser passed, Satan’s come-hither finger began to curl again.

“What are you waiting for?” said the Serpent. “Go eat the tomato.”

“No,” I replied.

“Why not? No one’s looking.”

“Because my mother always said ye shall not eat of a stolen tomato, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye shall die.”

And the Serpent said unto me, “Blah, blah, blah. Are you going to man up or what?”

I begged the Evil One to leave me. But something drew me inward. Maybe it was the fragrance of the foliage. Or perhaps it was the summer heat that was altering my perception.

I picked two tomatoes. They were bigger than baseballs. The tomatoes were so round and firm, so fully packed. And they were pleasant to the eyes.

Thus it was, I took of the fruit thereof, and I did eat, and gave also unto my wife; and she did eat the tomato later that evening.

“Where did you get these wonderful tomatoes?” asked my wife.

So I told her.

She was aghast.

“What is this you have done?” she said unto me. “I will multiply your sorrow if ye do not return to our neighbor to apologize, and admit what ye have done.”

So I went directly to my neighbor’s house. I clomped up the porch steps, past the garden. And I knocked on the door.

Nobody answered.

So I knocketh again.

Apparently, nobody was home. Which is why my eyes slowly traveled to the tomatoes again.

I stood alone before the majestic plants. They looked even better than before.

There was a battle going on inside me. There was a great war being waged for my everlasting soul. There were forces of good and evil encircling me. There were angels and tempters. There were saints and devils.

But most importantly, there were no eyewitnesses.

56 comments

  1. Anne Arthur - July 29, 2022 6:30 am

    Oh Sean …tears in my eyes, from laughing. Tomatoes, hmm, yeahhh. I feel you.

    Reply
  2. 🇿🇦🇿🇦Norma Den - July 29, 2022 7:07 am

    Oh Sean you crack me up. I am sure you will be forgiven, may God look kindly on you. Thanks for the morning laugh.

    Reply
  3. Steve McCaleb - July 29, 2022 7:19 am

    You’re looking at this all wrong kid. The way to look at this situation is from the standpoint of all the terrible sins you saved your neighbor from committing. I mean look at it…if he had eaten them all he’d be guilty of what is it ? Gluttony yeah that’s it ! And if he let them rot he’d be guilty of wanton waste. If that ain’t a sin it ought to be. ( From where I’m settin anyway). Cheer up this could turn up aces for you. If you ever get tired of the writing/ speaking thing you could go into a whole new line of work. I can see it now…..3:30 a.m. on Channel 68 just before the test pattern kicks on “Brother Better Boy’s Old Timer ‘Mater Hour”. Got kind of carried away didn’t I ?

    Reply
  4. Laura - July 29, 2022 8:01 am

    My counter is piled with lovely beefsteaks and New Girls and there are bags of romas in the freezer to be made into sauce for canning once the temperatures drop. There is no better treat than a delicious vine ripened tomato, you are forgiven for picking a couple.

    Reply
  5. Ann Thompson - July 29, 2022 8:36 am

    We grow tomatoes. Sell them out front for 50 cents each. Sweet fresh picked cucumbers to go with them, same price. Doesn’t pay for the organic fertilizer, seeds and compost…saying nothing for the time and effort and water. First year we were here we set up a little table and put a free sign up next to them. One person stopped and took everything. That’s not right. So, 50 cents each seems to work to keep sharing with the community. I empty the jar so the freeloading scourge don’t take the jar full of quarters, nickels and dimes. (Has happened!!!)
    Leave a little something at their growers door…..There’s something special about a southern style tomato pie…..Keeps the world turning.

    Reply
  6. Ed (Bear) - July 29, 2022 8:45 am

    LOL, LOL, LOL

    Sean of the South… you are my favorite writer. Without straining a muscle, but by simply articulating your funny bone, you reach our soul and unfold it right in front of us… in such a good and funny way!

    Reply
  7. Jennifer - July 29, 2022 9:51 am

    I have read/ heard the apple in Genesis was REALLY a tomato. Believable.

    Reply
  8. Jeff Webb - July 29, 2022 10:01 am

    Well the way I see it, you were testing your neighbor’s product. What if he had sold some and they were bad it.
    Better go check a couple more plants for him.
    You’re a good neighbor Sean.

    Reply
  9. WayneGina Yount - July 29, 2022 10:21 am

    🤣🤣🤣

    Reply
  10. Ron M - July 29, 2022 10:53 am

    Conviction Contrition Confession Consolation … not judging here but I am thinking you may have skipped Step Two …

    Reply
  11. Jean Sherrill - July 29, 2022 11:05 am

    I think you need to plant tomatoes next year in your yard. Nothing better than a fresh tomato from the garden.

    Reply
  12. MR - July 29, 2022 11:29 am

    I’m sure your neighbor would be happy to share with you Sean! I know I would be honored.

    Reply
  13. Chasity Davis Ritter - July 29, 2022 11:31 am

    I hope if your neighbor comes home and you do confess that they say oh feel free to take all you want it’s more than we need. Or better yet if you hadn’t met them already anyway have Jamie make up a cute little gift basket of some her amazing pound cake or biscuits or any of her other wonderful creations and a book or two of yours to introduce yourselves. Maybe a loaf of bread and a jar of Dukes… hint hint. Could turn into a life long friendship with those tomatoes err I’m I mean neighbors.

    Reply
    • Linda Jessen - July 29, 2022 3:33 pm

      Best suggestion yet!

      Reply
  14. Linda Clayton - July 29, 2022 11:38 am

    Oh my gosh! The power of suggestion – I’m heading to the curb market now for tomatoes.

    Reply
  15. Ed Hudson - July 29, 2022 11:59 am

    I know what you mean. My neighbor and good friend grows watermelons. I’ve been after him for years to install night lights so I wouldn’t stumble around as much.

    Reply
    • TA - July 29, 2022 1:10 pm

      🤣🤣🤣

      Reply
  16. Russell Hopple - July 29, 2022 12:04 pm

    That was brilliant …. And FUNNY!!! Well done

    Reply
  17. Greyn - July 29, 2022 12:11 pm

    You still good. Still got a conscious to wrestle. Experienced the rare precrime hesitation that marks the good’uns. If you had broken into the house and stolen the Duke’s mayo, then you done slipped into mortal sin, son.

    Reply
  18. Peggy - July 29, 2022 12:27 pm

    Be careful, Sean, everybody knows it was a tomato and not an apple in the Garden of Eden. By the way, I would have done the same thing.

    Reply
  19. Ann - July 29, 2022 12:48 pm

    Repent you sinner!!! Lol. I love it. They are probably on vacation and you did them a favor. If I don’t keep mine picked, they stop producing. Best summer reading to date. I loved it.

    Reply
  20. Paul McCutchen - July 29, 2022 12:48 pm

    I don’t have trouble with people as much as deer, (who ate my beans), chipmunks, (who ate my strawberries). After fencing and putting up a net about the only thing I accomplished was saving my corn, okra, and most of my tomatoes. Next year I might give up. Oh yea I live in the “burbs”. You don’t travel near me, do you?

    Reply
  21. Mac - July 29, 2022 12:56 pm

    Sean, I think you may need a 12-step program for tomatoes!

    Reply
  22. TA - July 29, 2022 1:04 pm

    Nah…you were totally caught on the game camera or the wireless security system he’s got mounted where no one can see it and you’re gonna end up on one of those neighborhood watch pages! Look out for “Karen” her cohorts. I can assure you they’re on the look out for you 😜🤣🤣🤣 Numbers 32:23b…and be sure your sin will find you out. And sometimes it might be worth it 😜🤣🥰🤭

    Reply
  23. Oliver Rhett Talbert - July 29, 2022 1:11 pm

    You sick, evil, damned soul – welcome to my house! I laughed and laughed at today’s coming until The Angel of Death asked, “What the hell is so damned funny?” (In the same way my Citadel-grad uncle asked me that once.) So I shut up and said a little prayer for you – a very little prayer.

    Reply
  24. Dee Thompson - July 29, 2022 1:21 pm

    Nobody could blame you for rescuing those tomatoes! My mom grew scrumptious tomatoes for years. When they couldn’t all be eaten in time, she did the following: get a saucepan of water boiling. Dip each tomato in the boiling water for about 8 seconds. Put it on the counter. After dipping each tomato, take a paring knife and the skin just slides off. Put the tomatoes in a heavy freezer bag and freeze them. Pull the bag out in January and use the tomatoes for sauces. Yum!

    Reply
  25. Nancy B. Ruby - July 29, 2022 1:22 pm

    I also had a neighbor that had tomatoes rotting on the vine. I appropriated some of them. At that time, my mother was in a senior living facility. I peeled and sliced some and took them and shared with my mother’s table at lunch one day. I fessed up as to how I came by them and got a scolding from mom. Some time later, she asked me if I had any more of Mr. —–‘s tomatoes. I think the greater sin was to let them go to waste.

    Reply
  26. Marilyn Carnell - July 29, 2022 1:43 pm

    You are such a good writer? I am a writer, too, and I learn a lot from you.

    Reply
  27. Linda Brannon - July 29, 2022 1:52 pm

    This one about the tomatoes made me laugh out loud more than once! Hilarious! I love tomatoes too so I could totally identify….luckily I don’t have anyone growing them near me.

    Reply
  28. David Britnell - July 29, 2022 2:00 pm

    I love that your mother speaks to you in KJV! LOL

    Reply
  29. Peggy M. Windham - July 29, 2022 2:10 pm

    Don’t worry,Sean! You weren’t stealing, you were saving them from an unsavory death! You did good!

    Reply
  30. Patricia Gibson - July 29, 2022 2:11 pm

    Hilarious

    Reply
  31. sjhl7 - July 29, 2022 2:16 pm

    Love this!

    Reply
  32. Nancy Carnahan - July 29, 2022 3:04 pm

    Quality control
    But go over and confess. More than likely you’ll get more!

    Reply
  33. Sundae - July 29, 2022 3:39 pm

    I needed a good giggle this morning! Enjoy thy fruit of thy vines!

    Reply
  34. kris - July 29, 2022 3:40 pm

    I say this article rates as a confession, so therefore you’ve been forgiven.

    Reply
  35. Cotton Ketchie - July 29, 2022 3:53 pm

    It would have been a worse sin for those tomatoes to have gone ot waste.

    Reply
  36. pyrthroes - July 29, 2022 4:26 pm

    Before Jackson’s belated Battle of New Orleans in 1812, tomatoes as “passion fruit” were considered unfit for human consumption from New England to mid-Atlantic Carolinas. But Cajun gumbo opened the eyes of Jackson’s Maine recruits, who made clambake tomato-sauce a seafood delicacy beyond compare.

    Came then the 49er Miners with Frisco’s Dutch-imported SE Asian condiments, followed by waves of Southern European (Greek, Italian, Spanish) pasta-afficions, and ke-chap, “catsup” (not the same) became a U.S. urban-stable as transcontinental railroads bridged the country.

    Hard to realize that Heinz tomato-catsup post-dates Abe Lincoln, while gunk-slathered fast-food chains obtain only from the middle 1950s. Of course, Lucifer is never wrong– just prone to, ah, dezinformatsiya: Eat apples akin to passion-fruit, and “ye shall be as gods”… of course, the lands-and-kingdoms of this Earth are not the Evil One’s to give. Meantime, we welcome whatever sun-ripened fruits-and-veggies we can get.

    Reply
  37. Pat - July 29, 2022 4:34 pm

    Sean, I owe you an apology. I love Southern writers, but evidently I’ve lived under a rock the size of Stone Mountain (North Carolina, not Georgia) for lo these 70 years because I didn’t find you until this summer. I apologize. I’m trying to make up for it now by reading here daily and reading your books as fast as I can. I didn’t know what I was missing, but now I do, so I don’t. Any man who can write Biblically about a tomato earns my total commitment. So sayeth the Psalms. Amen, and pass the salt.

    Reply
  38. LIN ARNOLD - July 29, 2022 4:41 pm

    I just might have to come for a visit!! I miss my Dad’s garden SOOO much!!!

    Reply
  39. Debbie Frederick - July 29, 2022 4:49 pm

    Most of the tomato gardeners that I know beg folks to take some so they don’t go to waste ~ because the crop comes so fast and so abundantly.
    I think the good Lord forgives any and all tomato sins ~ after all he is the one who made them so SOOO yummy!!!

    Reply
  40. Harriet White - July 29, 2022 5:29 pm

    I agree with Ed (Bear) !!!! You are so hilarious!

    Reply
  41. JS - July 29, 2022 5:59 pm

    And so it was told in the Bible, Satan tempted Eve, and Eve corrupted Adam. Jamie set you up…same as the biblical story. As far as I’m concerned, Jami and Eve have sumpin in common with this mater temptation. Heck, a mater and apple look alike. See where I’m going with this, your sin isn’t even original? Confess and enjoy the bounty with Dukes.

    Reply
  42. Stephanie Minucci - July 29, 2022 7:21 pm

    AND THEN YOU HAD A BIG JUICY TOMATOE SANDWICH, LOVE THAT PIECE AS WELL

    Reply
  43. Linda Moon - July 29, 2022 10:06 pm

    Earlier today I had my morning devotional and time of contemplation and needed another one after reading this post. I’ve never stolen a tomato from a neighbor, but you might say I’ve lusted in my heart for one (a tomato, not the neighbor). If I’d been there with you, I’d have been in the battle with you and lost the spiritual warfare, too!

    Reply
  44. Susan Kennedy - July 30, 2022 12:53 am

    Love this!!!

    Reply
  45. Slimpicker - July 30, 2022 3:16 am

    …..and that is why I don’t go to bars.

    Reply
  46. Buddy Caudill - July 30, 2022 7:30 am

    Thank you, I needed that laugh !
    I was bragging about your writing skills just tonight.
    What an imagination you have.
    And, it benefits so many.

    Reply
  47. Gary Woods - July 30, 2022 1:28 pm

    Now listen to Guy Clark’s song “Home Grown Tomatoes” for our closing hymn. One of your best Sean

    Reply
  48. jeff mcgee - July 30, 2022 9:23 pm

    Sean, I’ve been tempted by that tomato patch many times. I’m sure if were walking by instead of driving, I’d succumb to the temptation to snatch a couple of the tomatoes.

    your neighbor Jeff

    Reply
  49. joy - July 30, 2022 9:37 pm

    Just ask your neighbor. I bet they would be willing to share. Maybe offer to help weed their garden?

    Reply
  50. Thomas and Patricia Hardy - July 31, 2022 12:29 pm

    I think your neighbor would have loved the fact that you took the tomatoes to enjoy, rather than have them rot on the vine. If they were mine, I would have been thrilled that you took them. Next time you feel guilty, leave a little envelope with a dollar or two stuck inside. All sinners should be as good as you!

    Reply
  51. Joan Mitchell - August 1, 2022 4:14 pm

    Any act that leads to a priceless funny column like this, which makes us laugh and start our days on a happy note was prompted by The Man Upstairs, not The Other One!

    Reply
  52. phil - August 2, 2022 7:01 pm

    wait, are we still talking about tomatos?

    Reply
  53. Kathi harper-hill - August 3, 2022 4:01 pm

    Lawd!~

    Reply
  54. Linnea J Johnson - August 3, 2022 5:18 pm

    Very clever!

    Reply

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