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.
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.