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'Round the tomato bush

My Mama stays busy pretty much all the time. She never sits down; probably because people with idle hands leave themselves exposed and vulnerable. Not just to the devil's work, but also to the whims and ramblings of others; which, coincidentally, is the devil's way of getting in the back door:

He walked out onto the screened porch with a crumpled piece of aluminum foil clutched in his palm. Gently unfolding it, my daddy extended the wad toward us, revealing the meticulously saved contents.

I feared the worst and looked away. I've seen what grows in lumps of aluminum foil, and I didn't feel up to the identification process, or worse, determining if whatever it held was still edible.

"Funny about that Roma tomato," he said. "I cut it and look what I got."

Ugh. I didn't want to see a sliced tomato worm, either. "Show it to the kids, they'll want to see," and I waved him off.

"No, look," he persisted.

We, of course, all looked. Contrary to what we expected, nothing startling lay within, and several low "hmmmms" joined the chirping crickets' song.

"Is that the one that we couldn't figure out where it came from?" my mother asked.

"Yeah, but look at it. See right there. That Roma is really this red pepper," he said with sober amazement, like garden fairies had spun magic. "Isn't that just something?!"

"Yes," replied my mother, "Especially since we ate that Roma tomato last night."

"We did?"


"Where did it come from," he asked, "because it's awfully strange for a tomato to just show up like that." He still held tightly to the evidence in the foil, as if it held the key to this baffling mystery. "And this pepper looked just like it, until I chopped it."

Aunt Pat spoke. "It didn't just show up. I bought it at the grocery store on my way here."

Confused, my father, ever so politely, asked, "What, the pepper or the tomato?"

"I'm pretty sure I bought the tomato," she responded.

"And we ate it last night," affirmed my mother, again.

"Then where did this pepper come from," he asked, his voice laced with bewilderment, and oozing with the excitement of crime novel intrigue.

And I, sensing that the evening was ripe with nonessential explorations of the easily explainable, and not wanting my children's respect and admiration of their grandfather skewed by this examination of astonishing arrivals and departures of fruits and vegetables, sought to change the direction of the conversation.

But my cousin's wife beat me to it when she stood up and began gouging cracks and crevices that I preferred she had retained in the realm of the unknown. And in the height of her itching jig she exclaimed, "I've got chiggers so bad I need a Brill-o pad to scratch myself."

Satisfied that I had exposed the kids to enough southern culture for one night, content that some puzzles weren't meant to be solved, concerned that my dad's glaucoma is worse than anyone admits, convinced that I, having inherited the genes of my parents, will inevitably plod along behind them straight to the proverbial porch with padded walls, and, most of all, knowing that I certainly did not want to see my cousin-in-law scratch herself with the Brill-o pad my kindhearted and fascinated child presented her, I swiftly begged off for the evening.

Heaven help me. The devil had me yakking about them behind their backs all the way home. And then I had to pray and beg that the Lord would poke out my disparaging eye.

Web posted on Thursday, July 12, 2007

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