Sam and His Tomatoes This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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As I walked through the front door of the large brick building, I was met by all types of festive summer decorations. But the brightly colored beach balls and umbrellas did little to enhance the bleak hallways. Instead of hot sand slipping through my toes, my footsteps echoed on the cold tile floor as I approached the elevator. I pushed the button for the second floor and fidgeted with the wrapping on the cookies I had made that morning. I knew I had reached my destination when the doors opened and I smelled disinfectant and urine, the overwhelming aroma I always tried so hard not to notice. I made my way down the corridor to Room 229. As I stepped inside, I saw Samuel staring out of the window at the cars. He was humming and hadn’t yet noticed that I’d arrived.

“Good afternoon, Sam.” I greeted him and walked over to where he was sitting. His eyes seemed puzzled and excited at the same time. It was the same look he gave me every time I visited.

“I brought you a present,” I informed him as I placed the shiny bundle into his fragile hands. “They’re chocolate chip.”

“Those are my favorite,” he said with a smile, revealing his teeth, stained from 60 years of smoking a pipe which now lay in hibernation on the window sill.

I glanced around at the pictures of Sam’s children and grandchildren who rarely came to visit, except on holidays. I rested my eyes on the picture of his wife, Rose. He watched me, and I could see the loneliness in his eyes as he struggled with the wrapping, his arthritis clearly getting the best of him. I reached over to help and we both took delight in my morning’s labor.

“If you’d like, I’ll show you my photo album,” he suggested.

“Sure,” I replied. I knew the drill by now. On top of the album were the tomatoes Sam must have just picked from the garden out back. He was a Georgia farm boy who had taught me many times the right way to raise tomatoes. He once told me that people came from all over town for his tomatoes. I just smiled; I couldn’t imagine going out of my way for a tomato.

We slowly went through the pages of the album, yellow and worn with age. I listened intently to the stories I’d heard a million times, but it never bothered me to hear them again. I couldn’t help but smile at the enthusiasm with which he told them. Nothing made him happier than when he spoke of his wife. Rose had been his best friend, and he never let me forget how much he adored her. Her death had had a large impact on him, and it was obvious he hadn’t been the same since. I lingered a little longer that day, listening to his tales and sharing my own. I knew how much my visits meant to Sam, not to mention how important they had become to me.

As dinner-time approached, I got up to leave. I could see the disappointment in his eyes. This was the hardest part of my visits. I hated leaving. I often thought how lonely it must be staring out of the window all day, waiting for someone to help pass the time.

“Wait,” he almost yelled. “I have something to give you.” He reached for the tomatoes on the night stand and carefully placed them into my hands. “I don’t really need these; take them home with you.” I smiled as he held onto my hands a second longer. I watched as he slowly returned to his place by the window.

As I hung up the phone the next evening, I could feel the tears burning my cheeks and a bowling ball forcing its way into my stomach. I sat down at my kitchen table and picked up the once-green tomato. It was now a light shade of red. I held it in my hands and wiped the tears from my eyes and somehow managed to find a smile.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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