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There’s a tale ‘round these parts of a farmer with a chip on his shoulder. This man - if indeed he is a man; folks don’t know for sure - well, he don’t have a name, so to speak; most just call him the Harvester.
This Harvester fella, he ain’t the most personable sort, and one thing he hated more than anything else was boys coming over into his field. Now, back in the days when this tale was set, kids didn’t need persuading to eat their greens; and whatever this Harvester dabbled in, it weren’t all black magic, ‘cause the tomatoes he grew were some of the freshest and juiciest the people of our town had ever seen. And if the Harvester caught you trying to make away with some of his fresh, juicy tomatoes (and it were more uncommon for him not to; old Harvester had eyes everywhere), well then bad things were liable to happen.
Old Harvester could do things, see. Now, nobody’s fully sure how he could do these things - folks don’t know if he was some kind of devil, or just mighty closely acquainted with one. Fact is, he could do ‘em, and if you were sensible you didn’t want to end up on his bad side. See, when old Harvester caught a thieving boy on his land, he didn’t just send them on their way with a ringing in their ears and a spank on the behind with his shovel. What Harvester liked to do, see, is he’d cast a spell on ‘em, and this is what I like to think is a little poetic justice; since the boys liked putting this man’s tomatoes in their bellies so much, he’d see how they liked it when this got turned on its head, and he’d stick these young perpetrators inside his tomatoes.
Of course, at this point you may be asking, “How does a boy fit inside a tomato? A boy’s much bigger’n a tomato!” Mighty astute of you. What the Harvester did was, he shrunk these boys down, and then stuck ‘em inside his tomatoes. Didn’t shrink ‘em too small, though. Just enough so that they’d fit. Wouldn’t do to have ‘em being comfortable. These boys needed to be taught a lesson.
The boys stuck in here, they’d be curled up and cramped, and most likely unnerved to heck by the dark, but they wouldn’t go hungry or thirsty, or suffocate, or die by any other means once they were in there. See, once the Harvester had put them in this state, they couldn’t rightly be considered “alive” by any normal standards to begin with.
After six weeks or so of being trapped in here, the tomatoes the Harvester had stuck the boys in would be at that stage of being good and ripe. You might expect that maybe, by at this point, the Harvester would decide the boys had learned their lesson, and he’d let ‘em out; but sadly, when he’d taken the time to learn his trick of getting the boys into the tomatoes, he’d never actually made note of how to get ‘em out again. And so what he did was… well, the Harvester was a damn good agriculturalist. He’d never let a fresh, ripe tomato go to waste. Apparently they tasted just fine. That was coming from him, though; he didn’t put these tomatoes on the market. Not sure if I’d trust his tastes, m’self.
You might be wondering here ‘bout the tomatoes that got stepped on, or otherwise squished. These boys have an easy way out, right? They don’t have to suffer for the whole six weeks, and they don’t have to make the unpleasant trip down into old Harvester’s belly. I’m afraid these boys’d have it worst of all. See, even though these cursed tomatoes should be filled to bursting full of boy, if you cut one open you couldn’t see the boy inside. The kids who were stuck in there would’ve felt like they were trapped in a tiny prison not hardly big enough to hide ‘em, but really that wasn’t the case at all; as it was, they and the tomato had become one and the same. And if these ones got squished, they wouldn’t really move on at all; they’d go on living, through the seeds that sprayed out. An’ you can’t kill a seed. Well, you might manage to do one in, but good luck tracking down all of ‘em.
Now, I’m not gonna end this tale with a cliched old “so if you ever find yourself pickin’ from one of these here farms, be warned; it might be his”; folks haven’t seen or heard from that Harvester in well over a hundred years now. That’s not to say he just up and vanished, though. He might’ve just moved on to greener pastures… So overall, it might just be best to avoid stealin’ folks’ produce altogether, wherever you are.