A children's version of the story of a jack o' lantern.
| This particular stretch of country road is fairly deserted on this brisk autumn day. I was gently hoisted out of the dirty late model Ford pickup, and then placed with the other produce in nice, neat, groups, and rows. Four plywood tables and one card table for the good farmer made up the quaint roadside stand.
Everything around was still covered in a fine sheen, of fresh morning dew. Hardly two vehicles had gone by, in the few hours the stand had been open. The smart farmer knew that the local families would soon have to drive by in their early morning commute. It was about eight in the morning when the first customer stopped in. He was an older gentleman with graying hair, but he only looked to be in his early forty’s. He had a sturdy build to him and a rich deep voice, and from the looks of it; he was in quite a hurry. The man needed four squash and two big pumpkins for his wife.
The fine looking older gentleman said that his wife was gonna make him a large pumpkin pie for desert tomorrow night. The farmer and the fine gentleman were talking of the crops this year and how the lack of rain would effect it as his purchases were placed in sturdy brown paper bags. As the two men said their goodbyes, I instantly felt sorry for my fellow pumpkins.
Neither of the two were my best of friends yet I knew them well enough. We all grew up in the same small patch, and spent many a day out on the vine. We would talk of where we would like to go when we were older and watch the clouds roll by. They were the good sort of pumpkin, friendly and easygoing. Why there might be a whole day go by, when I wouldn’t hear a peep out of old Fred.
George, well, he was just the opposite. He’s the rowdy kind, always rolling here and there. He would throw wild parties as a green gourd that would leave neighboring pumpkin’s leaves and vines stomped and walked on. He even broke his stem once. Now it just kinda hangs there. Limp and awkwardly to the side.
He wasn’t too considerate of our fellow patch members, but I still counted him among those I called friends. Although, for him to meet an end like this, well it just isn’t fittin. I had heard hushed whispers within the patch, of what happens to a pumpkin that is turned into a pie. It is so gruesome, that I had a hard time keeping my seeds down, for the horror of it all.
When we were nothing but sproutlings, and our parents fell asleep for the night, the green gourds would get talkative. (We call them pre gourd, cause they're not a sprout but not a grown pumpkin). Well them green gourds would start telling us sproutlings, about what happens when a pumpkin is made into a pie.
First, they scalp ya, by cuttin the top of your head off… stem, pretty leaves, and all. Next, they scrape out all your seeds with their bare hands. Then with a big sharp spoon, they scrape out all our meat, right from the rind… Eeewww. Finally, as if that didn’t gross us out enough. Those gourds would chuckle, and say that once those humans got what they wanted from our insides.
They would turn us into hideous things called Jack-O-Lanterns. Those humans would take sharp knives, and cut our rind, tearing weird shaped holes into it. Then for fun, they would put glowing wax sticks inside us. Well, poor Tommy was so grossed out, that he actually lost his seeds. Right there in the young’ans patch. I felt like it, but somehow keep from hurlin seeds. I shuddered as I thought about what was gonna happen to poor Fred and George.
There were a few cars that stopped in that wanted some small fruits and vegetables, with an occasional squash or pumpkin. A few more stopped by every now and then, but they only got out and looked around a bit.
Then right before ten a.m., a woman with light auburn, shoulder length hair stopped in. It was apparent that she was a tallish woman about mid thirties, and strikingly pretty. She and the farmer shared a few pleasantries, and conversed about the weather. As she wandered among the fruits and vegetables, the main topic became the sudden intense drop in temperature this last week.
“What cha looking for Ma’am?” The farmer asked as he watched for a sign of more vehicles coming down the road. “Well” she started, “I need about three dozen pumpkin blossoms, and one fairly nice sized pumpkin. I am throwing a part tomorrow night and I want to make a nice, big, juicy, pumpkin pie,” she finished merrily.
I‘m so glad that she can be cheery I though sickened by her abundant merriment. I continued to watch her every move as she meandered around the tables. She’s not the one gonna get chopped, scooped, and lit up like a Christmas tree, I thought as the woman stopped suddenly. Her beautiful face took on such a somber look that I almost for got why she was here… almost. Then in a voice just a notch deeper than a whisper she continued.
“Tomorrow would have been my husbands birthday. He and my daughter used to always make Jack-O-lanterns together to celebrate. My daughter thought it funny that her daddy was born on Halloween. She used to tease him that his red hair was the same color as the Jack-O-Lantern’s skin.
I noticed that as she continued to move about as she spoke until she started slowly moving down the second table. Then with eyes covered in a fine sheen of unshed tears she stopped at my table saying. “My husband died ten months ago. He was killed in a car crash not a mile down this road. My daughter has not been the same since.”
”Well I am sorry to have gone on the way I did,” she choked. The farmer could tell that she was still pretty upset but stayed quiet out of courtesy. I was hoping he would say anything to get her to move away from my table. I could see she was still trying to pull herself together while still looking at my table. My leaves were trembling as she ran a smooth hand down corse rind. “I like this one very much,” she said to the farmer as my juice ran ice cold. It is nice and tall but yet entirely round. It doesn’t have any yellowing and I think that this will be the perfect one.”
The lady I once thought beautiful finished with a growing smile on her face. “Oh God… I am going to become a steaming, hot pumpkin pie.” My terrified mind screamed. “I will pick him up later though. I have a few errands I need to run in town, but then I will be back to get him,” I vaguely heard her saying.
“Good choice Ma’am. “Is there anything else I can get ya?” The farmer asked as she preparing to leave. “Well I could use some Hay bales and such for the decoration of my yard.” The lady said as she walked over to the farmers check out table. As the two talked about what she would need for her yard, my mind raced with fear at my impending doom.
With the final preparations made the woman once again headed back to her car. “I’ll have everything ready when ya get back Ma’am.” The farmer replied. Then the evil lady got into her car, and sped off towards town. I had been granted a stay of reprieve, if but only for a couple hours.
Sadly, I realized that no matter how long she was gone I would die tonight, just as surely as the sun sets in the west. Twenty minutes later as my tortured mind worked over all of the horrific details that might be awaiting me this night. A darlin looking little girl with strawberry blond curls came riding up to the stand on her bike. You could tell she had been riding for some time, as it had left her cherubic cheeks kissed red by the brisk autumn breeze.
The sweet angelic child looked to be about ten or eleven. However, her expression and countenance suggested she might be a bit older than that. She dismounted her bike and started perusing the tables idly as her face continued to fall. Her expression was even bleaker by the time she arrived at my table.
This little girl’s sorrowful countenance was so miserable, that I didn’t even realize she was looking at my table. The farmer must have notice that she had stopped though. He kindly asked if she needed anything today, as he watched her eyes fill with tears. They continued to mist over with a thick veil of sadness as I realized how much she suddenly resembled the devil lady who bought me earlier. I couldn’t believe what a striking resemblance it was that had so thoroughly caught me off guard.
Instantly I felt terrible about comparing such a beautiful innocent such as this, to the pumpkin killing witch. It was just long enough for that sweet angels face to fall, as she began to whisper her story. “No sir, I’m just looking at all the nice pumpkins you have here.” She finished as she absent-mindedly ran her small smooth hand along the edge of the table.
The farmer was a tough man, but not so tough that he could stop this darlin girl from finishin her story. He just listened quietly to her continue. “Momma says I can’t get a pumpkin this year. It used to be tradition for the family to make nice big Jack-O-Lanterns every year, but momma says we caint this year. She told me so this very morning. We just simply have too much to be done this year.” She said with a thick voice full of tears, laced with just a touch of spite.
For anyone willing to look it was plain to see the child was just miserable. The kind farmer was just about to say something when suddenly, that young girls face lit up like she was watching a fireworks display. She stayed that way, staring off into space directly over my head before turning to the farmer once again. Thanks for letting me look at your pretty pumpkins sir.
She said as she hopped back on her bike. Sitting on the bikes seat, with one foot on the right pedal she looked to the farmer and said. “Well I guess I won’t be bother ya’ll anymore. I gots to get on home anyway, as it is startin to get late and my ma will be home soon.” Then off the little girl rode, back the way she had come in earlier.
Now if that wasn’t just the strangest thing I had ever seen, I didn’t know what was. However, I didn’t have long to think on the subject though, cause ten minutes later the pumpkin killing lady was back. I am now a goner I realized as the pretty lady with auburn hair paid the farmer. It dawned on me that this would be the last time I would see the man who raised me from a sproutling.
That farmer fed me, washed me, and trimmed my families vine with his own bare hands. He kept us all in nice straight rows, while caring for us everyday. He also stopped the local boys from squashin me, on a cold winter night two weeks ago. I wish I were able to say it is the end to one part of my life, and the beginning of another. Yet, in my heart I knew better. I would not live out the day.
The ride to her house wasn’t a very long one. I have to admit, I didn’t even have time to work myself into a good frenzy when, low and behold. The pretty lady was shuttin the car down, and wakin round to the back door, where she proceeded to unload the car.
I was actually a bit peeved at not getting to enjoy my final moments of fear. I mean it is my life about to end… I aught to get the chance to be truly terrified. Red (the evil pumpkin killin lady), had to take her other packages in first and then she came after me. I have to admit she was very gentle like with how she carried me, and then when she set me next to the stove, why it almost felt as if she were settin me on a cloud.
Ah! She set me next to the stove! Shocked I look about the kitchen and notice what I am on. Of course, the counter felt like a cloud, she sat me on a folded towel. Red was already prepared to spill my seeds. Course that would come after she removed my stem and leaves. I think I would rather be dead before she beheads me.
Oh great pumpkin, here I come to join Fred and George in that heavenly patch in the sky. With closed eyes, I awaited the piercin blade of death, when I heard a familiar angelic voice. I’m comin oh great pumpkin, I thought when it dawned on me what I heard. Frightened I glanced up to see the sweet angelic girl that had visited the produce stand today.
“NO MOMMA!!” she shouted, “You can’t do this momma, you just can’t! He’s our Jacky Lantern momma, daddy said so, and oh please momma listen to me!” She pleaded as she ran over to stand between Red and I.
I prayed to the Lord last night momma. I was missin daddy something terrible. I prayed that God would ask daddy if we could make a pumpkin this year to remember him since daddy died last year. I knew how much daddy loved those times so I thought he might like us doin it for him.
I reckon he did, cause at the food stand today, I SAW DADDY! Daddy showed up right behind this pumpkin and pointed to it. Daddy said to tell you he loves you and he will be terribly sad not to be with us as we make it, but that we should still make our pumpkin.
Daddy said we should enjoy it rememberin him as we make this pumpkin so that he will be with us in a way.” I watched that the beautiful red haired lady get more tears in her eyes than an over packed rain cloud as she wrapped her little angel in a big hug. The both started cryin right there in the kitchen floor as they just clung to each other. Pretty soon, they were able to stop cryin and started rememberin all the things that little girls daddy used to say as they rushed around the kitchen. When out of the blue Red grabbed the knife beside me. I would have fainted if I could have… for I had all but forgotten about the fact my death was coming at their hands tonight.
Well, as it turns out, they didn’t end up havin to hurt me after all. Ya see, that little girl isn’t old enough to use knives, and she just couldn’t imagine cutting up her daddy’s pumpkin. So, they just drew a face on me. A very attractive one I might add, with crazy eyes that I can scare people with. Then those very special heavenly ladies set me outside on the front porch. There I will sit to live out the rest of my days… smiling.