The story about Pumpkin Sam tells how one day his life got changed.
Sam’s big day
The bright sun was shining and made my thick orange skin warm. It makes me feel like I’d burst any second splashing my flesh and seed all over the patch. I hoped that soon a cool breeze would blow and relieve me a little from the hot sun. If I burst, my flesh will be warm and sweet, and I’m sure that Mr. Lewis will like it. I have sometimes seen him eating other vegetables on the farm. But he will hate the mess I will create.
Mr. Lewis likes to keep things clean. I have seen him sweeping with a broom or using a duster to wipe things down. I lightly chuckled at my thoughts. All of my little body was shaking back and forth and gave me a warm feeling similar to the one I have when Mr. Lewis sings when he takes care of us. He polishes all of us, talks to us, and makes sure that he gives us the right amount of fertilizer, nutrients, and water.
I looked at Mr. Lewis, who was wearing light blue jeans, a black t-shirt, and a straw hat like that weird scarecrow. The scarecrow is waving and looking at us with an odd expression, neither smiling nor frowning which seemed creepy to me. The scarecrow was standing a little far away from us.
Mr. Lewis's clothes are old and baggy, much larger than his size. He has a thin figure and has a middle height. He was on his knees and polishing Robert with a wet cloth. Robert is the name he had given to the pumpkin he’s polishing. He had given us each a human name. Each name has a different story behind it.
A few sunsets back, Mr. Lewis and John, his assistant, argued about this topic. John was telling Mr. Lewis that there’s no use of giving a vegetable, fruit, or plant a name.
John said, “It will only hurt you when you and I eat them after they get harvested.”
Mr. Lewis warned him to call us by our names or forget his apple pie forever. Although John was making weird faces, he agreed. I love it when Mr. Lewis takes a stand for us.
He treats us all like his children, so he decided to give us all human names when we were seeds, and he first planted us.
Mr. Lewis cleared his throat loudly, which made my leaves stand at attention. I stopped eating and looked at him. He furrowed his brows and looked at Robert by taking his short, round body in his hands. He carefully checked Robert’s body, glancing at him from every angle. Then he gently placed Robert on the ground.
Then Mr. Lewis got up and went inside the house. Watching him go gave me chills as if cold air was blown all over my body. My bright orange companions were still talking and laughing beside me. I guessed they didn’t know what’s going to happen next. Thinking of the way Mr. Lewis was holding Robert made the food that I was enjoying a few minutes ago tasteless. I had lost all my appetite.
I snapped back to reality when the farm filled with cheers and laughter. I don’t know when Mr. Lewis came back, but he was carrying a large pair of shears. I had seen them a few times when Mr. Lewis used it to cut other vegetables. They were big things with sharp edges. The blades are so sharp, Mr. Lewis can cut all the stems in one row. I’m always amazed by the work that Mr. Lewis can do. But now it made me sick and the cheers only increased.
Down in the ground, the little fungus things shook vigorously. “Please, not again.”
Robert was expressionless except for his bright orange color that became brighter which showed how happy he was.
He quickly shot lots of messages to us through the air. “My dear friends, thank you for giving me so much love and care. I know I can never repay your kindness and friendship. I’m just grateful for what you have given to me. I have to go and hopefully, I can meet some of my friends soon. Take care of yourself. Bye-bye.”
Mr. Lewis picked Robert up in his arms and cut his vines with the shears. Robert was so proud. The pumpkins that were near Robert could not control their emotions. Some were speechless, and some were crying. Some were whispering among themselves, and others were just blabbering as they sent meaningless signals into the air. I didn’t know what they were saying, but it was clear they were not happy. Even though Mr. Lewis took Robert away, we could still hear his cheerful voice. The whole bunch of the other pumpkins were excited and more awake than I'd seen them in weeks.
Next to me, Juliet sent me a signal, “I hope someday that I will be chosen, like Robert, and my lucky stars will shower blessings on me.”
I sent some signals back to tell her I agreed. I tried to concentrate on the conversations that were happening behind me between two pumpkins, but once Juliet starts giving signals, she never knows when to shut them down. I wished I could tell Mr. Lewis that he gave Juliet the wrong name. He should name her ‘Blabbermouth’ or ‘Big Mouth’. Even though she resembled Mr. Lewis's girlfriend, that didn't mean he could name her whatever he pleased. Qualities matter too, don’t they? Mr. Lewis thought that Juliet would be sweet to the taste like his girlfriend is sweet and caring. Besides her small, perfectly round, orange body, she talks a lot. For god’s sake, I was desperate to end the conversation. The fluids inside me are flowing fast, and I couldn’t remain here in this place for much longer. Why am I stuck here?
Juliet smacked hard on my roots, “Hey, Sam. Are you listening?”
“I...umm, yeah. I am,” I replied.
“Oh, I know what you are thinking.”
“What?” I was confused by her words. There is no way she could know what I’m thinking. I have a face like John’s because I am an expert at hiding my emotions. Not his facial expressions but still, He makes a calm and steady face when he doesn’t want to work. Mr. Lewis always knows when John does that and then he has to do more work than usual.
“You think Mr. Lewis’s next choice will be the most beautiful of us all. And that’s me." Juliet laughed a high, silly sound. Her leaves shook furiously with all the laughing.
My leaves were standing proudly. “Yeah, right.” No, girl I do not think that at all.
A loud gush of wind blew and covered my leaves with sand. It gave me a bit of heavy feeling.
Another one of the pumpkins, Tony, was close by and listening, to our conversation. He laughed, “You're so wrong, girl. The next of us that Mr. Lewis will pick is sure to be our leader, Mr. Harris.”
Mr. Harris was the biggest pumpkin in the patch. He eats so much, we all have to give him our water and food. Because of his size, he thinks of himself as the leader of our patch. Tony is one of his friends. Tony is an average, not very round, pumpkin. Same as Mr. Harris, he's rude and always makes fun of us.
Max looks just like Tony, and both of them are best friends. He sent us signals. “He's right, Juliet. Bet on it. Mr. Harris will be Mr. Lewis’s next pick.”
“And who told you that?” Juliet’s leaves stood straight and shook with anger.
“It’s obvious, Juliet. I’m the biggest pumpkin on this farm. So, Mr. Lewis will take me next.” Harris told us with his roots.
Juliet sent messages back. “It's not all about size. Beauty counts a lot when Mr. Lewis is making his choice, and everyone knows I'm the most beautiful pumpkin on this farm. I think you forget that Mr. Lewis spends much more time with me than he spends with all of you. He always holds me close and polishes me till I shine. He often tells me I’m perfectly round and have a beautiful orange color.”
Lucy, the middle-sized pumpkin, who is always trying to be everybody's pal, sent the signal. “Now, stop beating your roots around, everyone. Mr. Lewis will take us all, sooner or later. He'll choose each one of us in our own time.”
I liked Lucy. She is pretty and has a lot of leaves that make her quite beautiful.
“She's got a good point, you know,” I agreed.
“Correct,” Harris was sending the fluids regularly. Suddenly, he increased his pace, “The big day is tomorrow, Sam. That’s why Mr. Lewis will be coming back often to take us.”
How can I forget that! It’s the routine now. When Mr. Lewis or John gave us water and food, they talked about the big day or Halloween. They both are very excited when they talk about that day and the plans for what they are going to do. That’s one of the reasons he takes extra care of us. Mr. Lewis said that he would take the perfectly round, orange pumpkins with them.
Juliet’s roots started to sway back and forth with mine, “Hey, yeah! That’s why the farm is buzzing with gossip. Mr. Lewis has been harvesting us overtime for many sunrises. I even forget to keep that in my roots.”
Harris’s leaves bent forward in agreement, “Exactly. He’s been out here five times already this morning. That’s not usual. We all know that.”
Max sent a signal to Harris, which could be heard by all of us. “I bet you’re his next choice, Mr. Harris. You’ll be going with him any time now.”
“Oh, yes, that’s true. I’m sure to go first, and then anyone could be next,” Harris cautioned us by his little fungus, which connects all our roots. “Any of you could go with Mr. Lewis after me. Every pumpkin has to fulfil a purpose on this earth after all.” He sent me an extremely loud signal. “I wonder what your purpose is, Sam.” Harris's roots were swaying while mocking me.
That stupid old pumpkin. Doesn’t Harris know when to keep his roots to himself? Or he only uses them to scare us? I guess there’s no flesh and seeds inside his body; it’s only filled with air. Mr. Lewis will be sad when he will find out about it.
“Mind your own business, Harris,” I replied hard with my roots.
But he kept it up. “Hey, pumpkins are supposed to be big and round and orange, so everyone can enjoy us by eating us or decorating us. To fulfill that goal is our privilege and to be sure that everyone can enjoy us in some way. Now the big day is almost here and we will become more and more important. We’re the only food that gets to serve as decorations and ornaments for the big day. We must maintain ourselves the best we can and show off our beauty to the world. That’s why John told us to grow big to make them proud.”
Tony gave some of his food to Harris, “There are some who are only a burden to our family. Freeloaders who only consume resources and do nothing useful for our patch.”
The wind stopped blowing, and the atmosphere around us became tense and heavy.
Max sent the messages, “Ol’ Sam surely has an odd shape. Not rounded and smooth, and certainly not big. Definitely not decoration-worthy. We all have seen the big carved pumpkins on the porch. He doesn’t look like them, does he?” He was shaking while controlling himself, “I don't think anyone would eat him.”
All the pumpkins began to make fun of me. Even Juliet and Lucy joined in, their high-pitched sounds encouraging more pumpkins to add their voices to the din. I tried not to show how small and useless they made me feel as I sighed and focused myself on looking skyward as though some relief might come from above.
Eventually, the laughter subsided, and my neighbors found something else to occupy their minds. By then, the sun was setting, and I assumed the harvest had finished for today. The farmers would leave until tomorrow. Then I noticed movement off to my left. I found out that the two figures were approaching in our direction. I shook all the sand off my leaves as the two humans came closer riding in a tractor.
Max quickly gave us a signal, “Look, Mr. Lewis is coming.”
Juliet fairly leaped with excitement. “Today must be my lucky day. Mr. Lewis is coming in a tractor.”
“Look, he has someone with him,” Tony’s fungus was trying to grab everyone's attention. “I think it’s the assistant, John.”
Mr. Lewis stopped the tractor a little far away. John and Mr. Lewis walked up to us while talking with each other. I could feel the sand blowing around me. I could see some tiny parts of the sand in the air, which made the atmosphere enchanting. John made a big sound before stopping. He was munching something happily. With his right hand, he slowly patted his big tummy.
“Okay, John. Now, stop eating,” Mr. Lewis said, “You know what to do. Complete the work before night.”
John simply smiled.
Mr. Lewis took the packet from John and looked down sternly at him, “You’ll only get it when you finish the work.”
John gave him a big smile and put both his hands on the back of his head. He slowly went on the porch and sat there and looked at his oversized dirty shoes. “I’m still hungry,” John said. He laid down on the bench and put his short, chubby legs on top of each other.
“If you finish up the work. I’ll give you a treat.”
John turned his back towards Mr. Lewis.
“You do know that I can’t throw you off the farm, and you are taking advantage of me, you silly boy.” Mr. Lewis grinned, “Alright, don’t work. Your choice. I was thinking of giving you some apple pie. But I think I will eat all of it myself.”
John stood up immediately, “Who said that I’m not doing the work! Don’t you dare eat my pie! It's mine!” He said and glared at Mr. Lewis.
Mr. Lewis laughed and patted him on the head before he went inside the house.
Listening to their conversation helped me to calm down. It made me forget everything else, and I felt relaxed. The water in my roots began to flow at normal speed. I was grateful to both of them for distracting them.
John stood a moment, surveying the surrounding farmland, he stretched and began to snip pumpkins from their vines with a pair of shears and put them into a basket that he took from the tractor.
I watched as John harvested the big, orange gourds around me. First went old George, then Lucy, Harris, and Juliet. Slowly all the big, beautiful pumpkins were severed from their vines. I began to think he would take everyone from the field. Finally, John stood above me, looked me over, and rolled me a little on the ground to see all my sides. The fluids raced inside me because I was sure he would pick me up at any moment.
However, he frowned, “Nope, not ready yet,” he said to himself. I felt like I’d just fallen down a dark well.
I took a deep breath. Humans can’t hear us speak, but I still whispered when I spoke, “Well, it wasn’t like I was expecting to be picked. I mean, it’s not my fault I’m not beautiful, but…”
Within a few moments, the basket was filled with my friends. Their thick orange skin was shining brightly and made them more beautiful.
John drove his tractor loaded with my friends and neighbors away. He whistled cheerfully to himself as he disappeared over the field. I thought for a moment that I could still hear my friend’s excited voices talking about their good fortune. Then they faded away. I wished them farewell and hoped they would enjoy their new life.
The day passed slowly. When you have no one to talk to, time drags. Eventually, the sky began to darken, and the first stars started to appear. I looked around the field for what felt like the hundredth time and wondered at how silent it was. I couldn’t hear any voices. The only pumpkins left were very young ones that hadn’t learned to talk yet or those that weren’t ripe. A gentle breeze played across the big field, carrying the scent of earth and life. I’ve always liked that smell, and I couldn’t help but relax. My little fungus friends were silent and enjoyed the many stars above us.
“It will be like this until the next planting season,” I sent a big message. “It’s kind of beautiful.”
“So, you prefer peace over chatting with other pumpkins?”
I shifted my attention in front of me, and there was a man. He was tall and thin to the point of being gaunt. He was also headless. In his right hand, he held a big, carved pumpkin. The gourd was glowing brightly. He had a big smile on his face.
“Who are you? Where did you come from?” I sent him a message. It was unusual that a human could understand or talk to us. But he was unlike any man I’d ever seen; it isn’t every day you run into a headless man, you know.
The grin on the face of the pumpkin he held seemed to twist its mouth upwards.
“That’s not the answer to my question,” it snorted.
I tried to control the shock and fear growing inside me, and sent the message, “I prefer a quiet environment.”
“So, I guess you don’t like adventure and traveling and lots of food?”
“Well, it’s not like I’ve ever been away from this farm. I guess it might be fun to try going to a new place...”
His manic smile returned. “Much better.”
“But who are you?”
“Hmm, I’m the Headless Man.”
“H-headless Man?” I was confused.
“Yes, that’s what people call me: ‘the Headless Man.’ I have no head of my own any longer, I have to use my pal here for a substitute, but if I still had my head, you’d probably call me Travis. That wasn’t my real name, but I had a face like someone named Travis should have.”
The fluids inside me were now flowing at a reasonable speed, “That must be tough for you.”
“It’s not a big deal,” the Headless Man said nonchalantly.
“Umm, how did you lose your head?”
“Okay, I’ll tell you. It’s a long story. But I think you will be the perfect one.”
He confused me. I couldn’t understand what this pumpkin, I mean man was saying.
The pumpkin in his hand shifted like he was looking at me only from his left eye. “What’s your name, pumpkin?” he asked.
“So, Sam. Aren’t you scared of me?” the pumpkin returned to its position.
“I, umm...no. I was a bit startled but not scared.” That was the half-truth. I was a little scared; I could hardly control myself from shaking. I didn’t like the way the pumpkin was looking at me, and the things he said were not understandable. After all, I’m only a sweet little pumpkin.
“Good. You want to know more about me and what I do?”
“When I was alive, I loved adventures and taking risks. Sometimes the things I did were spooky and scary. Like when we go riding the bike at night on the steep valleys, going to monasteries, fighting with ghosts, and much more. That’s not usually what a pumpkin does. I assure you what I do is much more fun, and you also get to eat food as much as you want. Well, in my final adventure, I made a mistake and…” He drew his finger across the stump of his neck with a cutting motion. “…kinda lost my head. Pardon the pun.”
“Oh, there’s nothing to apologize for, Sam. I mean, you didn’t have anything to do with it. You weren’t even a seed yet back then.” We were silent for a bit, and then he turned those big, glowing eyes on me like Mr. Lewis’s jack-o-lantern. “Sam, you said you’d like to try adventuring. Do you think you could handle the scary adventures too?”
“I can try.”
“I like your attitude, Sam.” The Headless Man smiled. “Not every pumpkin gets the chance to go adventuring, to try something new, you know. Normally pumpkins are eaten or are carved to be used as decorations in Halloween. That’s what you call it the big day, isn’t it?”
I nodded. What was he up to? I can't even think. I felt like he’s looking down hungrily on me, waiting for the right moment so he can eat me.
“Dear Sam, you’re getting a rare opportunity. You will get to decide your fate, to try something new. You can become my head, and together we’ll experience a world of things you’ve never imagined. Or,” he frowned, “you can become a decoration.”
I was speechless for a while.
“What you are saying is true? B-but what about your friend?”
He brushed some invisible dust off the big, orange pumpkin he held. “You don’t need to worry about him. Hurry up; you have only a few seconds to decide.”
I didn’t know what to think. All of this was happening so fast. “Well, yeah, I would like to see outside this farm and try new things and if no one will eat my food or bully me. Then I’ll do it!”
He leaped into the air and clicked his heels. “Oh, Sam, you’ve made the right choice. You’re going to be so happy as my new head!” He threw his pumpkin up into the air, and it dissolved into a cloud of brilliant orange dust that drifted down around us. He bent over and picked me up. As his hands lifted me, I felt the strangest tingle run through me, a momentary pain, and suddenly I could see the world as I’d never seen it before. Colors were vivid and alive, the night sky was the darkest shade of black, and the stars, oh, the stars, were points of fire in the blackness. I inhaled and could smell the night, the earth, and the richness of the soil. And when I smiled, I actually felt my mouth move! I’d never had eyes, nose or mouth before, and I was experiencing a whole new world. When the Headless Man spoke, his voice and his words flowed through my amazing, new mouth.
“Welcome to my life, Sam. You were worthy of being my new head and partner. Be ready to see a whole new world, my friend.”
I smiled with my new mouth, and it felt so freeing to do such a simple, pleasurable thing whenever I wanted to.
The Headless Man glowed, and I glowed along with him. I had a new friend, one who wouldn’t mock me or laugh at me. And the world, full of adventures, was waiting for us.