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Rated: E · Short Story · Family · #2235882
Finding the right answer was easier than Jackie had thought.
731 Word entry and 3rd place win in October's "Writing 4 Kids Contest

“Why do we grow old, grandmom?” Jackie Short asked.

“You have more questions than a TV quiz show.” The oldster leaned on her garden shovel to catch her breath. The field of pumpkins, ripe for harvest, made a colorful autumn picture of peace and plenty. Corn husks rustled at each other. The crisp, cool air was sharp with the scent of falling leaves of every color.

Mary Short spoke mostly to herself but knew her favorite grandson was listening. “Love is the answer. You'll understand with time.”

“I love you, grandmom. I don’t want to leave. Why can’t mom and dad live here with us?” The golden sun felt warm with the last hours of the day. The two companions made ready to head back to the family farmhouse. There was one last chore to be done.

“Tonight we turn a pumpkin into a Jack-O-Lantern, but which one?” Mary Short watched Jackie’s mischievous eyes wander before coming to rest at the pumpkin resting at her feet.

“It likes us, grandmom. That’s why it grew so close to where we end each day. Let’s choose that one.” Jackie took the shovel to clip the vine, freeing the pumpkin to his grasp. It took both arms for him to carry the weight.

They passed the clucking hen house where chickens prepared to roost before the seven year old popped out with another question. “Now, the pumpkin will die, grandmom. Do Jack-O-Lantern’s go to heaven? I wish we didn’t before going there. Why do we have to?”

“The lucky ones, like us, find a little bit of heaven on earth, Jackie, boy. It gets us ready for what it will be like. Love is the answer.” The backdoor screeched a Halloween welcome as she opened it to let Jackie and the soon to be Jack-O-Lantern into the mud room. The kitchen beckoned beyond.

“Keep the seeds you dig out. We’ll use them to make new pumpkins next spring, spread some new life around from the old.” It didn’t take long for the two of them to hollow out the ripe smelling gourd and fashion a Halloween face in place.

They talked about Jackie’s new home in the city his parents were making ready. It was far away. Mary wouldn’t be able to visit often. The farm owned her as much as she owned it. The harvest paid enough to keep it alive but not much more. Her hope for her son and his wife to settle on it had become a wistful dream.

The letters between her and them kept making the time grow a little longer. There were problems with new jobs not working out. Prayers were asked for and received.

Jackie chose a new Jack-O-Lantern each following night to lighten the way back for his mom and dad. The questions slowed and stopped. “Are you all right, Jackie, my boy? What are you thinking about?” Mary Short joined him on the steps, carefully nudging the latest of three Jack-O-Lanterns aside. It’s light wavered and caught, casting a warm glow out into shivering shadows.

“Why are there so many questions, grandmom?”

“Just like the pumpkin patch, you get to pick and choose. Carve out an answer. Make it shine like a Jack-O-Lantern, Jackie. Love guides the way.”

“I like listening to you talk, grandmom,”

It made Mary Short laugh. So much for sharing the wisdom of the ages. Some of what she said might seep into the lad with time. Looking at life through Jackie’s eyes was a gift that made her feel young. He gave her so much of himself it made her feel like bursting with pride.

If nothing else, the two of them had learned the sound of love. “Hear that? More love coming.”

The candle light in the three Jack-O-Lanterns flickered and danced, beckoning the arrival of two shadowy ghosts. “Mom. Dad.” Jackie, the human Jack-O-Lantern beamed a smile as his parents materialized from the night.

“Things kind of reached a breaking point out there. We may be staying awhile.” Jackie’s dad swung his son up in his arms.

“Is that all right, mom?” There was worry about being in the way in the voice of his wife, of personalities clashing. “Hi, pumpkin.” She brushed a kiss on Jackie’s shining grin.

“Love will find a way,” Jackie and Mary Short sang out together. Lesson learned.
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