The Secret Life of a Pumpkin
When I got home that night, I noticed the smiling jack-o-lantern in my front yard was crushed. I had no idea pumpkins lead such a dangerous life. I thought this one was different, I thought I could save this one, but like so many before him, he was doomed even before I picked him. His story begins as usual and predictable as any Cucurbita, chosen as a seed to bring happiness to the Halloween season. But his roots were rotten to the core, and believe me I saw his core and it wasn’t pretty.
As a seedling his growth was unremarkable, but was not without incident. The soil was too cold, many of the other seedlings didn’t germinate, but he thrived. As he began to grow from flower to pumpkin he could feel his roots running deep and taking nutrients from the others. Survival of the fittest, right?
The real trouble began about the second week in October, grown to full size, he was the biggest in his row, his vine green and strong, but it was his stem, curved, rigid and prickly that was the envy of all. He didn’t need to show it off, people came to him. They came to see his full orange ridges and strong, brown stem. Other pumpkins started talking, some were complimentary, but most were spoken out of envy. “Did you see him roll over to expose his stem, disgusting!” “Look at how his orange color looks enflamed when the sun is high, obscene!”
Sure he invited the attention, deep inside he loved it, loved being caressed, loved the constant parade of admirers. He knew he was the most popular pumpkin in the patch and he used it to his advantage. When people came to see him, they would trample on the others in his row, he took a cruel pleasure in seeing stems ripped away from vines, seeing smaller less attractive pumpkins thrown aside, left to slowly shrivel. He would go the highest bidder, the best home, the best carver and would be seen by the elite trick-or treaters.
The neighborhood pumpkins had other plans, they heard through the pumpkin vine of his exploits, his brutality. Have you ever been out at Halloween Eve when the dark begins to lighten, the moment before the sun rises? This is not the witching hour; it is the pumpkin hour. Jack-o-lanterns have this moment to do something extraordinary, and many sacrificed themselves that night, to avenge their friends. How it was done, we will never know, we probably don’t want to know. I only know this, I had no jack-o-lantern for Halloween night and neither did my neighbors. The police blamed it on the neighborhood kids, but I knew they were wrong.