Monday, January 27, 2020

Pumpkin Patch Shortcut

                                Pumpkin Patch Short Cut
                                            By Valerie L. Egar

Inspired by a Bantu folktale
A long time ago, before cars and school buses, country children walked over rolling hills and through woods to one-room schoolhouses. With a long walk, there was always something interesting to see.  A girl might find a shiny stone and put it in her pocket. Walking past a cow pasture, a boy might notice a new calf.  
Most children followed the same path every day, but one day Jonas and Micah decided to take a short cut through Farmer Richardson’s pumpkin patch on their way to school.

            It was autumn and a hint of wood smoke scented the air. Red and yellow leaves flashed in the morning sun, but it was the bright orange pumpkins that attracted the boys. Thick vines curled across the field with large pumpkins waiting to be harvested.
            The boys inspected the pumpkins, imagining which ones would make the best jack o’ lanterns. Jonas pointed to the biggest one, perfectly shaped with bright orange skin. “I’d choose that one.”
           Micah shook his head and pointed to one that was knobby and still a little green. “This one would look scarier.”
            Jonah walked over to the pumpkin to get a better look. He ran his fingers over it. With that, the pumpkin began to move, so slightly the boys thought the sunlight on the pumpkin was playing tricks on them.
            “Did you see that?”
            “I don’t think—” The movement grew stronger. Jonah looked across the field. All of the pumpkins were moving, slowing rolling back and forth.
            The boys started to run. By the time they got to the end of the field, the pumpkins were twisting wildly to free themselves from the vines. As they freed themselves, they careened toward the boys. Jonas and Micah ran as fast as they could, pumpkins bumping along behind them.
            Both thought the same thing as they ran— the pumpkins were enchanted. They’d overheard gossip about Farmer Richardson. No one knew much about him, not where he’d come from or why he’d bought a farm in their little town. He kept to himself. Mistress Barnstable swore she’d seen him wandering in the church graveyard at midnight, but her eyes weren’t good and people didn’t believe her.
            “The river!” Micah shouted with the pumpkins close behind. 
            Jonah and Micah jumped into a small rowboat tied to a dock and rowed to the middle of the river as hundreds of pumpkins splashed into the water and sank. The water churned around them, rocking the boat. 
            The boys waited for the water to calm. An hour passed and the water finally quieted. No more pumpkins appeared at the water's edge.  The boys cautiously rowed to shore.
            They arrived at school two hours late, hair messy, clothes wrinkled. “And where have you been?” demanded the teacher.
            The boys knew that no one would believe their story about the pumpkins. “We took a shortcut and it wasn’t a good idea,” Jonas replied.
            “Shortcuts never are,” the teacher announced to the class. “Both of you will stay after class and write, ‘Shortcuts are lazy. I will not be lazy’ one hundred times.”
            Jonas and Micah had no desire to go anywhere near Farmer Richardson’s pumpkin patch on their way home. They didn’t want to see a pumpkin at all, unless it was in a pie. They heard a few days later that he had mysteriously disappeared.
            “Must have sold all his pumpkins before he left,” their father mused. “Wasn’t even one left in his field.”
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Copyright 2019 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, distributed or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published September 21, 2019 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME).


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