‘Tis the season – for pumpkins. Carving pumpkins is a long held American Halloween tradition that’s on par with, well, pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. For those not already familiar with our Story Shots as a series, Story Shots are short creative nonfiction pieces (generally but not always in the form of a story) in which our writers all write with the same theme in mind and come up with vastly different stories for your enjoyment.
In college, I squatted between classes into a miniature chair—knees crammed to chest—and faced seven pairs of eyes.
“Tummies touching the table, please,” I said in the only place I said words like “tummy.”
I let Kyndal start the bread basket and passed a bowl to CJ, his hair as orange as a clownfish, as orange as a corn snake.
“Teacher, I don’t want those,” he said with a fantastic lisp, eyeing the willowy vegetables. “I just want ranch.”
“Just take a look-at-it bite, bro.”
CJ took the tiniest carrot with a martyred frown and shoved the bowl to Frankie. She took five slender sticks and blinked with the narrow eyes of a Cabbage Patch doll.
“I like carrots,” she said in that pious way so absurd for a four-year-old.
“Good.” I spoke slowly. “Carrots are healthy for us. They are good for our eyes.”
“And even milk!” CJ said.
I rubbed his buzzed head, his hair as orange as the leaf pile outside, as orange as the carrots he hated.
“Yes, milk makes us healthy too.”
“When my mom eats carrots, she even sees in the dark!” he said.
“Oh, yeah?” I said anyway.
The wobbly rotation of dishes finished its first lap.
Frankie frowned. “I can’t see in the dark, even when I eat carrots.”
“But I see fog!”
“Well, that’s good.”
CJ’s meatball slipped from his fork and hit the floor with a splat. Goofy laughter erupted from the table, and every preschooler stabbed their own slippery globes of meat.
I put on my most dangerous Teacher Face before a dozen slick meatballs could fill the air.
“Hey! Where do our sillies belong?” They froze, rearranged their impish faces, and licked solemnly at the gravy instead, their round cheeks already smeared and brown as acorns. “Where, CJ?”
Sheepish, he pantomimed throwing something outside.
“Teacher, my sillies are in my pocket,” Frankie said and hugged my arm. I felt a rush of affection for her and kissed her forehead, bangs straight as a ruler.
“How’s that look-at-it bite coming?” I asked CJ. “What about what your mom can do?”
CJ pushed his carrot off his plate. Even his fingers were freckled. “I don’t want to eat a stupid carrot to see in the stupid dark.”
His head was so round, his hair was so orange, and he looked exactly like a pumpkin. I imagined lighting a candle in his mouth, flames shining out of his eyes so he could see in the stupid dark.
I bit my own orange, bendy vegetable. I didn’t like carrots either.
– Missy Lacock
Now this is excessive. Pumpkin season had just started, a season that once meant pumpkin fields and jack-o-lanterns rather than a spiced beverage, and the local Stater Brothers was ready. They stocked two display stands right at the entrance so shoppers couldn’t miss it even if they wanted to. They had pumpkin pie fixings, which is agreeable, until you see it stacked next to the pumpkin spice marshmallows. There were pumpkin cookies, pumpkin fudge, pumpkin squares and pumpkin cupcakes. There was pumpkin cream for your coffee and tea, and even off-brand pumpkin soda. There was pumpkin cereal, which make me wonder what pumpkin milk would taste like, and pumpkin bread. There was pumpkin chips and popcorn and while I wish I was joking on this last part, that was no exaggeration. I thought I reached the highest level of basic by just walking past it, until I stopped my cart and went back for the coffee creamer.
– Nicole Embrey
Parking is a bitch on campus when they do events like this. Students have to compete for already limited parking with locals who want to take their kids on a special fall day picking out a vegetable to carve up and stick outside until the orange gives way to peach which gives way to grey which soon molds over and turns green as gnats and flies and an occasional raccoon or opossum snatches the rotting carcass of the Friday afternoon activity.
I drive around – bounce houses, flashing lights, and petting zoos in abandoned fields and lots that will soon be filled with pine needles, fake snow, and tinsel.
This is capitalism in action – look at this want, look at this hideous competition taking place over a squash. This is not food for the hungry. This is not shelter for the poor. This is not solidarity with our fellow man. This is profit. This is Spider-Man costumes and buckets of cheaply manufactured plastic orange heads to be filled with tooth rotting candy.
I go to see my friend and his parent’s house is decked out in holiday decor.
“Yeah, my parents got it on their trip to New Mexico.”
“I like that it’s not orange. Are they going to carve it?”
“It has warts and everything. It looks like a real pumpkin. Did you ever carve pumpkins as a kid? Did you like doing that?”
“I did. And no – it was too messy. I like pumpkin seeds though.”
“Same – but you can just get those without buying the whole pumpkin. Carving pumpkins is gross.”
– Amanda Riggle