‘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