Toby the Grouchy Pumpkin
Toby, the pumpkin, led a simple life. He was born, or should I say "blossomed" in Farmer John's field on a summer day, nothing more than a tiny green speck at first. But with lots of light and water he grew and grew. Amongst the trees and birds and flowers, he prospered in that good country air, finally reaching a humongous size of 24 inches in diameter, a freak of nature, as it were.
His mother pumpkin, Emily, felt great distress over her mutant son. She rolled and thrashed in the patch worrying and fretting. Toby was truly the main topic of conversation in the field.
"Have you seen that giant pumpkin?"
"Yeah, man! Let's hope he never breaks loose and starts rolling! He'll smash us all like a steamroller!"
Indeed, bugs and birds and plant life alike stayed clear of humongous Toby. His frightful size made them all scurry out of his way. And the vine that held him struggled under the load of his weight, nearly 40 lbs. One October day, the rain poured and the winds blew, and the stressed out vine gave up.
"Run along, big Toby. I'm setting you free," the vine murmured in breathless gasps.
Toby considered that a good idea. He was all grown up, fully colored a bright orange, and ready to rock and roll, so to speak. In fact, he rolled over a slope and settled in a ravine by a gurgling brook. There was one other odd thing about Toby. All that time of being an outcast had hardened his outer crust and made him tough. And it made him grouchy. Yes, Toby the pumpkin was a major grump. So when he landed in the ravine, he was delighted to be away from the patch and all those neighbors who treated him like a freak. He was alone, and he liked it that way.
He and the creek got along fine, being different life forms and all. They had no foundation to criticize one another. Actually, Toby found the creek to be dumb as a door knob, with little to say but its silly incessant gurgling. So Toby ignored the waters and remained happy in his new home.
Happy until one day a little boy came along and took a shine to him. Not literally, of course, although you could shine a pumpkin if you wanted to. The boy had other plans, and before Toby knew what happened, the youth had picked him up and tossed him in a cart and took off with him. Knocked and bumped from the ride, poor Toby arrived at a farm house dazed and confused.
"I got it!" the boy yelled. "I found a good pumpkin."
"Bring it on into the kitchen!" a woman's voice answered.
The youth carried Toby in and plopped him on a table.
"He's a nice big one!" the woman observed. She approached wielding a knife while an enthusiastic glint sparkled in her eyes. "Very big, indeed!"
Toby was so frightened he wondered if his orange might fade to mere yellow. He saw the knife coming at him and thought for sure his pumpkin body would simply collapse into a Dali-esque orange puddle. The blade of the glinting knife reached his skin and pierced it. It didn't hurt. Rather, it evoked a smooth soothing sensation. The knife went to work, slicing and poking while Toby enjoyed every stroke. The blade eased a rounded lid off the top of his head. Next a spoon went inside him and scooped. The spoon's digging and dragging evoked a giddiness like Toby had never known. He loved it, and the utensil's action left him feeling light and airy, cleansed.
Next the knife went to work again with more slices and zig-zags, gracing Toby with a face--triangle eyes, rounded nose, and a big, snarling, notched mouth, a frightening face, really. Next, the woman placed a candle inside him, the flame flickered and glowed and Toby's new glaring expression lit up. She placed him on the porch, and passersby ooh-ed and ah-ed at his frightfulness. A funny thing happened. Toby no longer wanted to be alone. He liked being on display and the center of attention. And so, as Jack-o-Lantern, grouchy Toby found his place in the world, where he could be a grump and people loved him for it.
Copyright 2008 JO Janoski