The Enormous Pumpkin
By: Lynne Phillips

The children ran to help Grandpa as he struggled to get an enormous pumpkin off the back of the tractor.

“Grandpa, wow! That’s perfect for the Halloween parade,” said Marigold, the eldest of the grandchildren.

“Looks like all that cow manure you put on it worked a treat, Grandpa,” said Jackson, who wanted to be a farmer like Grandpa, when he grew up.

“Cow poo! Oh no, I won’t eat any of it,” the twins, Melissa and Mark, aged six, chorused together. They held their noses and danced around the pumpkin chanting, “cow poo, cow poo, I can smell it, oh, can’t you?”

“Don’t be silly, you two. The pumpkin doesn’t smell of cow poo,” Marigold said. She laughed as the twins pressed their noses against the pumpkin.

“It smells like sunshine,” Mark said.

“No, it smells like autumn leaves,” Melissa argued.

“It smells like a pumpkin,” Grandpa said, ending the argument.

Grandpa was known for growing big pumpkins, but this one even surprised him. “It wouldn’t stop growing, and would have grown even bigger if I’d left it on the vine,” he said, as he rolled it into the kitchen.

“And what do you think you are doing with that in here?” Grandma said, flapping her apron and shooing him back outside. “Take it out to the barn. There will be plenty of room for you to carve it there.’

The children helped Grandpa roll the enormous orange pumpkin out of the kitchen, down the path, and into the barn. There was lots of pushing, shoving, and laughter as they lifted it up onto an old wooden cart. It filled half the cart.

“Who wants to draw the face?” asked Grandpa.

“Me, me, choose me, Grandpa.” A chorus of voices vied for his attention.

Grandpa looked at all the eager faces. “How do I choose?” he said, his eyes twinkling with laughter. “I’ve been thinking we need a drawing competition. Grandma can be the judge. I’ll carve the winning design into this massive pumpkin. Jackson, there are some large sheets of drawing paper and some marker pens in the truck.”

With bold, broad strokes, the four children drew scary faces on their sheets of paper, each wanting to be chosen.

Grandma took the judging seriously. She considered all the drawings before selecting Melissa’s design. “I chose it because she drew the scariest face. It will look fantastic on this gigantic pumpkin.”

Grandma cut out the design, and Grandpa used it as a stencil to draw the face on the pumpkin. When he was finished, the pumpkin looked scary; just perfect for the Halloween parade.

“I’ll use my shape knife tomorrow to carve the pumpkin,” Grandpa said. “Grandma can have the pumpkin pulp to make pumpkin pie, and we can use the hollowed-out pumpkin as our Jack-o’-lantern in the big parade tomorrow night. With this big one, we might win this year.”

Grandma gathered up the discarded paper. “Now, how about we have some supper and you can show Grandpa and me your costumes for trick or treat?”

Halloween was always a special time for the Morgan family. Every year they visited Grandpa and Grandma for the annual Halloween parade, which was celebrated in the village close to the grandparent’s farm. This year their parents were away on a business trip, so there was just Grandma, Grandpa and the children.

After supper, the children went to bed dreaming of the fun they would have dressed up for the parade, getting lots of treats, and the celebrations afterwards.

***

Even before the sun was above the horizon, Grandpa was up milking the cows and feeding the pigs. The smell of bacon and eggs and pancakes wafted into the dairy just as he poured the last drop of cream into a jug to take back for breakfast.

Grandma piled his plate high with pancakes. “Just in time,” she said, spying the jug of cream.

Four eager faces waited patiently for Grandpa to finish his breakfast.

“Okay, who’s ready to see me carve Melissa’s design on the pumpkin?” Grandpa finally said, wiping his face on a napkin. It fascinated Marigold Grandpa could get so much food caught in his beard and moustache.

“Last one there is a rotten pumpkin,” yelled Mark, racing to the barn. He flung open the barn door and stopped, staring.

“Quick, come and see what happened to the pumpkin,” he stammered.

The others rushed through the barn doors and stopped. Mouths open, they stared at the pumpkin. Not only had it grown so big it filled the most of the cart, but the top had blown off it. There were bits of pumpkin all over the barn, caught on the hay bale, and oozing down the walls.

The pumpkin was already carved, with the scariest face any of them had ever seen. It was much scarier that Melissa’s design. The mouth full of pointed teeth was open, as if a silent howl was coming from it. The eyes, dark pools like black ink, stared at them and the nose, broad and long, was a gaping hole; large enough for a small child to climb through.

“Not fair,” Melissa said and stamped her foot. “I won the competition. Grandpa, why did you sneak out and carve a scarier one?”

Grandpa looked bewildered. “I didn’t do that.” he said.

“Then who did?” she asked, glaring at Grandma, her brothers, and sister.

“Not me,” they the children replied.

“Oh, no, now I have no pumpkin for my pie,” Grandma said.

“I’ll get you another pumpkin for the pie,” Grandpa said. “Come on, everyone. Let’s clean up this mess and feed the exploded pumpkin to the pigs. They won’t care if there is a bit of hay mixed in.”

The twins ended up with more pumpkin on themselves than in the pig sty, but soon it was all cleaned up.

Jackson looked at the pumpkin again. “Sorry, Melissa, I don’t know who carved the pumpkin, but it sure is scary. It will look fantastic tomorrow night in the parade once we put the lantern inside.”

There was something about the pumpkin that gave Marigold the shivers down her spine; the eyes seem to follow her wherever she went.

***

The pumpkin was forgotten as the children prepared for the big parade. The twins helped Grandma make the pie. Jackson brushed the Draught horses until their coats shone. Marigold oiled their reins and other tack while Grandpa greased the wheels of the cart.

“That’s strange. I think the pumpkin has grown even bigger,” Grandpa muttered.

He frowned, trying to dismiss the thought as he hooked the horses up to the cart.

***

At four o’clock, the children changed into their costumes. The twins giggled and wriggled as Marigold wound toilet paper around their arms, legs, and head until they looked like mummies. She used a marker pen to draw black eyes and scars on their faces. Jackson made a dashing pirate with his hat, eye patch, and cutlass. Marigold asked to borrow Grandma’s straw broom to complete her witch’s costume. Even Grandma and Grandpa got into the fun, dressing as scarecrows.

Grandpa drove the cart in to the village ready for the parade. The others followed in the car. “Lucky that pumpkin isn’t any bigger, it barely fits on the cart,” Grandma commented.

“I think it is bigger than it was yesterday,” Marigold added.

Grandpa placed the lantern inside the pumpkin. The light shone through the holes, beaming out into the darkness.

“Mummy, that’s a scary Jack-o’-lantern, a little boy dressed as a ghost, said, gripping his mother’s hand.

“It’s only a large pumpkin with a lantern. It can’t hurt you,” the woman said, but she clutched the child’s hand tighter and moved away.

The parade wound down the main street of the village, ending at the village green. The children walked, skipped, or ran beside the carts and wagons, pulled by horses or tractors. Giant floodlights bathed the area as the judges walked among the wagons. The Morgan children held their breath as the judges looked at their Jack-o’-lantern. They crossed their fingers as the chief judge stepped up to announce the winners.

“We award third prize to the Watson family for their clever witch’s castle. Second prize goes to the Ryan’s with their pirate ship, and first prize is the Morgan family for the best and biggest Jack-o’-lantern we have ever seen.”

Just as the judge finished speaking, the Morgan’s pumpkin grew bigger. Its sides bulged and stretched.

“This will not be good,” Grandpa said as the pumpkin skin split.

The crowd gasped and moved back, but not far enough, because when it exploded, bits of pumpkin rained down upon them. It stuck in their hair and on their clothes; icky, gooey pumpkin. It spared nobody, not even the judges.

The lantern flew up into the sky. The crowd gasped again as they watched it tumble towards the ground. People scattered everywhere.

“Oh, no!” shouted Jackson as the lantern landed with a thump on a cart with the three little pigs and their houses. Whoosh, the lantern broke and set the straw house alight.

“Clang, Clang, Clang, the fire truck — which was part of the parade, raced to the burning house and quickly put the fire out.

Everyone stood in stunned silence for a few minutes. A ripple of laugher started with a small boy. Soon everyone was laughing. Grandpa sighed with relief; there would be a mess to clean up, but nobody was hurt.

“A little less cow manure next time, I think, Grandpa,” Jackson said.

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