So I am sitting in this tavern in Melbourne with my mates Flinthart, Banger, Melbo, Mayhem and Catty, eating and drinking and otherwise faffing up a storm, exploring the random furphy and otherwise having a grand time, when the topic of writing comes up.
I mentioned the inappropriate series of children’s stories I wrote many years ago told by my alter-ego, an evil old man named Brother Grim.
One of my dining companions actually encouraged me to post those awful stories here. I think all of them are secretly laughing at me. Australians are inscrutable. I can’t think of any way they can be scruted. But, what the heck, it is nearly Halloween, so why not trot out Bumpkin the Country Pumpkin – posted a couple of years ago at the Mini Burger. I’ve added illustrations. I recommend that all of you read it to your children, the younger the better.
So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you
BUMPKIN THE COUNTRY PUMPKIN
Once upon a time there was a little pumpkin named Bumpkin.
He lived in the country, far away from the Big City, on the side of the road next to the pumpkin patch. He was a bit scrawny and small. He began as a stray seed that accidentally flew to the roadside to sprout and grow without the benefit of regular water, fertilizer and pesticides.
So he sat by the side of the road, watching the pumpkins in the pumpkin patch grow big and orange and proud.
“We are Halloween pumpkins!” the pumpkin patch pumpkins would say to Bumpkin. “Children will buy us and make us into Jack-o-lanterns for Halloween!” they bragged shamelessly.
Bumpkin wished he, too, could be a Jack-O-Lantern for Halloween, but the pumpkin patch pumpkins laughed when he confessed his deepest desire.
“We are big and orange,” they would point out. “We will be picked at harvest and taken to the supermarket where we will be examined and fawned over and picked by children, who will carve us into scary and silly faces. We will be illuminated by flickering candles, glowing yellow out from our carved eyes. We will be remembered forever by children who grow into adults, who will take their children in turn to the supermarket to pick a Halloween pumpkin.”
“Maybe I will become a Jack-o-lantern too!” Bumpkin squeaked from the roadside, interrupting the litany of self-admiration.
“You?” the other pumpkins sneered. “Who would pick you? You are funny-looking, and besides, you are growing out by the roadside, away from the pumpkin patch. You will never be harvested and taken to the supermarket.”
When harvest came, Bumpkins saw that it was true. The truck loads of migrant workers were paid by the pound, so they concentrated on the bigger, oranger pumpkins in the pumpkin patch. They didn’t even notice little, scrawny, misshaped Bumpkin.
But then one of the workers, for reasons unknown, and to the righteous shock of the finer pumpkins, reached out and picked Bumpkin and placed him on the pile with the other pumpkins.
And so Bumpkin was taken to the supermarket and placed on display.
But no one picked him. Many children came and looked. Some touched and weighed, some seriously considered, but they all ended up choosing the bigger, oranger pumpkins.
On Halloween Eve Bumpkin found himself all alone on the wooden display sitting between two rotting pumpkins. He felt it was all over when he heard a woman’s voice ask:
“How much for the pumpkins?”
“I’ll give you all three for a penny a piece,” the voice of the produce manager said.
And so the woman bought Bumpkin and the two rotting pumpkins and brought them to her home.
The woman lived in a bad neighborhood in a small appartment near a busy street. When she got home, she took all three pumpkins out of the bag and began cutting and cleaning the two rotting pumpkins, who had died from despair many days earlier.
“I guess I’m going to be a pie,” Bumpkin said to himself in bitter disappointment.
But then a little boy walked into the kitchen. His name was Timmy, and Timmy wanted – more than anything in the world – to carve a jack-o-lantern for Halloween. He saw Bumpkin lying on the counter beside the sink, and Timmy fell in love. Bumpkin was the most beautiful pumpkin Timmy had ever seen.
“Please, Mamma. Please, can I have that little pumpkin?” he asked.
“No,” his mother said. “We are very poor, and we need these pumpkins for food. It is wrong to play with food.”
“Oh, please Mamma! If you give me the pumpkin, I promise to get a job and work real hard to earn enough money to buy another pumpkin so you can cook it! Please!” Timmy said, and began to cry, because he knew full well that there were no jobs for poor little boys like him.
His mother knew it, too, but she gave Timmy the little pumpkin anyway. She really didn’t want to cook it. She was suspicious of Bumpkin’s sickly color and odd shape. She thought Bumpkin might be diseased. So she gave it to Timmy.
“Make sure to wash your hands afterwards,” Timmy’s mother instructed.
Timmy didn’t care what Bumpkin looked like or the risk of pathogen contamination associated with cutting into Bumpkin’s flesh. Timmy was overjoyed.
And Bumpkin was overjoyed. He was going to be a jack-o-lantern! At last, his dream was coming true.
Bumpkin became a little hesitant when he saw Timmy spread some newspaper on the floor and take hold of a long carving knife.
And it hurt a lot when Timmy clumsily stabbed into Bumpkin’s flesh, cutting a hole in Bumpkin’s top and reaching in to scoop out Bumpkin’s guts.
Bumpkin fainted more than once. And, as Timmy’s little hand scooped out Bumpkin’s insides, reaching in over and over again, Bumpkin screamed over and over again, screams that only other pumpkins could hear – as well as the occasional banana squash.
Between fainting and screaming, Bumpkin could hear, out in the black night, the howling screams of the bigger, oranger pumpkins who, like Bumpkin, were being eviscerated by smiling, laughing children, as well as the occasional perverted adult.
After what seemed to be a timeless eternity of suffering without end, Bumpkin was transformed into a jack-o-lantern. Timmy beamed as he placed a candle in Bumpkin, lit the candle and set Bumpkin in front of the apartment door.
Bumpkin’s pride overshadowed his excruciating pain. He looked up and down the street at the other jack-o-lanterns carved from the fine, cultivated pumpkins. Bumpkin could feel their surprise – and a little outrage – when they noticed him. Bumpkin decided that he was just as good as any of them. And he was.
The magic of that night went on and on. Bumpkin watched as the costumed children went door to door yelling “trick or treat!” holding out their bags for candy.
And then it was Timmy’s turn. Bumpkin watched as Timmy and his mother left the apartment to go trick or treating.
“Isn’t my jack-o-lantern beautiful?” Timmy beamed.
“Yes, dear,” his mother said, and they walked off.
It wasn’t long before more children came to the door. But no one was home to give them candy, and the children walked away, dissappointed. Some of them said foul and impolite things, angered by the lack of candy caused by Timmy and his mother’s absence. Then one group of boys came by who weren’t dressed in costumes.
When no one responded to their baritone cries of “trick or treat!,” the boys threw eggs at Timmy’s apartment and wrote rude remarks with bars of soap on the apartment windows. Then they picked up Bumpkin and ran off.
Bumpkin remained with those terrible boys through the night. He was with them when they threw more eggs, sprayed shaving cream, and frightened other children. The boys even used Bumpkin to terrify the littlest kids. The boys would thrust Bumpkin into the faces of children and yell “boo!” The little kids would look at Bumpkin, scream and run away crying.
Just before midnight, the boys climbed to the top of a building, ran over to the edge of the roof and threw Bumpkin down to the pavement below. Bumpkin smashed into a million pieces.
But he didn’t die.
In the morning someone swept up the pieces of Bumpkin and threw them into a garbage can.
As the pieces of Bumpkin lay there in the dark, smelly garbage can, Bumpkin heard a little boy crying. It was Timmy, and he was crying because someone had stolen his first and most favorite jack-o-lantern. Timmy’s mother came to comfort him.
“Don’t cry, dear. It was only a vegetable,” she said.
And then, alone in the trash, Bumpkin died.