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Jack and the Jack-o-Lantern
The thrill and excitement of Halloween run through this story of a boy whose mother takes him to a magical pumpkin patch. When Jack starts to cut eyes and a mouth into his pumpkin, he is in for a big surprise.
Written for Storynory by Marlon Heimerl of halloweencostumes.com.
Read by Natasha.
(There is no commercial arrangement behind this story – we just really liked Marlon’s writing, and think you will too. It hits the spot. )
Jack and the Jack-o-Lantern
The long station wagon climbed up the hill to the pumpkin patch on the ridge. In his seat, Little Jack bounced up and down, ready to shoot out of the car like a fire cracker at any moment.
“Hold on, hold on, we’re nearly there,” said his mom.
Across the the fields, everything shined in the fall sunlight with a soft orange and red glow.
“This is the tallest hill in town.” Jack’s mom said dreamily. “The tallest hill has the biggest pumpkins – more sunlight, you know. That’s why I first came here when I was a little girl. You will see pumpkins here like you’ve never seen before.”
“I bet there are pumpkins bigger than this car!” yelled Jack. “I even heard there are magical pumpkins there! But I wasn’t supposed to tell grownups because my friend said they would never believe me.”
“Who said I wouldn’t believe you? You know, they used to say a Witch lived on that hill when I was a little girl. Now tell me, do you believe that?!”
“NAAAAA”, said Jack, unsure whether or not he should be nervous.
“Hold on, honey, the road gets a little rocky here.” Jack’s mom held a hand across Jack’s chest as she weaved the car around some big potholes in the road. “People don’t come out here much other than for the magical pumpkins. Just sit tight while I focus – we’re almost there!”
As the car went up and up – around five and then six turns – Little Jack became dizzy and the dizziness mixed with nervousness.
“Psshhh, Witches!” He finally said out loud with a relief. “Good one, mom!”
The car finally rolled to a stop, Little Jack bound out into the knee high grass outside of the door and into the sound of chirping crickets and moaning toads. The wind tickled the tree tops and as they whished and whished against the tip top of the tallest hill
His mother was jogging to catch up. When she joined Little Jack on the trail, the two set off. First there was a rocky path made out of cobble stones and then, an orange wooden gate with a rusted copper handle.
“This is the entrance to the Old Witches Farm.” His mom said, looking down the trail which disappeared behind a row of trees. “ This was never a bad witch. Since the time I was a kid, these pumpkins just grew here all on their own.”
“You mean, no farmer planted them?”
“You mean, they grow all by themselves? Like magic?!”
“Well with a little help from the sun and rain – yep! That’s why this place is so special, and why no-body-who-doesn’t-already-know-somebody-who- knows-where-it-is never gets to see the Old Witches Farm. You are a part of a special club, now, Little Jack!”"
As he turned the corner behind the trees, he yelled back to his mother, “Where is this pumpkin pa—!” Before he could get the words out, Little Jack stumbled into it.
To his left and to his right, long, dark green and brown vines tumbled across the ground. Here and there, there were tall pumpkins, short pumpkins, skinny pumpkins and fat pumpkins, warty pumpkins, smooth pumpkins and even some pumpkins bigger than a dog.
“Look at that one, and that one!” he pointed, grabbing his mom’s hand. “With the warts on that one it would make a great Ogre or a witch! Or that long tall one, there, that would make a great ghost.”
Jack could hardly keep up with his thoughts, he was just so excited! “Or we could do that jar shaped one, there, and make it into a Frankenstein, or even that wide, short one, could be perfect for a creepy smile!”
Jack turned to see his mom looking down at the city. The sun was already setting over the bridge miles and miles away as she held a hand over her eyes to see as far as she could.
“Sorry, that’s great, honey. Pick whichever one you want.” she said. “Just know that we only have twenty minutes or so before it gets dark, so let’s get a hop in our step, OK?!”
“OK, mom.” he said with more determination than before, looking back down at the pumpkins.
And that’s when he heard it. A low buzzing sound, like the sound of a bumble bee trapped in a jar. Then again, more clearly this time, like the sound of someone humming. Buzz-buzz-mmmm-mmm-mmm!
“I thought I heard a humming, just over here!” Little Jack called back to his mom. “It sounded like it came from this pumpkin.”
Buzz-buzz-mmmm-mmm-mmm! Little Jack heard a sound from inside clearly – the pumpkin was buzzing!
“It is this pumpkin, this is the one!”
“Great, perfect! A fine choice, Jackie-boy!” Jack’s mom said.
“No I mean, this is the one making noises!”
“Oh Little Jackie Boy,” his mom said giggling, “It is only the crickets you are hearing. Pumpkins don’t make noise, you know that!”
Jack yawned and scratched his head, suddenly feeling rather tired. It had been a long day and a wonderful trip, so maybe she was right. Maybe he was just tired. Either way, he was happy with the choice.
As they left the gate, Little Jack noticed a sign he hadn’t before nailed to a tree nearby. It read: “No Todds Allowed.” Scratching his head at such a strange and off-putting sign, Little Jack was pulled along by his mother’s hand down the path and back to the car.
“Really, mom, this place is downright weird.” Little Jack said as they climbed into the car.
“I know, honey.” she smiled. “Isn’t it just the best?!”
Home at last, Little Jack set down some newspaper, grabbed a big stirring bowl, spoon, safety knives and at last, sat in the living room with his mom. Together they traced the top of the head with a permanent marker.
“Now I’ll cut the top part open since we use the big knife for this.” his mom said, carving into the top.
“Wait, mom, that humming!”
Jack’s mom jumped from the sound of his shouting.
“Jack! You scared me half to death! What are you talking about, honey, what humming?”
“The…the…” Little Jack struggled for the words, scratching his head. He knew this sounded crazy! “The humming, I heard it from the pumpkin again!”
Jack’s mom cut again… Buzz-buzz-mmmm-mmm-mmm!
Jack’s mom gave him a look. “That imagination of yours really is something. But then again, you are your father’s son!” She laughed and cleaned the guts off the pumpkin lid into a brown paper bag.
While her back was turned, Jack starting scooping the guts with the ladle – and scooping in a hurry! “Nothing!” he said under his breath looking for anything – a bug, maybe – that could be making the buzzing sound. “There’s nothing…” In short time, Jack had cleaned out the pumpkin of all of its guts and drawn a grimacing, silly looking smile across its face. Using his safety knives specially made for carving pumpkins, he cut into the mouth.
“Did you hear that?!” Jack yelled to his mom. “It just whistled at me!”
“Jack-o, boy,” his mom said rubbing her eyes.
“Sweetie, I’m tired and need to read this. Please just keep carving your pumpkin.”
As Jack cut more and more, sure now that only he could hear it, the whistling sound slowly turned into low mumbling until at last, he’d cut every piece of the mouth out and the pumpkin exclaimed, “”Now come on, how’s about giving me a nose and eyes?!”
“You’re talking…” Little Jack said with his jaw hung wide open. “And you’re a pumpkin.” he whispered leaning in. If his mom didn’t believe the buzzing, what would she think of this?!
“Eureka, he can hear! And he’s a problem solver. We have a regular Einstein over here!” the pumpkin answered with a smirk.
“Now I’ve seen everything!” Jack said.
“Good, now that makes one of us – give me some eyes, kid!”
Trying not to lose his mind, Jack finally gave in. “Ok, Ok, so you are a talking pumpkin.” he whispered so his mom wouldn’t hear. “What should I call you?”
“Well, Little Jack, I thought you would never ask. You can call me Jack-o. Jack and Jack-o, get it? Sort of rolls off the place where I should have a tongue… If I wasn’t, you know, a pumpkin.”
“Ok, Jack-o. You’ve got it.” Little Jack said, carving Jack-o’s left eye into a circle. “How about this for an eye?” “There we go!” Jacko-o exclaimed. “I like to look someone in the eye when I talk to them!”
“And how aboutttt…..” Jack said while stretching to draw the second eye. “A triangle for this second eye?”
“Now we are talking. Give my face some character! Good kid.
So, how many is it?” Jack-o said.
“How many is what?”
“How many days ‘til Halloween, of course. Don’t make me take back that Einstein thing I said earlier now.”
“Oh, of course,” Jack whispered. “Well, let’s see, today is the 29th so that makes two days.”
“Then it’s you and I Little Jack, until two moons from now. Then at last, at long last, I will have every pumpkin’s wish.”
“To be glowing with a candle up on the porch?” Jack said a bit louder, catching a glimpse from his mom.
“Nooooo, well, maybe that is your average pumpkin’s dream. Sure, I could just sit on the porch, glowing like some grimacing goon like all of my cousins and aunts and uncles before me. But come on now, look at me, I have one circle and one triangle eye… I’ve got a little more character than that!”
“So… You don’t want to stay here, then you must want to… come trick-or-treating with me?”
“Bingo! Einstein is back!” Jack-o laughed in a gravely tone. “You’ve got it, genius! I want to see the world, live a little, you know. You only have one Halloween to live, right!? Better live it right.”
“Well,” Little Jack looked around, “carrying a pumpkin would be rough, but why not? How about I bring my wagon to carry you and that way we can both still have fun?”
“Wow, you are on a roll there, Little Jack! Picture this, you, me, the open road, no porch to hold me back, no candle to make my breath smell like wax. Now I always knew I’d find the perfect companion! Now…” Jack-o lowered his voice.
“There is one thing you’ve got to guarantee me though.”
“What’s that; what’s wrong? You look scared.”
“There is a legend of an evil Sorcerer from your hometown. A pumpkin smasher of epic proportions! To us, he is bringer of doom, destroyer of everything from seedlings to prized pumpkin. We call him—Destrucor, Masher of Guts. But to you, he is better known as… Todd.”
“Todd!?” Little Jack laughed. “I know that goofball. He lives down the street. Everyone knows him as a big bully but I’m good at staying out of his way. He’s like, 16 or something anyway, so he doesn’t bother with little kids like me. But wait, you know…” Jack stopped speaking in mid-sentence to think.
“What, why the pause?! Oh the suspense is killing me!” Jack-o shouted, his face ripe with tension.
“Last year someone did smash our pumpkins, and my dad always thought it was him. Todd. Sorry, Jack-o…” Little Jack looked sheepish.
“W-w-well…” Jack-o stumbled on his words. “N-n-now that’s why I have you! Protect me this Halloween! Come on, you are the best friend I’ve ever had.”
Little Jack smiled, “Now come on, I’m the only friend you’ve ever had! At least when you could talk!”
The two laughed together as Little Jack’s mom turned the page, rolling her eyes at her son’s imagination with a smile.
-Part III- Halloween night came before Little Jack and Jack-o knew it. They’d spent so much time talking that whenever Little Jack didn’t have school, they were laughing and telling stories until they could barely keep their eyes open.
Little Jack had even changed his costume over to a creepy scarecrow so he could pull Jack-o around in the wagon with some corn stocks and other things without drawing too much attention. They were on vigilant lookout for Todd, after all, so the mission was to be as ninja like as possible.
“So I can’t believe I didn’t realize this earlier,” said Little Jack as he pulled Jack-o down the street in a red wagon, “But I noticed a sign up on the hill the day we met. No Todd’s Allowed! it said. You know that sounds all but crazy to anyone who hasn’t talked to you before, right?”
“Come on now, Little Jack. If you had a serial pumpkin killer on the loose in your neighborhood, wouldn’t you take the proper precautions? Our White Witch did that for us; she’s a good person.”
Little Jack shook his head in disbelief as he rang a door bell. “Trick-or-treat!” he shouted when they opened the door, lifting Jack-o’s head up to the people in the door. The people at the door gave little Jack a strange look and dropped a handful of candy into Jack-o’s head.
Jack-o made chewing sounds with his gummy mouth. “Thanks for sharing your candy with me, buddy! This is delicious.”
Little Jack couldn’t help wondering if at some point he would have to admit to himself that pumpkins can’t actually eat candy. The pumpkin was be a figment of his imagination surely … he must have been wondering aloud, because Jack-o turned a darker shade of orange and said:
“Well, well, this is just awkward. Look at that, my own friend telling me I don’t exist. I’m blushing. I guess I should’ve seen this coming. I’ve told you jack, the patch is magical. We’ve done our job. Now yours is to believe.”
“I want to, I really do. Look, Jack-o, it’s…” before Jack could finish, Todd, the Destructor, the Masher of Guts, came walking around the corner dragging a stick across a white picket fence. “Oh no!”
T-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-T, the drumming of the stick on the wooden fence sent chills up the spine of Jack and the gooey place that would’ve been a spine for Jack-O.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t baby scare crow and his little wagon! Out here all alone, well at least you have some guts. Unlike that dumb pumpkin of yours!”
“Stay back! I’m warning you.” Little Jack said with a quiver in his voice. “My house is right over there.”
“Get the White Witch, get her!” Jack-o mumbled to Little Jack.
“Or else what? What will you do if I, say, grab that pumpkin of yours and crush it on the ground!” Todd said with anger in his voice.
“Yelp! Get the White Witch, get her!” Jack-o shouted at Jack this time.
“I’ll… I’ll tell on you… I don’t fight. I don’t… sink to that level like you.”
“Oh you mean, like this!” Todd grabbed Jack-o from the wagon and raised him above his head, getting ready to throw him on the ground.
“Get the White Witch, get her! Please don’t let him do this!” Jack-o screamed to Jack.
“How!?! Jack-o, how do I get the White Witch?!” Little Jack finally yelled at the pumpkin.
Jack looked at Todd, who had lowered the pumpkin from above his head, perplexed by the boy talking to the pumpkin. Suddenly Jack realized he finally understood.
“See that hill up there.” he said to Todd. “That big hill, the biggest one? Ever been up there before?” Jack said, trying to stall.
“Um, why, yeah I see the hill, but no?! I’ve never been there. Why?” Todd had a confused look on his face.
“Well the White Witch has been there, that’s where she lives. And she told me to tell you something.” At that moment, a white beam of light cut across the yard and onto Todd, Jack and Jack-o where they stood.
“Todd, are you getting into trouble again?”
A familiar voice said from behind the light. It was Jack’s mom carrying a flashlight. “Now you want to put that pumpkin down?”
“Sure, umm, sure, sorry Mrs. White. I’m really sorry.”
“Mom?” Jack said, looking at his mom and her flashlight.
“Wait…” he was thinking until his face turned blue. “Have you been keeping that pumpkin patch alive on the hill all this time?”
“Well, I didn’t want to spoil any of the magic for you. But, sometimes, sure I’ll go up there and toss some seed around. I like it up there.”
Little Jack nodded his head in agreement.
Before Jack could explain, Todd began to walk away dragging his feet. Bullies never do so well around grownups.
“And you, young man, you stay out of trouble or the White Witch will get you.” Jack’s mom said, wagging her finger at Todd.
Todd’s lip quivered and he smiled just slightly before turning. That was the first time Jack had ever seen Todd smile.
“Hey, kid, Jack. Hey, I’m sorry man. Your mom is a pretty cool lady.”
“Don’t worry about it, Todd. She is a pretty great lady.”
“So mom,” Jack said, pulling the squeaky wagon along the sidewalk next to his dear mother, “Is there a White Witch out there, like really?”
“Well, I know this might be hard for such a big kid understand, but try use your imagination.” she winked. Jack turned to smile back at Jack-o, thinking he would get a kick out of the joke.
“Jack-o,” he nodded back, “Hey Jack-o. You’re safe! See it all worked out.”
Jack-o’s face was motionless, no more Jack-o charm. No more wise cracks. No more funny faces or deep laughs. He looked like an ordinary, everyday jack-o-lantern.
Jack looked at his mom and felt a tear form in the corner of his eye.
“Don’t worry, honey.” his mom said assuring him. “Like Halloween, Jack-o will always come again next year. I promise.”