The Jack-O’-Lantern Who Didn’t Die
Dan washed his hands, because that’s what doctors do before procedures, even though doctors seem like very clean people already, then he walked out of the bathroom backwards with his hands up in the air, another doctor thing. At the table, he said, “Knife,” handed himself the knife, then gutted the pumpkin.
Though it wasn’t a gutting. He called it a “procedure.”
Dan saved a single seed so he could share with the pumpkin its origin story, then, knife in hand, he waited for the pumpkin to tell him which side its face was on.
Dan’s brother, Joe, didn’t wait for things like that. Which is why Joe’s pumpkins always had the look of people with holes in the backs or sides of their heads.
Dan spun the pumpkin by hand, searching for the side that would “speak,” so to speak. But spinning a pumpkin is difficult when one hand holds a knife, so he placed the pumpkin on an old record-player machine and hit “play,” or whatever you hit to make those things go, and the pumpkin spun, the best kind of spin you can get from a pumpkin, according to the people who swear by those machines.
“Just stab it,” Joe said.
“I will,” said Dan, “though when I do, it won’t be a stabbing. It’s called a ‘procedure.’”
“If that pumpkin had the knife” — Joe pointed at Dan with a knife — “it wouldn’t wait to carve you.”
Suddenly, Dan thought a complicated thought, one he was too young to express. Technically, it wasn’t a thought at all. It was a wordless feeling. But, if the feeling was forced to wear the clothing of words, it would have sounded something like this:
Even if people and pumpkins were carving each other up in some kind of awesome Halloween war, the violence wouldn’t be stopped by more carving. It would only end by one person allowing themselves to get carved. Joe for example. Then, when Dan didn’t retaliate, but rather said, “I forgive you, pumpkin,” that would be the end of the war. Why? No one knows. Also, it’s magic. And even if it wasn’t the end of the war, at least Joe would be in a better place, probably not for him, but for everyone else.