1 – Plastic Pumpkins

Father had planted himself in front of the garden hoses, studying each type carefully, calculating the price per meter on his Blackberry.

“Will he ever finish?” thought Lucy, who firmly believed that the Garden Tools section was the second most boring place in the store, the first being Automotive Supplies.

She had begged her father to bring her with him and really did not want to desert him, but it was really getting to be too much!

“I’ll be in the next aisle,” she said as she left him to sort out his engineering dilemma on his own.

The next aisle was even worse, a long row of nothing but ugly grey bins full of nails, bolts and screws!

“Disgusting! There must be something more interesting around here. Father will be sure to find me, as long as I don’t stray too far,” she muttered to herself as she made her way to the next aisle.

Turning the corner on aisle 13, she found herself face-to-face with an eerily orange mountain of evil eyes and mocking grins.

“This is awesome! A horrific pumpkin pyramid!”

Most of the fiendish faces were not all that frightening, but there was one at the top that would positively scare the dickens out of any kid unfortunate enough to encounter its lighted image on a dark Halloween night.

“I must have that one,” Lucy swore as she ran back to the boring Garden Tools.

Sure enough, Father was still there, heaving a coil of green rubber hose into the shopping cart.

“Father! Father! Come here. I found the perfect Jack-o-lantern! You really must buy it.”

“A store-bought Jack-o-lantern? Absolutely not! I told you Lucy, your grandfather has promised to make a perfectly frightful one for you.”

“But Father, this one is so scarey, and it’s on sale for only ten pounds!”

“I don’t care if they’re giving it away, I won’t have it!”

“Not even if I promise to help in the garden?”

“No. You’ll help in the garden with or without a plastic Jack-o-lantern. And just think what plastic like that does to the earth. You don’t want to be a polluter, do you?”

“Oh, all right then. But when can we go to Grandfather’s?”

“Right now. We’ll stop by the Farmers’ Market, pick out a plump natural pumpkin, and take it over to Grandfather’s. How’s that?”

“Absolutely Halloween-derful!”

2 – Picking a Perfect Pumpkin

Father was right; the real pumpkins at the farmers’ market were far more awesome than those silly plastic things at TESCO, even without the ready-made scarey faces. As they marched down the aisle between stalls overflowing with hundreds of plump, fresh pumpkins in all shades of brilliant orange colours, Lucy was overwhelmed by the sweet smell that reminded her of cinnamon and nutmeg.

“Oh, Father, there are so many. I’ll never be able to choose.”

“Choose? You don’t choose the pumpkin, my child,” cackled an old woman in the first stall, “The pumpkin chooses you.”

At the sight of the leathery old face staring out from a mound of pumpkins Lucy gasped and slid behind her father.

“You see, Lucy, the lady says there’s nothing to it. Stop being a silly child and go meet your pumpkin,” Father said in that story telling voice that chased away all the goblins and sent her safely to sleep on the stormiest of nights.

“Your father is right, young lady, picking a pumpkin is as simple as petting a cat. If he likes you, he’ll snuggle right into your arms,” the old lady assured her.

“Well… I suppose I could try…but where to begin?”

“Begin? You begin by coming into my stall. There now, the plump ones can see you much better. Now, close your eyes, turn around three times and stop dead where you are.”

“Like this?” Lucy spun around amongst the piles of pumpkins like Princess Odette surrounded by swans.

“Wonderful! Now keep your eyes shut tight or you’ll break the spell. Before you open your eyes you have to repeat this rhyme three times:

Piddily pie, piddiley pear,
Princely pumpkin, please appear!”

“Go ahead, Lucy. I’m sure the lady knows what’s best. And it is a rather charming rhyme.” She wasn’t so sure about the old lady, but how could she refuse her father’s request.

“All right then.

Piddily pie, piddiley pear,
Princely pumpkin, please appear!”

And having recited that ditty, Lucy opened her eyes to see the most robust, rotund pumpkin she had ever seen staring her right in the face.

“Yes, yes! It’s magic! This is truly my pumpkin!”

“Looks like she’s been chosen. What do we owe you?” Father asked politely.

“Seeing as how it was my best pumpkin what chose your lovely daughter, I would be a fool to ask for less than 20 pounds.”

“Twenty? That’s a bit dear, isn’t it?”

“Oh Father, please. I really must have this one. I’ll do extra work in the garden.”

“You see, sir, you’re getting a bargain. A princely pumpkin and an eager gardener. All for a meager twenty pounds.”

“All right, all right. But you have to promise you will personally escort your prince to your grandfather’s and bring him back safe and sound with a most startling appearance.”

“Oh, I promise, Father. My prince and I will look after each other. And I’m sure Grandfather will love him.”

3 – The Carving

As the car pulled up to the curb, Lucy could see her Grandfather sitting out on the porch puffing on his precious rosewood pipe.

“Grandfather, look what Father got us! Isn’t he just perfect!”

Grandfather stepped off the porch, stretched out his arms, and bellowed in his deepest baritone, “There’s my little princess. Come over here and give your old grandfather a royal hug.”

“No Grandfather, Father has a real prince for you to hug this time.”

“Dad, I’d appreciate it if you could take His Highness off my hands. He weighs a royal ton.”

“’Fraid not, Son. That looks like the vegetable reincarnation of Henry VIII you’ve got there. He’ll break my back. You bring him on in and set him on the table.”

The three of them stood around the kitchen table sizing up their new found friend.

Father was still panting from his sherpa duties and Grandfather just scratched the back of his head as he scrutinized the orange globe on the table. Lucy was the first to break the silence; “Isn’t he gorgeous? Don’t you just love him, Grandfather?”

“Don’t know about that, but I’ll tell you something Princess; I’ve seen some mighty impressive squashes in my time, but never one as lordly as this here pumpkin of yours. Where’d you find him?”

“Lucy picked him out at the farmers market.”

“I didn’t pick him, Grandfather; he picked me.”

“So he’s gifted with good taste, eh? Well, we’ll have to be sure to dress him with a suitably noble countenance.”

“Can you give him a grand face, Grandfather?”

“That’s what I’m saying, Princess; we’ll give him a face worthy of his grand character.”

“All right Dad, I’ll be off. I’ll leave you two artists to your work. Lucy, you come straight home when your done.”

“Yes, of course, Father.”

“Take the regular route and be sure to get home before it gets dark.”

“Don’t worry, Son, I’ll send her and her prince home well before sunset.”

Lucy pulled her favorite chair up to the table and made herself comfortable as her grandfather began dressing the pumpkin. She was mesmerized as she watched his big, bear-paw hands maneuver the knife like a surgeon with his scalpule. In no time he had the vegetable hollowed out and was just beginning to carve out the face when suddenly the knife slipped, leaving a nasty gash on his left hand.

“Oh my God, Grandfather! You’ve cut yourself!”

He dropped the knife and calmly walked over to the sink, saying, “It’s nothing, Princess. Just a little nick.” He washed his hand in cold water and wrapped it with a fresh dish towel.

“There we go. As good as new. The old boy was just testing my skill, is all.”

“You must take a rest, Grandfather. Mother says we should immediately dress a cut so it doesn’t get infected. You can finish carving tomorrow.”

“Nonsense, girl. My skin is so tough an alligator couldn’t pierce it. Anyway, tomorrow is Halloween. We have to finish dressing your young prince today so he’s ready for his grand appearance.”

With that Grandfather returned to his sculpturing, twisting and turning the blade through the pulpy orange skin of the patient pumpkin prince. Before Lucy could utter another word of protest, he had dropped the knife again, this time proudly announcing, “There he is. There’s your prince charming. A bit frightening, don’t you think?”

He turned the pumpkin round so that Lucy could see the full expanse of his freshly carved features. “Oh Grandfather, he’s magnificent!”

“Can’t say I’ve ever seen such a princely pumpkin in my lifetime. Even if he did take a small nip out of my hand.”

“Yes, your hand. Is it still bleeding?”

Grandfather unwrapped the towel from his hand and showed it to Lucy. It was a miracle! There was indeed a nasty gash just above the thumb, but the bleeding had stopped completely.

“Oh thank God you’re okay, Grandfather.”

“Don’t you worry about me, little one. You just be sure to get this handsome friend of yours home safely. Now get along and don’t dally about. It’ll be getting dark soon.”

“Thank you, Grandfather. You are the most wonderful grandfather in all the world. Come over tomorrow and see how I’ve decorated our pumpkin prince.”