A Whimsical Halloween Flash Fiction
Jake’s father works for NASA, where they plan to Jettison a pumpkin into space during a Halloween special event. After his friend draws a face on the gourd, Jake takes up a personal connection with it. It may have to do with his parent’s recent separation. The event could be key in a meaningful reconnection between father and son.
by Jay M. Horne
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“We’re not gonna kill it! We’re just going to carve it. It won’t feel a thing."
It almost looked intelligent, with its crooked grin and beady little eyes, which we had yet to cut out of its head.
"It’s Halloween, Jake! This is what people do!" said Gage as he turned the gourd in his hands.
Gage had been strategically planning to carve Dad’s pumpkin ever since I told him he said it was the first pumpkin that would ever reach space.
“Give it back Gage! He’s gonna be walking in any minute!" I was already in deep, due to the fact that Gage had took it upon himself to draw Mr. Pumpkin’s face on with permanent marker.
I had been wishing for time to spend with Dad ever since the breakup, but Gage always seemed to be around when I had the opportunity.
Barbara always thought it a good idea that I had someone to play with after school, but I tended to think she just liked hanging out with Gage’s mom.
At that moment, and as usual, the wind came down the front hallway, rustling the new bride’s winter wear while Dad came through the front door loud and proud.
"Where is it," Dad asked, "the pumpkin? It’s the Pumpkin’s big day!"
In fact, pride was pouring from Pop’s proclamation.
Gage immediately and inconspicuously surrendered Dad’s gourd into my hands in an all-out effort to save his own.
"Dad," I stammered, with unprecedented innocence, "the pumpkin ... it kinda ... " at that particular moment, Professor Dad staring down at me with joyous expectation, the words just came of their own accord.
"Gage did it! I told him not to, and I wouldn’t have shown him if I…"
Dad stopped me before I could finish.
"What’s this?" Then with an inquisitive look started again, "Gage, what a creative look! We can’t be sending off the world’s first pro-space pumpkin without a smile now, can we?"
"Dad," I objected, "I told him not to touch it!"
"Relax, Jake. It is only a pumpkin," Dad told me slyly.
Ironically, I had said the same thing to him when he told me that it would be the world’s first anti-gravity gourd.
In a playful gesture, Dad rustled Gages bowl cut with his right hand. Then my friend’s mom appeared in the front doorway, ready for her and Barbara’s afternoon tea.
“What timing,” said Dad.
He looked at me, who still was perplexed by his positivity, and said, “This means Gage can stay here, and you can accompany me to the launch.”
I had never been to Dad’s work before. Mom and I use to watch the launches from our rooftop. Only once, Dad had requested off so that the three of us could watch together.
I still tried to remember the booster phases he talked us through, watching. The ship disappearing while approaching escape velocity.
But now, the big white letters of NASA, which loomed over our crossing to cape Canaveral, suggested to me how one might feel finally standing under the HOLLYWOOD sign.
A couple of news vans were parked catty cornered next to the guard post. Their antennas sticking up like mini satellites in search of ufos.
All other cars were turned away, directed to safer parking distances.
It must’ve been the pumpkin passenger, belted safely in the back seat, that cued the guard to lift the yellow lined entry gate on our approach.
The main hangar was enormous.
I felt miniscule walking past the retired space crafts that littered the cargo hold, but when we walked through the door to the communications office, I was the biggest spectacle; carrying our orange two-toothed friend.
Dad took the honorary pumpkin and passed it to a man in a blue one-piece suit while I busied myself, taking in all of the wonders of the radio room. It wouldn’t be long before Gage’s feeble face art reached an interstellar audience.
As I watched the bulbous head leave the room, carried underarm by the blue-suited man, I imagined how nervous it might feel climbing the steps to the launch pad.
I spied the crooked grin once more as it disappeared through the doorway.
You’d almost think it was alive!
The countdown was about to begin.
To Jake, the pumpkin was alive.
Jake’s father once had a grand imagination. It was often that his children’s books were read at Jake’s bedside on the night of launches.
What were those titles, he asked himself, while they stood at the huge bay window.
There was —
Just then the loudspeaker started blaring the countdown
“THREE,” blared the grey cone.
— THE SEEDS WITHIN: It had been about a pumpkin that sprouted other pumpkins inside of its hollow core.
Then there was —
“TWO.” Now huge pillions of water were flowing at the base of the rocket and sparks started flying around the thrusters.
— THE HARVEST: Had told the story of the people inside of the pumpkin who tilled the ground and re-sowed the seeds in its meaty rind.
And what was that other one?
But the thought was lost to him as the building shuddered and he felt the weight of his father’s hand on his shoulder.
What a bright light! How something so big can move so fast!
… and Jake had caught the thought right before his dad started in with the explanation of Phase One.
The title had been, PUMPKIN PLANET, because inside of a good pumpkin, there was room for a world, floating out there in the vacuum of space…
The way it went with the pumpkin from launch to void would remain a mystery to Jake, but what follows was the way things occurred thereafter.
The patriotic pumpkin was jettisoned into the lifeless void of space, and though the jovial grin of the jack-o-lantern floated serenely into the quiet expanse, the inside of the furrowed, floating fruit (and yes it is a fruit) teamed with action as the Harvesters began their work.
The accidental astronauts within the squash were oblivious to the location of their biological spacecraft and went about planting as usual. Safely sealed within the orange orb, they sowed the seeds inside the interior of the rind and tended to them daily.
Little did these miniature martians know that they were on trajectory to a little known lifeless planet named Nimue.
As time went on, the vacuum of space kept the pumpkin safe from contamination. Inside, the seeds had sprouted and the seedlings began to grow shoots and roots.
On and on the mini Harvesters tended their planetary produce.
Never before had they seen such a healthy crop!
In time, the roots came through the outside of the pumpkin’s rind and the shoots turned vines.
Twisting around and round inside the pumpkin the new plants grew. The Harvesters worked fast to clear more room away inside of the gourd, but soon realized they would have to find a solution to their growing problem. This they accomplished by burrowing and then training the youngest vines along the path of the old root systems.
Before long, the pumpkin vines were reaching fingers out into space and the great first pumpkin passenger was growing fast into an intergalactic orange and green octopus of sorts. This was considerably lucky for the flying pumpkin patch because it was still approaching Nimue and it would need an extra leafy landing, and perhaps a small miracle, when it arrived to avoid catastrophic collision.
The miracle was a sight to see!
A pumpkin patch sixty miles wide careening toward Nimue fully staffed with Harvester workers holding on for dear life within!
Had there been an omnipotent Being, he would recollect the incident as a meeting of unprecedented proportions.
Picture if you will:
The dark little planet of Nimue (blue and black by nature) welcoming the grinning smile of Jake’s beloved pumpkin (now grown enormous patch without match) with its glorious greens and oranges.
The great patch piled atop the planet as if it were a pointed hat on a witch’s head. The Halloween colors of the marriage had made, Jake, the Secret Watcher, equally excited.
The Harvesters had survived the great journey…
… and Jake had seen the whole thing.
A familiar grin looked out from the doorstep of Jake’s House, but this pumpkin was a female. A thick wick candle sat deep in the center of her hearty bosom on this year’s Halloween. There were no shuttle launches, and no new brides.
Gage would be out trick-or-treating with his friend but Jake, a bookworm born, was upstairs in his room again this Halloween.
He had been peering through the lens of his grandfather’s telescope for years. Watching as his friend, the pumpkin, endured a lonely existence out there; oftentimes wishing he had just carved him into a Halloween decoration like Gage had scribbled out. But this was far better, the pumpkin patch had landed!
Wait until Dad saw Jake’s discovery!
Quickly, Jake ran down the spiral steps and fetched his father, who was reluctant to fall for yet another Halloween prank. Yet slowly, he coaxed Dad up the stairs to his outdated spyglass.
It was only after Jake’s dad peered into the magnifying orifice that his eyes fully opened up to take it all in.
"My stars," Dad breathed, as he glanced into the copper cylinder. Then, exasperatingly he burst, "The pumpkin! I knew it! I knew it! It survived, I told them it would!"
A smile broadened across Jake’s face at his accomplishment, but it quickly faded when he realized his dad was more interested in the scientific implications of the event.
"I must get down to the lab and show off your discovery right away!"
Jake folded his hands in his lap and collapsed on the cushion of his bedspread in angst. Peculiarly, Dad noticed that Jake’s disheveled Halloween themed comforter resembled the bulbous pumpkin that floated within the viewing glass by the window.
That particular revelation took him back to when they launched the now prosperous pumpkin together. His heart directed him instead to the attic, and fetch, he did, the video footage of the virgin voyage of their pulpous pride.
"Perhaps, the results can wait."
Dad placed the projector on Jake’s nightstand and aimed it at his dry erase board.
Outside of the window, far from Earth, could be seen the ambitious fruition of man and gourd, taking hold on the humble planet of Nimue, only a telescopic glance away. On screen could be seen the initial launch of the world’s first pumpkin pioneer.
Jake was happy that Dad chose to share this Halloween with him instead of the Lab while their precious project grew to preposterous proportions.
The pumpkin had truly gone from patch to planet!
And that was no bedtime story!
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