I was at my friend Tilly’s house admiring the new construction on her house that had turned her summer upside down – new bathrooms, kitchen, master bedroom…the works – all beautiful and all ready to go for the fall. As we headed around back to see the new mud room I noticed her garden. “Are you planting pumpkins again this year?” I asked.
“Not after last year!” she exclaimed. And then I remembered…
She and her husband had planted pumpkins for their three adorable children and three pumpkins had sprouted. But one was especially lovely. Nicely rounded and a blushed shade of orange, she and her husband watched it grow all summer, admiring its perfection and hovering over it like loving, concerned nursemaids. They even referred to it as “Ellie’s pumpkin” – destined for their eldest daughter who was really the only child old enough to revel in the magic of pumpkins when carved into jack-o-lanterns.
One rainy evening her husband, Craig, just pulling in from work, stopped to admire the prized specimen. And lo and behold, it was gone! Cut cleanly at the vine! No animal could have chewed in such a straight line. And, the pumpkin was clearly on their side of the split-rail fence. Somebody had snatched their pumpkin!
Craig knew that his next door neighbor had recently hired gardeners to work on their property. Immediately he saw them as culprits. He imagined them coveting his perfect pumpkin as they mowed the Lamers’ lawn. After all, who wouldn’t want this darling of a pumpkin for their very own?
Off he marched in the rain – a man in a business suit with a purpose – storming down his driveway and ready to get to the bottom of this injustice.
The doorbell produced an unkempt woman-child in her bathrobe. He hadn’t seen her before, but he had heard the screaming fights coming from inside her home and knew that a member or two of the household wasn’t quite right.
“Excuse me, but I just was in my garden and noticed that one of my pumpkins was missing. Would you know if perhaps one of your gardeners clipped it?”
“Oh no,” she assured him. “It was me.”
“You? Well…we worked really hard this summer on growing our pumpkins and that particular pumpkin was promised to my 7-year-old daughter Ellie.”
“Oh.” An awkward silence passed between them.
Now, what? This empty-eyed simpleton obviously wanted to keep the pumpkin and wasn’t rushing to return it. The moral question stood. Did he insist upon its rightful return, or did he do the charitable thing and let this pitiful woman enjoy his gorgeous gourd.
He brightened. “I would be happy to give you another one of our pumpkins.”
“Okay. Well, I guess I’ll go get it.”
And she limped away only to return momentarily, producing the pumpkin, its long root trailing behind her.
“Here you are,” she smiled weakly.
And, dripping wet from the rain, Craig walked back home, his pumpkin-pride lost, but his prideful pumpkin intact.