The Wicked Pumpkin

The Wicked Pumpkin

The Wicked Pumpkin


In a town you’ve never heard of, in a street you’ll never walk down and in a house you’ll never see lived a little boy called Eustace. He was exceptionally good most of the time but occasionally was very bad indeed. His mother and father didn’t like it when he misbehaved and had warned him that if he did anything naughty ever again he’d wish he hadn’t been born.

Early every Monday morning, before Eustace was awake, his father would set off to work in a faraway town where he’d stay until the end of the week. After breakfast Eustace walked five miles to school and his mother would spend the day at Lazy Jacks’ coming back just in time for supper which Eustace had to have on the table by six o’clock sharp.

After clearing the kitchen table he’d go to his room in the damp, cold cellar while his mother sat at the kitchen table playing patience. When his father returned on Friday evening Eustace would be asked if he’d been a good boy in his absence.

Now one Saturday afternoon in spring, while his father was watching football on the TV and his mother was nowhere to be seen, Eustace was putting the lawn mower away in the garden shed when a mouse shot between his feet and disappeared between two tins of creosote. Eustace rushed over to see if the little creature might have a nest hidden in a cosy corner.

Behind a stack of fallen flower pots there was a dusty wooden box. He thought it was probably full of old tools he’d neither know the name of, nor what to do with, but when he nudged it with his foot it was lighter than expected and in the wall behind, he noticed a tiny hole through which the mouse must have escaped. He took the box to the daylight and crouched in the doorway with it on his lap. Puffing a cloud of woodworm dust into the air, he wiped away the cobwebs with his sleeve and took out the metal pin of the catch. The rusty hinges creaked as he opened the lid.

There was nothing inside but a couple of dead beetles and what looked like a wood chip. When he held it in his palm he could see it was actually a seed, oval and shrivelled like a sweet that had been sucked dry and then spat out. Disappointed with his find he flicked the seed into the garden, threw the box onto the woodpile and spent the rest of the afternoon perched in a pear tree on the railway embankment.

Above the house that night, a thunderstorm shot darts of rain from dark and angry clouds. Lightning flashes filled the sky and one bolt scorched the earth and struck the seed, waking it from its slumber. Jolted to life and lashed by rain, the seed was pummelled into the soil and there it lay catching its breath before flicking forth the tiny tongue of a shoot to worm its way through the sodden tilth.

Roots like hairy tentacles clawed into the earth and before the week had passed two tiny green leaves sprung forth blinking in the morning light. And even though the spring frosts were not yet over, the keenest morning snap did not stall or kill that little seedling.

Soon great umbrellas of leaves rose from the ground and on the first day of June a single yellow trumpet flower bloomed triumphantly before wilting and withering away. The beginnings of a queer vegetable protruded from the plant: a green and white speckled knob shaped like an amputee’s stump which by the summer holidays had grown into the shape of a large football. By the first chill days of autumn a great orange pumpkin, the size of a cow’s head was lying snugly upon a bed of straw.

That the seed had germinated had been a pleasant surprise to Eustace and he had lovingly nurtured it since he had noticed its presence in the spring. Indeed he spent many a happy hour tending to the growing plant’s needs and had begun to think of the pumpkin as his one and only friend, confiding to it his secrets and his fears.

But even though to anyone but you or me it might have seemed a completely ordinary kind of pumpkin, it wasn’t really, it was only pretending – biding its time. Eustace had yet to find out that what was growing in his little patch by the garden shed, was really a most Wicked Pumpkin.

Now, one Monday morning on the last week of October, Eustace was on his way to school when he did something that was very naughty but since no-one had seen him do it, it was his own little secret.

But when he came home from school and walked down the garden path he heard the Wicked Pumpkin say,
‘I know what you did on the way to school today and I’m going to tell your parents.’

‘Oh please don’t tell them,’ begged Eustace, ‘I’ll do anything you ask me to.’

‘Alright,’ said the Wicked Pumpkin, ‘I won’t tell them if you sprinkle salt on the soil to stop the slugs and snails eating my leaves. I want to
watch them squirm and ooze white bubbles as they die a horrible death.’

Well, is that what Eustace did? Yes, that’s just what Eustace did.

Now, on the Tuesday morning in the last week of October, Eustace was in the playground when he did something which was very, very naughty but since no-one had seen him do it, it was his own little secret.

But when he came home from school and walked down the garden path he heard the Wicked Pumpkin say,

‘I know what you did in the playground today and I’m going to tell your parents.’

‘Oh please don’t tell them,’ pleaded Eustace, ‘I’ll do anything you ask me to.’

‘Alright,’ said the Wicked Pumpkin, ‘I won’t tell them if you steal your mother’s golden necklace and hang it around my neck so I look pretty.’

Well, is that what Eustace did? Yes, that’s just what Eustace did.

Now, on the Wednesday morning in the last week of October, Eustace was in the classroom when he did something which was very, very, very naughty but since no-one had seen him do it, it was his own little secret.

But when he came home from school and walked down the garden path he heard the Wicked Pumpkin say,

‘I know what you did in the classroom today and I’m going to tell your parents.’

‘Oh please don’t tell them,’ implored Eustace, ‘I’ll do anything you ask me to’.

‘Alright,’ said the Wicked Pumpkin, ‘I won’t tell them if you shoot all of the birds in the garden with your air pistol. They wake me up every morning with their silly songs.’

Well, is that what Eustace did? Yes, that’s just what Eustace did.

Now, on the Thursday lunchtime in the last week of October, Eustace was in the dining hall when he did something which was very, very, very, very naughty but since no-one had seen him do it, it was his own little secret.

But when he came home from school and walked down the garden path he heard the Wicked Pumpkin say,

‘I know what you did in the dining hall today and I’m going to tell your parents.’

‘Oh please don’t tell them,’ appealed Eustace, ‘I’ll do anything you ask me to.’

‘Alright,’ said the Wicked Pumpkin, ‘I won’t tell them if you bash that croaky toad that lives in the flower pot with a brick.’

Well, is that what Eustace did? Yes, that’s just what Eustace did.

Now, on the Friday afternoon, in the last week of October, as he was
walking home Eustace watched the fire engines racing to his school. He had done something very, very, very, very, very naughty but since no-one had seen him do it, it was his own little secret.

But when he came home from school and walked down the garden path he heard the Wicked Pumpkin say,

‘I know what you did at school today and I’m going to tell your parents.’

‘Oh please don’t tell them,’ entreated Eustace, ‘I’ll do anything you ask me to.’

‘Alright,’ said the Wicked Pumpkin, ‘I won’t tell them if you take that axe and chop off the head of next door’s cat. She keeps coming into our garden to use it as a toilet.’

Well, is that what Eustace did? No, that’s not what Eustace did.

Our Eustace picked up the axe and chopped off the Wicked Pumpkin’s head. He was about to cleave it clean in half when the Wicked Pumpkin rolled along the garden path and out through the garden gate. Eustace ran into the street but it was nowhere to be seen.

‘At last,’ thought Eustace, ‘my secrets are safe.’

And in he went to make the supper.

At six o’clock that evening, his mother and he were sat at the table when his father came home from work carrying a big orange pumpkin. He put it in the middle of the table and said,

‘Look what I found by the garden gate. Someone has left us a treat for tomorrow’s Halloween. After supper we’ll hollow it out and carve a face and put a candle inside. But first things first, Eustace, have you been a good boy this week?’

‘Oh yes,’ he replied, ‘I’ve been a very good boy.’

But then the Wicked Pumpkin said,

‘Oh no you haven’t, you’ve been a very bad boy.’

And it told the parents all the naughty things Eustace had done.

Eustace was very ashamed and said he was very, very, very, very, very sorry and wouldn’t do any of those things again.

His father stood up and told him to go to his room. While he was walking down the stairs to the cellar he heard his mother and father both exclaim,

‘Goodness knows, what are we going to do with that boy?’

They were up half the night discussing the possibilities but it wasn’t until the Wicked Pumpkin offered a suggestion that they made a decision.

If the Trick or Treaters who trooped down the garden path the next evening had looked closer at the gruesome head glowing on the porch, they might have noticed that it wasn’t really a small carved Halloween pumpkin after all. Then perhaps, they wouldn’t have waited so keenly for Eustace’s parents to open the door.

© Clive PiG