By: C.L. Collar
Sadie stared at the round orange pumpkin in front of her. The Jack-o-Lantern contest's deadline was at sunset tonight and she still had no inkling of what she would carve. It would have to be original, and amazing in order to win the $200.00 first place prize. She needed that money badly to help her grandmother pay for the medicine that she needed and this Jack-o-Lantern was her only hope.
Taking out a white piece of chalk from her desk, she sketched a face on the orange canvas. Two enormous eyes stared back at her above a lopsided triangle nose and and a jagged off centered mouth.
"That looks like something a five year old would make," she said aloud to the empty room. A couple of swipes with a wet rag and the childish drawing disappeared. It was at times like these that she was the most jealous of her sister's artistic abilities. If only Shelia were here to help her. Then there would be no worries about winning the contest. But her talented sister was far, far away, living out her dream, illustrating for the magical Land of Walt Disney.
Sadie picked up the chalk and started again. This time a pair of cat-like eyes and a round nose that rose above a large mouth with sharp, jagged teeth appeared. "Better," she thought. "But still probably not good enough to win. What would Shelia do? What would Shelia transform this plain orange pumpkin into?"
Sadie bolted out of her chair when the pumpkin's mouth moved and it's eyes blinked.
"My, goodness," the pumpkin narrowed her cat eyes as she spoke. "Are you ever going to carve me? I have been sitting here for five days waiting to be born. You have put me off until the last minute and now you can't think of what to carve me into. Really girl. What is your problem?"
Sadie looked around the room. Was someone playing a Halloween joke on her? "Whoever you are, this is very clever of you, but I'm not afraid. Come out so I can see you."
Sadie waited, holding her breath and trying to look brave at the same time.
"It is only me, your forgotten pumpkin, that is in this room with you. Now for the love of Peter Peter the pumpkin eater, would you sit back down and carve me?" The exasperated plea came from the pumpkin's jagged mouth.
Sadie sat back down. 'Well," she said. "If you want to be carved that badly then why don't you tell me what you want to become?" If this were a trick then maybe it would be to her advantage to play along. It might help her come up with a good idea for her project.
"I get to choose? Oh goody, goody. Now let me think." The pumpkin sat there mumbling to itself and squinting her cat eyes. Finally her pointy mouth smiled. "I've got it! I want to be turned into a beautiful coach like the one the fairy godmother turned the pumpkin in Cinderella into. That would be so divine. I would really love that."
Sadie frowned down at the orange round ball. "I am not a fairy godmother, so how in the world do you think I can turn you into a beautiful coach?"
The pumpkins white mouth slumped and its cat eyes drooped. "You did ask and that is what I want to be. I know you can't really turn me into a carriage like Cinderella's, but you could carve a picture of one on me. Couldn't you?"
"I could try, but I don't have the talent my sister has. It won't look anything like Cinderella's carriage. It will probably look more like an old hay wagon."
"Would you at least try?
"I don't know. I only have until sunset and it's already four o'clock. That gives me only two hours to work."
"Please," the cat eyes sat there begging much like the famous plea of Puss in Boots.
"Okay," said Sadie. "I guess it would be original, but I don't think I can do it well enough to win."
"I'll help you," said the pumpkin through a toothy grin. "Just wipe off this ridiculous face you gave me and pick up the carving knife. My spirit will help guide your hand."
Sadie didn't really want to wipe off the face. She had enjoyed chatting with the unusual pumpkin. Once the mouth was gone, what would happen?
"Are you sure you want me to wipe off your face? You won't be able to talk to me when I do."
"Yes, said the pumpkin, "I will. I will guide you through your hands. Just wipe off the face and begin to carve. Trust me. I am going to find the artist that is hidden in you and bring her out to the surface. If you don't try, you will never know what you are capable of."
"Good luck with that," said Sadie. "I hope you know what you are doing."
"Trust me and believe in yourself," the pumpkin's voice faded into the air and sitting there in front of Sadie was the plain old pumpkin with the weird face that she had drawn earlier.
"Well here goes nothing," she said to the inanimate squash in front of her. She wiped off the chalk face, picked up the carving knife and took another deep breath. She closed her eyes and pictured the beautiful carriage that had whisked Cinderella to the ball. As the image formed in her head, her hand began to move, slowly carving the image into the face of the pumpkin. Swirls here, spirals there, a square for a seat and circles for the tires with swirls and flourishes everywhere. She could see it all in her mind, but what was it looking like on her pumpkin canvas?
Sadie opened her eyes. She could not believe what she saw. She had carved the pumpkin's face into an exact replica of Cinderella's coach. Wow, how did I ever do that? I am not an artist like my sister. I am plain old Sadie. She looked at the pumpkin again and marveled at the sight.
"Wherever you are, Miss. Pumpkin, thank you. I could never have done this without your help."
"Oh yes you could." The voice came from inside the pumpkin. "I knew you could do it, I just had to convince you to try. Now look at me! I am beautiful and glorious and I will be the belle of the Jack-o-Lantern contest. Come on. We must hurry or we'll be late."
Sadie smiled and picked up her art piece. "No way are we going to miss this contest," she said. "It's your time to shine." She grabbed a candle off of the shelf and lit it pouring just enough wax into the pumpkin to make the candle stick and set up straight. Blowing out the candle she placed it securely inside, then she carefully picked up her pumpkin and headed out the door and to the park where the Jack-o-Lantern contest was to be held.
Sadie's confidence weakened as she neared the park. She could see all of the glorious Jack-o-Lanterns glowing on the steps of the stage. There were pumpkins carved into pictures of werewolves and dragons and witches. There were also evil Jack-o-Lanterns, some even eating smaller Jack-o-Lanterns. But there was one thing that they all had in common. They were all themed around Halloween, the Jack-o-Lantern's holiday.
As Sadie eyed her competition and slowly backed away a familiar voice hollered at her from the stage.
"Sadie! Hi! Surprise. I was so happy when Grandma told me that you were entering this contest. I just had to fly home and see what you had done. I was afraid you weren't going to make it. I saved the best spot for your Jack. Come over here and place your Jack-o-Lantern on this pedestal."
Sadie couldn't believe her eyes. There stood, Shelia, wearing a gorgeous Cinderella costume beckoning her to bring her Jack-o-Lantern creation forward. Great, she thought, where were you when I needed your help carving this silly thing? You could have come over to the house and carved it yourself and saved me a lot of worry. And then we would have won this stupid contest and had the money for Grandma's medicine.
The pumpkin in her hand lit up unexpectedly. Sadie smiled as the candle can to life. "That's right," she said to her pumpkin. "It is your time to shine." She walked up to the stage and placed her Jack where her sister pointed and stepped back behind it.
Another familiar voice's words floated to her ears.
"It is your time to shine, too," it said. "If your sister had been here, then you would never have tried to carve me and never given either one of us a chance to see what we could be. Thank you."
"Wow!" said Shelia. "You did a fantastic job. Where did you ever come up with such a unique idea?"
Sadie hugged her sister and grinned bigger than any Jack-o-Lantern on the stage. "Oh I had a little help from a friend," she said.
Shelia smiled down at her little sister. "I always knew you had it in you." she said.
"I'd better get off of here so they can begin the judging. I don't care who they pick; I think yours is the best Jack-o-Lantern I have ever seen. Good luck."
Sadie looked down at her Jack and smiled. "So do I," she said to herself."
The judging began. All three judges carefully studied each Jack-o-Lantern, whispering to each other the pros and cons of every piece. Finally, they finished and the head judge, Mr. Hensly, the school's art teacher, stepped to the podium to announce the winners.
"First, The Chamber of Commerce would like to thank everyone who participated in the Jack-o-Lantern contest this year. We have an outstanding group of artist in this community. Now let's get to the winners. Third place and the prize of $50.00 goes to Mr. Buffle for his ferocious werewolf Jack-o-Lantern."
Mr. Buffle bowed as he accepted his award.
"Second place and the prize of $100.00 will go to the lovely, Lily Grant, for her wickedly carved witch Jack-o-Lantern.
Lily giggled as she received her prize. "Careful, Mr. Hensly, she might put a spell on you for not giving her first place."
Mr. Hensly chuckled. "You had better keep her in line then until that check is cashed, Miss Lily. And now for the first place winner and the $200.00 prize, we had a hard time deciding who to give this award to this year. All of the entries were amazing. But after much deliberation we have decided the award will go to Mr. Weasley for his humorous incantation of the Zombie Jack-o-Lantern."
Mr. Weasley stumbled onto the stage stunned that he had won the contest. "I don't know what to say," he said. "Thank you, everyone."
Sadie sighed and picked up her beautiful Jack. "Well, I guess we just weren't Halloweeny enough for them." she said. "But I still think you're the best Jack on this stage."
Her Jack-o-Lantern glowed brighter, lighting up the dim stage.
"Please keep your seats everyone, said Mr. Hensly. "We have a surprise award this year. This award of $300.00 goes to the person who we think had the most creative Jack-o-Lantern. This award is accompanied by a scholarship to the art school of the winner's choice. The scholarship award has been sponsored by the school's art department to encourage creativity in our community and this year the award will be given to Miss. Sadie Densley for her lovely, Cinderella coach, Jack-o Lantern"
Sadie looked at her Jack-o-Lantern in shock. "Did Mr. Hensly called her name? Had she just been awarded $300.00 and a scholarship to an art school?"
"Yes he did and yes you have!" the pumpkin's excited little voice whispered in her ear. "We won!"
Shelia stepped up and hugged her sister. "Boy, did you every shine tonight," she said.
"Yes we did," said Sadie giving her precious Jack-o-Lantern a sly wink. "We did indeed."