The tangerine leaves danced to the tunes of the mellow breeze. It was cool but not too chilly. The leaves gently susurrated and filled the atmosphere with tranquil sounds and melodic notes. A few leaves lay upon the wet earth like a vibrant carpet and others were still tethered to the boughs. The sky shimmered with an alpenglow. The autumn season had descended in all its glory and ruled like a queen infusing the entire landscape with its warm hues.
Ben’s Farm was all decked up for the Fall Festival and Halloween season. A small part of the farm now served as a pumpkin patch. Orange pumpkins, big and small, round and square were spread across the ground in huge numbers. The farm was open from noon until dusk. Children from the neighboring schools came on field trips to pick pumpkins and carve them into Jack-o-Lanterns. Ben covered the seats in his wagon with hay and children could hop on for a fun ride. There were stalls where children could get their faces painted too. His pumpkin pie was also a favorite among the town residents. They got sold in dozens. The wafting smell of pumpkin pies tickled everyone’s taste buds. The handsome revenue generated from the fall festival made him tide over the frugal winter months.
Halloween was fast approaching. Pumpkins were getting sold rapidly from Ben’s Farm. The farm was very popular among the locals.
As for the pumpkins in the pumpkin patch they eagerly awaited their turn to get picked.
“Hey guys! Yesterday children from the Wells County School visited us. And each child got to pick two pumpkins. All the tiny pumpkins were lucky to get chosen,” said Shiny, the shiniest pumpkin among them.
“You’re right. They indeed are very lucky. The children will cherish them like their pets,” said Curvy, the pumpkin that boasted of her curves.
“I hope we all get chosen soon. I wonder what destiny awaits us,” said a few others.
“Me too. I’ve been eagerly waiting for someone to pick me,” said Bumpkin, the pumpkin that seemed to have a lot of bumps.
“You!? Have you ever had a chance to glance at your reflection? You are neither round nor square. You have those odd bumps all around you. Seems as though someone punched you real hard. You’re the weirdest-looking pumpkin among us all. You will not even fit that poor scarecrow’s head. Stop having such dreams,” said the tall, round pumpkin. He was being such a bully.
“You are probably going to be the last one left. Do you see that large trash can around the corner? You are most likely to end up there. An eternal hellhole where you can rest in peace,” declared Curvy.
Their harsh words shattered Bumpkin. But he chose not to reply.
Bumpkin was lost in thoughts;
The paths ahead I don’t see,
I wonder what’ll become of me?
Why was I made to look ugly?
What if I have a cursed destiny?
That evening a group of people from the neighboring church arrived. They needed large, round pumpkins that looked absolutely perfect. More than half the pumpkins present were picked up by them.
“Most of our friends have gone. I hope we are picked at least by tomorrow,” said the oblong pumpkin.
“Oh sure, we will! I just heard farmer Ben say that the rest of us would be sold for half the rate tomorrow. I’m sure most would be enticed by the cheap price. Don’t worry,” replied the Square pumpkin.
“In that case, I’ll be picked up too. Right?” interjected Bumpkin.
“No way! Why do you always have such baseless dreams? You are such an eyesore. Even if you were to be given for free, nobody would care to pick you.” The Square pumpkin cut him short.
Bumpkin was greatly offended and hurt—time and again, and yet nobody came to his rescue.
Isn’t there a single kind soul around me?
Oh, Lord! Why can’t you show some mercy?
The whole world seems to rejoice in the mellow autumn,
But I’m pierced by caustic words gruesome.
That night Bumpkin slept with a heavy heart. He did not feel like talking anymore. Even in his dreams, he could only see the other pumpkins mocking his appearance.
The next day Farmer Ben slashed the prices of the remaining pumpkins and displayed them in the store. All except Bumpkin.
He came close to Bumpkin, picked him up, and after examining him closely he said, “Nah! You can just remain here in the pumpkin patch. The others will be gone but I don’t think you stand a chance, dearie.”
Bumpkin had always thought Farmer Ben to be a kind man. Hearing his words Bumpkin felt as though a severe lightning had struck him. Bumpkin wished the earth to consume him the next moment. He wished to bury himself in eternal darkness.
Is that what is supposed to happen to those who are ugly, an eyesore, and do not fit in?
With a strained breath and vapid eyes, Bumpkin just stared at the trees around him. The orange leaves had turned bright red in color.
Even the leaves are not the same. Each one looks different. But isn’t each leaf beautiful in its own unique way? I look different in my own unique way too, then why am I not appreciated? Everyone despises me.
Slowly it turned dark. Bumpkin looked around. There was not a single pumpkin around. Not that it mattered. But it was just a rude awakening to the unbearable truth. All that he could see was the huge trash can at the far end of the farm.
For a moment Bumpkin imagined what it would be like to be inside the trash can—half-eaten pumpkin pies infested with maggots, icky chocolate wrappers, empty water bottles, soiled napkins…
Bumpkin felt as though he was exploding.
“No….This can’t happen to me. It can’t! It’s not fair! I deserve a chance too.” Bumpkin yelled and cried in his loudest possible voice. If only Farmer Ben could hear him!
Bumpkin heard someone talking to him. He looked around as far as his eyes could see but couldn’t spot anyone.
“Who’s that?” asked Bumpkin. He was puzzled.
“It’s me. Look up,” said the voice.
He looked up but all he could see was the moon and the star-studded ebony sky.
“Not so up, you Silly! Just a little up, to your right.”
Bumpkin then lowered his gaze and looked to his right. His eyes fell upon the scarecrow. The scarecrow’s pumpkin face was directed towards him.
“Was that you who were speaking? I didn’t realize you could speak and recognize me,” exclaimed Bumpkin. He was taken aback.
“Of course, I recognize you. And I have been listening to all the conversations every day.”
“Then why is it that you never talked?”
“Because there was no necessity to do so. I enjoy listening to stuff.”
“Then why do you talk now?”
“Because you need company. Besides, you seem totally lost little one. I felt I could shed some light for you.”
“That’s really kind of you Mr. Scarecrow. But I don’t see any light anywhere. Sadly, I don’t think you would be able to change my destiny.”
“Oh! I never said I’d change your destiny. All I want to say is that, don’t lose hope and never jump to conclusions. Have faith! Everything happens for good.”
“Hmm! Easier said than done. But I appreciate your heartfelt words.”
“Thank you, my dear.”
“By the way Mr. Scarecrow! Don’t you ever feel bored? And don’t you feel bad about your appearance? Your tattered shirt, ragged pants, and large holes in your hat—you must be depressed, right?”
“Depressed? Me? Never. I’m happy and grateful always.”
“I don’t understand. Can you elaborate on how?”
“Every year I witness all the seasons with great excitement. During spring the tall trees are vibrant with their myriad blooms, the farm is replete with juicy strawberries and tiny warblers make nests within me to lay eggs. During summer, the lush green landscape, and vegetation, along with soaring temperatures make me energized. And during fall, the shades of autumn warm the cockles of my heart. I rejoice watching young children picking pumpkins, running around the farm, and taking pictures with me.”
“How endearing! Then winter must be harsh, boring, and lonely. Isn’t it?”
“Absolutely not! Winter is the season when I savor all the pleasant memories. I reminisce about all the wonderful events of that year. I thank the Lord for having given me all the vivid experiences and also pray for the welfare of all. You see—happiness is a choice that we all can make. ”
“Wow! You sure are awesome. You shine with so much wisdom.”
“Ha ha! Thanks. I will give you company until destiny comes knocking for you. Don’t worry. Now, cheer up, will you?”
“Ok, ok! I will cheer up only because you insist. Let’s see what happens. Tomorrow is Halloween. Good Night now, Mr. Scarecrow.”
That night Bumpkin was able to sleep peacefully. Thankfully he didn’t have any nightmares because of a few positive thoughts imbibed by Mr. Scarecrow.
Maybe there’s light after all,
It’s still not the end of fall,
The destined one will come and pick me,
And like the rest, I too shall be happy.
Finally, it was Halloween. As the sun began to set the farm shimmered with pumpkin-shaped string lights everywhere. There were huge pumpkin cutouts where children posed for pictures. Farmer Ben offered a free slice of pumpkin pie and chocolates as treats to all the children who came dressed in costumes. Ghosts, witches, gnomes, pumpkins, scarecrows, vampires, werewolves—to watch children adorning a variety of costumes was indeed a breathtaking feast to the eyes. The wagon was extensively decorated with figurines of scary ghosts and the tickets had ‘Welcome to Ghost Town’ stamped on it.
The farm was abuzz with a lot of entertainment and activity. However, the pumpkin patch was very dark and quiet. Bumpkin watched everything from his spot.
Have Faith, have faith! Maybe someone would walk down to the pumpkin patch and take me. Maybe, maybe…
He motivated himself and decided not to lose hope as advised by Mr. Scarecrow.
Slowly, all the children went away. Farmer Ben switched off the music and the lights. There was not a single soul in sight. Bumpkin was greatly dejected. The howling wind seemed ominous and the sky overladen with dark clouds seemed to whisper doom.
The journey ahead spells doom,
Vile clouds above me loom,
Are faith and hope mere words I hear?
Is there something more that I should fear?
Bumpkin found it difficult to calm the thoughts that had crept into his mind.
“Oh, Bumpkin! Worry not. Stay calm. Have faith,” assured Mr. Scarecrow.
“Ok Mr. Scarecrow, whatever! Let’s see, what’s in store for me now,” said Bumpkin and fell asleep wallowing in the darkness that seemed to overshadow the hope that harbored in him.
The next morning Farmer Ben visited the pumpkin patch. He cleared a few stray weeds that blocked the pathway and then walked towards Bumpkin.
Bumpkin looked at him anxiously.
I wonder if he is giving me away to someone. Mr. Scarecrow asked me not to lose hope.
Ben picked him up. He turned Bumpkin around and examined him very carefully. His furrowed eyebrows and grim face suggested that something grave was about to happen.
“Hmm! You don’t look normal—nothing close to a pumpkin. I pity you dear but I’m afraid you can’t stay anymore. Goodbye!”
No, Farmer Ben, No! I don’t deserve such an end. I don’t. I deserve a chance too.
Bumpkin’s silent screams fell on deaf ears. Holding Bumpkin with both his hands Ben marched solemnly towards the trash can.
Bumpkin prayed sincerely for a miracle to happen.
But Ben kept walking and as he was about to toss Bumpkin inside the trash can, he saw that the trash can was already overflowing with a lot of garbage.
He paused and pondered with Bumpkin still in his hand.
“Hmm! Let me just place it next to the trash can. There’s no place inside,” he said and placed Bumpkin comfortably inside a broken basket that was lying on the ground and walked away.
“Goodness, gracious! Better than being inside the trash can. Now, am I supposed to call this a miracle?” said Bumpkin, wondering whether he was supposed to feel happy or sad.
Beside a trash can is where I’ve found a spot,
Soon I’ll be thrown with things that rot,
Have I sinned in any way?
Why should my dreams weep ‘midst clouds gray?
“Hey Bumpkin! I have a feeling something good is about to happen. Have faith!” yelled Mr. Scarecrow from the other end.
“Seriously? Something good? Mr. Scarecrow, there’s nothing more to happen,” retorted Bumpkin.
“I really mean it. The rustling auburn leaves have been whispering merry songs. And have you seen the sky today? It has an unusual glow, doesn’t it?”
“Hmm! Your words are comforting but nothing seems different to me. Anyway! What’s about to happen shall happen. Nothing can change that.” Bumpkin decided to prepare himself for the worst.
“Look, Farmer Ben is walking towards the trash can,” said Mr. Scarecrow.
Ben came hurriedly and picked Bumpkin and proceeded to the shop.
Bumpkin was confused. He wondered what he wished to do.
An old lady was standing by the counter. Wrinkles crisscrossed her shriveled face. Her white hair was tied clumsily into a bun. She desperately tried to wrap a tattered shawl to hide the holes in her oversized shirt. However she had an unusual twinkle in her eyes.
“This is the only pumpkin left, Ma’am. Would you like to take it? You don’t have to pay me anything,” said Ben.
“Oh! This is perfect. I can make a hearty pumpkin soup and feed my grandchildren. You are very kind, Sir. How can I ever thank you,” said the old lady.
“Oh, come on! If only you had come yesterday or the day before. I would have given you round and juicy pumpkins,” said Ben.
“This pumpkin is perfect. Don’t feel bad. I like it. This will do,” she said and accepted the pumpkin gratefully and kissed it.
Bumpkin couldn’t believe his luck. Someone liked him just the way he was and also showered love upon him.
The old lady thanked Ben and left.
As Bumpkin wondered where they were headed next, he suddenly saw a foliage of auburn leaves twirling around him. He couldn’t make sense of anything.
After a while, he was astonished to see the old woman transform into an enchanting fairy. Her auburn tresses bounced rhythmically. She had the kindest green eyes and her alabaster skin shone with radiance. Fall leaves in myriad hues sewn into a maxi gown adorned her petite body.
“You…you! Are you a fairy?” asked Bumpkin. He was awestruck.
“I am Autumn Fairy. You are destined to be in Fairyland, my dear. You are the chosen one for this year,” she said with a chuckle.
“Really?! It’s truly a miracle. I can’t believe it. Mr. Scarecrow was right,” said Bumpkin.
“Mr. Scarecrow is always right. He was the one who recommended you. He is our messenger.”
“How can I ever thank him? I’m so excited and happy. I’m on top of the world,” said Bumpkin.
“You deserve to be happy dear.”
” And how long will I stay in Fairyland. ”
” As long as you wish. And whenever you are ready to leave you will be used to feed homeless children.”
” Awesome! How wonderful! ”
Soon the gates of Fairyland opened.
“Welcome to Fairyland,” greeted all the fairies.
Bumpkin entered Fairyland feeling happy and grateful.
Good things come to the ones who wait,
Don’t lose hope or blame your fate,
There’s always light at the end of the tunnel,
With thoughts gloomy don’t you dwell,
Miracles may not always come dressed in gilded wings,
But live with gratitude and rejoice in the joys that life brings.
This winning story was written for the monthly prompt given by Penmancy. The prompt required us to incorporate autumnal hues in the story.
It was first published here;