The Pumpkin Phantom


Jack Frost had painted the windowpanes frosty white early that Saturday morning. So, late in the afternoon before it got dark and chilly, I went out to the garden to see my pumpkins. I grabbed the edge of the big plastic tarp that Dad had thrown over them to keep the frost away, lifted it up, and looked under it. There they were, all fourteen of them.

“Well, Jarom, how are your pumpkins doing?” Dad asked as he came around the corner of the house to look at his potato plants.

“Jack Frost hasn’t nipped them yet,” I said, “but I’d better pick them pretty soon. It’s only a week till Halloween.”

“What are you going to do with fourteen pumpkins?” Dad asked, shaking his head.

“I’m going to make jack-o’-lanterns.”

Fourteen of them!” he exclaimed, wrinkling his brow. “Isn’t that a lot of jack-o’-lanterns? It takes a lot of work to carve just one. You’ll be carving pumpkins until Thanksgiving.”

I hadn’t thought of that. I scratched my head and peered under the tarp again. I just loved pumpkins. Dad had given me a corner of the family garden and had helped me plant five hills of pumpkins. During the summer, I’d watered and weeded them and had lifted up all the leaves to hunt for bugs. I had squashed every pumpkin-eating bug I could find.

Now I had fourteen of the orangiest, fattest, prettiest pumpkins in the whole town. I only had one problem: What was I going to do with all those pumpkins?

While Dad checked his potatoes, I sat on my very biggest pumpkin and thought. “Maybe we could make pumpkin pie,” I called to Dad.

“We’d be eating pumpkin pie until the Fourth of July,” he grunted.

“We could feed some to my hamster.”

“I don’t think your hamster is too crazy about pumpkins, but even if he is, it would take him a whole year to eat just one.”

Dad went into the house, and I stayed out in my pumpkin patch, thinking. Suddenly I smiled. I knew what I would do.

I jumped up and got my wagon and pulled it to the pumpkin patch. I picked three of my best pumpkins and put them into the wagon. Then I ran into the house for a pencil and some paper.

It was still light as I pulled my wagon down the sidewalk. I went straight to my friend Kirky’s house and pulled my wagon behind some bushes where no one could see me. I scribbled a note: “To Kirky from the Pumpkin Phantom.” Then, making certain that no one was looking, I grabbed one of my pumpkins, left it and the note on Kirky’s front porch, knocked loudly, and ran.

Next I sneaked over to Billy’s house because I knew that he didn’t have a pumpkin. I left him one on his front steps with a note: “To Billy from the Pumpkin Phantom.” And since Suzanne didn’t have her pumpkin yet, either, I knew right where to go next with the last pumpkin in my wagon.

I was having so much fun being the Pumpkin Phantom that I decided to go home and fill my wagon again. I took a pumpkin to Vanessa’s house and one to Cassie’s and three to Stephen (so that he and his two little sisters would each have one). The more pumpkins that I gave away, the better I felt. I hadn’t known that being a “phantom” could be so exciting.

It was starting to get dark when I got back home after making four trips with my wagon. My legs were sore from running, and my arms and back ached from lifting pumpkins, but boy was I happy!

After supper Dad asked, “Jarom, do you want me to help you carve one of your pumpkins tonight?”

My eyes got great big. “I sure do! I’ll go get one.”

I ran outside with a flashlight and looked under the tarp. But there wasn’t a single pumpkin left—I’d given them all away!

“I guess I don’t want a jack-o’-lantern this year,” I told my dad when I went back inside.

“You don’t want a jack-o’-lantern?” he asked. “Then why did you plant all those pumpkins?”

“I decided to be a pumpkin phantom, and I gave them away. I thought that I’d saved one for me, but I guess I hadn’t.”

“You gave all your pumpkins away?”

I nodded.

“All of them?” he asked again.

I nodded again.

The next day in Primary Sister Heaton, my teacher, said that she was going to tell us a story about sharing. Before she could, though, Vanessa raised her hand and said, “Sister Heaton, I know someone who shared.”

“Who?” Sister Heaton asked.

“The Pumpkin Phantom!”

“The Pumpkin Phantom?”

“Yes. Last night he left me the biggest, best pumpkin I’ve ever seen. I can hardly wait to make a jack-o’-lantern.”

“The Pumpkin Phantom came to my house, too,” Suzanne said with a grin.

“And to mine!” Stephen called out.

Pretty soon everyone was grinning and talking about the Pumpkin Phantom. “Well, just who is the Pumpkin Phantom?” Sister Heaton asked.

Everybody looked around, and said, “We don’t know, but he sure likes to share. He must be a very nice phantom.”

I didn’t say anything. I just sat with my arms folded and listened. But I was smiling great big inside. I didn’t even care that I didn’t have my own pumpkin, because I had a secret: I knew who the Pumpkin Phantom was.

As soon as I got home from Primary, I said to my dad, “I want an even bigger pumpkin patch next summer.”

“But Jarom, you had a hard time figuring out what to do with all of your pumpkins this year. Why do you want a bigger patch?”

“Because I’m the Pumpkin Phantom, and I need lots of pumpkins so that everybody in the neighborhood will have one. Besides, being the Pumpkin Phantom is better than having a whole house full of jack-o’-lanterns or a whole kitchen full of pumpkin pies!”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dick Brown