I held the pumpkin while Xavier drew. Two diamonds for eyes, a semicircle for a mouth, and an egg-shaped nose.
“Great job,” I said. He beamed.
I nodded to the facilitator, a bespectacled brunette in her twenties. She came over and handed me a serrated knife. “Call me if you need help.”
I thanked her. Gripping the knife, I cut out the shapes on the pumpkin. The pineapple-yellow pulp ripped like thunder.
Xavier gaped. “Mom, why are you taking away the eyes?”
“I’m giving it eyes, sweetheart. The eyes you drew.”
“But the eyes are there.” He pointed at the diamonds I’d cut.
I met the gaze of my eight-year-old and smiled. “I never thought about it that way. Do you want me to put them back?”
He shook his head.
“Because… they don’t work anymore.”
Don’t be silly, I thought. But there was nothing silly about his words. A connection had been severed, and it couldn’t be remade.
The woman to our left pinned her pumpkin to the table, plunging the knife into its flesh. It crunched like gravel under a tank.
I dragged my chair forward, blocking Xavier’s view of the woman. “What do you want to do with the eyes?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you want to keep them?”
He hung his head.
“If you don’t want to keep them, we can throw them away.”
“No!” He glared at me. Pencil sketches of carved pumpkins covered the walls, sneering.
The facilitator approached our table. “I couldn’t help overhearing,” she said. “Why don’t you guys make a profound pumpkin?”
Xavier’s eyes widened. “What’s a…a…”
“A profound pumpkin. A pumpkin with ears instead of eyes.” The facilitator took a seat across Xavier. “This pumpkin couldn’t see the sun or the rain, but it listened to the farmers who planted it. It listened to their discussions about the weather. At night, it listened to the bedtime stories from the window above it.”
“And then it became wise. It learned about Halloween and how it was born. Other pumpkins weren’t so lucky. They lost their eyes and got nothing in return. But the profound pumpkin was special. It could hear the crinkle of candy and the voices of children. Doorbells, dogs, greetings. The music of Halloween.”
“And then…one of its ears came off. It was midnight, and everyone had gone home. The pumpkin didn’t know what to do. It could hardly hear the owl hooting. But it remembered the sounds of the evening, and it felt better. Halloween lived in its head. And maybe its ear would go to another pumpkin. Maybe that pumpkin would hear the things it heard.”
Xavier blinked. “I want a profound pumpkin,” he told me.
The roar of pumpkins being shredded was like applause in a stadium. The facilitator caught my eye and smiled. I smiled back.
Xavier taped a diamond to each side of the pumpkin. “I’m going to turn on the radio and put the profound pumpkin in front of it,” he said. “Then it will know everything about the world.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” the facilitator said quickly. “Too many people talk on the radio. The pumpkin will just get confused. It will turn into a…hmm…”
“A silly squash?” I suggested.
“Exactly,” she grinned. “A silly squash.”
After the workshop, I stayed back to thank her. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Alison.” She shook my hand.
“Alison what?” Xavier demanded.
She knelt so their heads were level. “Alison the sorceress,” she said. “Brewer of spells and stories.”
Xavier giggled. Alison ruffled his hair.
“Good night, Alison,” I said. “Happy Halloween.”
Hugging his pumpkin, Xavier shuffled to the door. I held it open for him.
Ryan Tan studies English literature at the National University of Singapore.