Paul's Pumpkins - Rose Meier

            Farmer Paul paced amongst his pumpkins. He lived all alone on a remote farm in the country, and made a living by growing all sorts of things, from corn to turnips. Pumpkins, however, were his passion, and at the moment he was having a bit of a pumpkin problem.

            Paul's biggest, best pumpkins were decidedly absent from his patch. “Ooh, somebody’s in for it now,” Paul growled to himself. “Those pumpkins were prize-winners, and woulda brought me a hefty sum for Halloween.” The 31st of October was fast approaching, and Halloween pumpkins were Paul’s primary source of income for the winter months. Without good pumpkin sales, Paul might not live to see the spring.

            Paul pondered his predicament. He had checked on his pumpkins just hours before, and they had been fine. The nearest town was a mile and a half away, and that mile and a half was thick woodland. A tricky trip with heavy pumpkins in tow . . . But maybe, Paul pondered, just maybe, the pumpkin snatcher will be hiding in the woods! Upon this thought, Paul sprang (well, he was getting up there in age, so heaved is more like) into action. He wheezed over to his shed, grabbed his mittens, locked and loaded his 12-gauge shotgun, and set off into the trees.

            Paul hadn't been trudging for long when he caught the faint scent of spoiling pumpkin on the wind. Picking up his pace, Paul followed his nose until he reached a sun-dappled clearing ringed in oak trees. And there, piled in the center—discarded, desecrated, defiled!—were his missing pumpkins. The orange gourds were mutilated almost beyond recognition. Their rinds had been shamelessly . . . nibbled, and their innards were violently strewn about the clearing. Paul knew at once what had happened. “ SQUIIIRRELLS!” he shouted to the leafy heavens, shaking his fat fist. “I'll get you for this, if it's the last thing I do!”

            Paul, propelled by sheer fury, began to waddle back to the farmhouse as fast as his lumpy legs could carry him. Perhaps he was plotting of poisoned pitchforks or barbaric booby traps, pumpkins laced with arsenic or some other devilish squirrelly demise. Whatever murderous scheme he did have in mind for the squirrels, however, the world will never know. Preoccupied with his muttered obscenities and malicious thoughts, Paul was not paying proper attention to his surroundings. His thick boots lost their bearings and caught on a rather prominent tree root, sending poor Paul into a steep fall. It so happened that his head connected with the ground at a rough, rocky patch of forest floor (albeit scattered with a smattering of lovely orange and yellow leaves), and so Paul’s cranium was quite fatally cracked. He lay there for quite some time, too stunned to even twitch his toes. As his life slowly ebbed away, through the haze of pain clouding his senses, Farmer Paul could just make out the mocking chitter of squirrels.