FARMER LEON’S PUMPKIN PATCH • by Paul A. Freeman

Brad’s car cruised to a halt on the empty country lane adjacent to Leon Whale’s pumpkin field. A plump full moon rode high in the night sky, casting deep shadows around everything it touched. In the pallid moonlight, even from sitting inside the car, it was clear that farmer Leon had a bumper crop of pumpkins for sale this Halloween. In both size and number they were an impressive sight.

“I don’t like it,” said Amy, Brad’s girlfriend. She put her empty beer bottle in the footwell and pouted. “What if we get caught? How will I explain to daddy why I spent a night in jail?”

“It’s only one pumpkin,” said Brad. “We’re not stealing the Queen of England’s crown jewels.”

“But I’m scared. I didn’t know it’d be so quiet and spooky out here. Why don’t we just come back tomorrow, when it’s light, and buy a pumpkin? They’re only twelve dollars.”

“Everywhere else pumpkins are just four dollars,” Brad reminded her. “Leon Whale’s a rip-off merchant — a lowdown thief. And what kind of name’s ‘Leon Whale’, anyway?”

“Eastern European? Jewish-American?” Amy hazarded.

Brad shrugged. “Whatever it is, it’s a strange name.”

He climbed out of the car, flashlight in hand, followed reluctantly by Amy.

The quietness of the country road was punctuated only by the soft crunch of their feet compressing the dry earth. The atmosphere, laden with a sense of impending dread, caused the couple to forget the sharp chill in the air and the goose bumps on their arms.

“I’m really frightened,” Amy complained, as a hooting owl broke the silence.

“Let’s get our pumpkin and then we’ll be on our way,” said Brad. “It won’t take us ten minutes.”

As they made their way deeper into the field, searching for the most succulent pumpkin, they became aware of the faint rustling sounds of barely perceptible movement all about them.

Panicked, Brad said, “Okay. Back to the car! Maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all.”

As the couple turned around, desperately trying to maintain their composure, every pumpkin within their field of vision shuddered and pulled its roots free from the soil. Then, as a body, the plants rose up, the orange gourds of their fruits supported by writhing tendrils of vegetation.

The plants turned their gourd-‘heads’ towards Brad and Amy, staring malevolently through narrow, carved eyes. Their mouths, rictuses of jaggedly fashioned teeth, grinned malevolently at the trembling youngsters.

The strange creatures advanced on the couple at a shambling shuffle, their tendrils flicking around like whips as they sought out their prey.

“Run!” cried Brad, his voice verging on hysteria.

Hand in hand Brad and Amy fled. However, they found themselves being herded in the opposite direction, away from their car. Against their wills they were forced further into the pumpkin field by the stumbling beasts.

With the monstrous pumpkins controlling the couple’s movements, the end came suddenly. Brad and Amy, sprinting away from the pursuing plants – like cattle being corralled by cowboys – fell headlong into a newly-dug pit. Seconds later, before they could get to their feet and scramble out of their makeshift grave, the pumpkins were upon them.

Sharp tendrils pierced the young couple’s flesh; and once they had penetrated to the bone and wormed their way into arteries flowing with life blood, the plants emptied the screaming youngsters of their bodily fluids.

When the pumpkins had drunk their fill, an old man carrying a shovel hobbled up from behind the carnivorous plants.

“Back to your plots, my beauties,” Leon Whale commanded, forcing a path through the jostling pumpkins.

He stared down dispassionately at the two desiccated corpses, shooed away the few loitering plants that had not fully satisfied their appetite for blood and set to work filling in Brad and Amy’s grave.

Once he had tamped down the earth, Leon limped over to the nearby road, hotwired Brad’s car and drove it back to his barn.

“I’m accruing quite a collection,” he laughed, surveying the fleet of vehicles lined up inside the barn.

There was no time to waste though, for October the thirty-first — Halloween — was barely an hour away. So without further ado he turned on his heel and padlocked the barn door.

Next morning, when Leon’s first customer of the day pulled up at the farm kiosk, she could not hide her admiration for his gargantuan pumpkins.

“How d’ya get yer darn pumpkins so plump?” she asked.

Leon Whale grinned. “I just feed them the best fertilizer, ma’am.”


Paul A. Freeman is the author of ‘Rumours of Ophir’, a crime novel set in Zimbabwe. His narrative poem ‘Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers’, and his second crime novel, ‘Vice and Virtue’, have also been published. Over a hundred of his short stories have appeared in print. He currently lives in Abu Dhabi with his family, and despite reports to the contrary, he never swims in the nude (you’ll be relieved to know). He can be found at www.paulfreeman.weebly.com and www.chaucers-uncle.weebly.com.


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Every Day Fiction

  • This is great stuff. Sell it to the BBC for Doctor Who!

  • This is great stuff. Sell it to the BBC for Doctor Who!

  • Samantha

    Nice story. It’s understandable why Leon sells above market prices.

    I didn’t understand where the name reference and origins came into the story.

  • Samantha

    Nice story. It’s understandable why Leon sells above market prices.

    I didn’t understand where the name reference and origins came into the story.

  • disqus_5RXgycx5ff

    Great fun and loved the ending! The dialogue of Amy and Brad, however, didn’t ring true to me. Teenagers?

  • disqus_5RXgycx5ff

    Great fun and loved the ending! The dialogue of Amy and Brad, however, didn’t ring true to me. Teenagers?

  • Mccasey

    Its the Great Pumpkin with teeth..

  • Mccasey

    Its the Great Pumpkin with teeth..

  • The dialogue didn’t ring true for a couple of teenagers. A moon riding high will not cast deep shadows. The use of the word “malevolently ” twice in the same para was jarring. There were too many adjectives and adverbs for my taste. I didn’t understand the emphasis on Leon Whale’s name.

    So the pumpkins killed trespassing thieves at night but allowed customers, or Leon, to harvest them during the day?

    How is Leon going to dispose of a “fleet” of cars stored in his barn belonging to missing teenagers or others?

    Tighter writing could give the story more impact. I think the last line reads better without the dialogue: “Leon Whale grinned.”

  • The dialogue didn’t ring true for a couple of teenagers. A moon riding high will not cast deep shadows. The use of the word “malevolently ” twice in the same para was jarring. There were too many adjectives and adverbs for my taste. I didn’t understand the emphasis on Leon Whale’s name.

    So the pumpkins killed trespassing thieves at night but allowed customers, or Leon, to harvest them during the day?

    How is Leon going to dispose of a “fleet” of cars stored in his barn belonging to missing teenagers or others?

    Tighter writing could give the story more impact. I think the last line reads better without the dialogue: “Leon Whale grinned.”

  • Tina Wayland

    Love the idea of the great plumpkin! Ha! I think the piece would benefit from streamlining the adjectives, which were a bit heavy-handed. Plus I don’t think any self-respecting teen today would know what the crown jewels are. I agree the dialogue rang a little untrue. However, I think this is a fun piece that presents a new twist on a very old Hallowe’en theme. And that’s quite the feat!

  • Tina Wayland

    Love the idea of the great plumpkin! Ha! I think the piece would benefit from streamlining the adjectives, which were a bit heavy-handed. Plus I don’t think any self-respecting teen today would know what the crown jewels are. I agree the dialogue rang a little untrue. However, I think this is a fun piece that presents a new twist on a very old Hallowe’en theme. And that’s quite the feat!

  • Me thinks a bit of Stephen King with the teenagers and the killings. Interesting how that stuff sticks around. I wonder will we ever get enough. A B story, all the way.

  • Me thinks a bit of Stephen King with the teenagers and the killings. Interesting how that stuff sticks around. I wonder will we ever get enough. A B story, all the way.

  • Trollopian

    A fun (and gory) story, but the writing is curiously leaden. I got an itch to trim this ruthlessly. At least one-third of this could have been trimmed. Example right in the first sentence: why “adjacent” rather than “next?” But then heck, I thought, why not just delete the first two sentences? The next sentence establishes where Brad and Amy are (farmer Leon’s pumpkin field) and how they got there (by car). Other examples abound.

    Too much exposition, passive voice, adjectives and adverbs. Paul, you have the gift of plot, but could benefit from deploying a thick red pen….or a carving knife.

  • Trollopian

    A fun (and gory) story, but the writing is curiously leaden. I got an itch to trim this ruthlessly. At least one-third of this could have been trimmed. Example right in the first sentence: why “adjacent” rather than “next?” But then heck, I thought, why not just delete the first two sentences? The next sentence establishes where Brad and Amy are (farmer Leon’s pumpkin field) and how they got there (by car). Other examples abound.

    Too much exposition, passive voice, adjectives and adverbs. Paul, you have the gift of plot, but could benefit from deploying a thick red pen….or a carving knife.

  • MaryAlice Meli

    Oh, Paul, Paul. Linus would be horrified by the Great Pumpkin in this pumpkin patch. I wasn’t horrified; I was entertained and chuckled to the end.

  • MaryAlice Meli

    Oh, Paul, Paul. Linus would be horrified by the Great Pumpkin in this pumpkin patch. I wasn’t horrified; I was entertained and chuckled to the end.

  • Ann Liska

    Lovely creepy story. I meant to give it a 4 but picked 3 by mistake and the site won’t let me change it! Sorry

  • Ann Liska

    Lovely creepy story. I meant to give it a 4 but picked 3 by mistake and the site won’t let me change it! Sorry

  • Genghis Bob

    It seemed like more, um, “ink” was spent on the conversation in the car than the action in the field. Which is unfortunate, doubly so because the dialogue was so very wooden.

    Should have cut the talk-talk to just enough to set the scene, then gotten those two miscreants right into the field. Build the tension – rustling sounds, clinging tendrils, dark foreboding – while Brad and Amy are establishing their thievin’ teen bonafides as they traipse into danger.

    A story like this is almost a trope – it’s Halloween, in a pumpkin patch, with teenagers bent on mischief. We all know what’s gonna happen, we’re just here to see how imaginatively it’s done. So you can skip the exposition and get right to the gore.

    Happy Halloween! Tip your local pumpkin patch operator!

    • MPmcgurty

      I agree: get right to the gore!

  • Genghis Bob

    It seemed like more, um, “ink” was spent on the conversation in the car than the action in the field. Which is unfortunate, doubly so because the dialogue was so very wooden.

    Should have cut the talk-talk to just enough to set the scene, then gotten those two miscreants right into the field. Build the tension – rustling sounds, clinging tendrils, dark foreboding – while Brad and Amy are establishing their thievin’ teen bonafides as they traipse into danger.

    A story like this is almost a trope – it’s Halloween, in a pumpkin patch, with teenagers bent on mischief. We all know what’s gonna happen, we’re just here to see how imaginatively it’s done. So you can skip the exposition and get right to the gore.

    Happy Halloween! Tip your local pumpkin patch operator!

    • MPmcgurty

      I agree: get right to the gore!

  • Walter Giersbach

    Trite. Derivative. Roving POV. Sorry, but I can’t buy this pumpkin.

  • Walter Giersbach

    Trite. Derivative. Roving POV. Sorry, but I can’t buy this pumpkin.

  • Carl Steiger

    I’d have put this under the humor/satire category. I wasn’t horrified, but I was quite amused.

    A couple comments on the comments:

    @ Jeff – I think the “deep shadows” phrase has to do with how dark the shadows appear, or that’s how I read it.

    @ Michael Stang – Stephen King indeed. I was reminded of the scene in ‘Salem’s Lot where the girl is approaching the vampire’s house, saying to herself, “Whooie, this sure is scary! But I’m gonna go right on in in anyhow!” Or words to that effect.

  • Carl Steiger

    I’d have put this under the humor/satire category. I wasn’t horrified, but I was quite amused.

    A couple comments on the comments:

    @ Jeff – I think the “deep shadows” phrase has to do with how dark the shadows appear, or that’s how I read it.

    @ Michael Stang – Stephen King indeed. I was reminded of the scene in ‘Salem’s Lot where the girl is approaching the vampire’s house, saying to herself, “Whooie, this sure is scary! But I’m gonna go right on in anyhow!” Or words to that effect.

  • MPmcgurty

    I’m all for giant, marauding pumpkins spearing their victims with their foliage. But I’m with Jeff on his comments, except that I’m okay with the pumpkins killing for their master at night, because maybe he’s cast a spell. And the sequel: the customers take the pumpkins home, where the malcontent vegetables terrorize unsuspecting families! This is why I don’t eat pumpkin pie.

    Thanks, Paul. Happy Halloween.

  • MPmcgurty

    I’m all for giant, marauding pumpkins spearing their victims with their foliage. But I’m with Jeff on his comments, except that I’m okay with the pumpkins killing for their master at night, because maybe he’s cast a spell. And the sequel: the customers take the pumpkins home, where the malcontent vegetables terrorize unsuspecting families! This is why I don’t eat pumpkin pie.

    Thanks, Paul. Happy Halloween.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Well, I congratulate you. First time I’ve ever READ a cheesy ’50s B-movie. But the fun thing about those is how awful the special effects are… not so hilarious on the page.

    Terrible dialogue was faithful to the genre.

    As with others, I’m baffled by the bit about Leon’s name.

    • The story is infantile and clumsy but with a whiff of a re-worked anti-Jewish blood libel – vampire pumpkins owned by – now remind me, please
      “- And what kind of name’s ‘Leon Whale’, anyway?”

      “Eastern European? Jewish-American?” Amy hazarded.

      Brad shrugged. “Whatever it is, it’s a strange name.”

      Me no likey. I’m outta here – soonest!

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        Honestly, I don’t think that was even in Paul’s subconscious. It was just a particularly clumsy device for getting us to pay attention to the name. See my further comment on that below. He was trying to make us look at “Leon,” when he should have been pointing us to “Whale.” For an out-of-place name.

        It’s not like my own antennae don’t work overtime. But sometimes a cigar is just a stinky roll of tobacco–nothing more.

        • Sarah, this story has been written at a time of unprecedented global anti-Jewish hatred so bad that anonymous White House staff have described the Prime Minister of Israel as ‘chickenshit’. No matter the perceived provocation, senior politicians and their staff should not refer to anyone – let alone a head of state – in such a manner. Today I read further, that anti-Jewish slights continue to be made against members of an amateur Jewish boys’ football team in Manchester, U.K. – their opponents using the foulest language possible.Their words, not mine – I don’t use language like that. Do we understand one another? Goodbye and God bless.

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            Natalie–as someone who has at various times identified with not one but two-count ’em two frequently reviled ethnic/religious identities–and by choice, no less!–and who is intimately familiar with how some Jews routinely talk about any non-Jew–this is getting overheated. There’s no shortage of hatred in the world and no one has exclusive claims on savage mistreatment through the ages. This was Paul being clumsy–no more.

            And God bless you too. And may there be peace everywhere, for everyone, for always.

        • MPmcgurty

          It didn’t twang the antennae of the slush pile reader or the editors either.

      • S Conroy

        I’m not sure if you’ve got that Leon Whale is an anagram for Halloween (or read the other comments). No-one else hit that jackpot, self included. If the letters had been such that the annagram name was Mac Intyre, the kids might have speculated if it were an Irish or Scottish name. Really think that’s all there is to it. Plot-device that backfired, nothing more sinster.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Well, I congratulate you. First time I’ve ever READ a cheesy ’50s B-movie. But the fun thing about those is how awful the special effects are… not so hilarious on the page.

    Terrible dialogue was faithful to the genre.

    As with others, I’m baffled by the bit about Leon’s name.

    • The story is infantile and clumsy but with a whiff of a re-worked anti-Jewish blood libel – vampire pumpkins owned by – now remind me, please
      “- And what kind of name’s ‘Leon Whale’, anyway?”

      “Eastern European? Jewish-American?” Amy hazarded.

      Brad shrugged. “Whatever it is, it’s a strange name.”

      Me no likey. I’m outta here – soonest!

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        Honestly, I don’t think that was even in Paul’s subconscious. It was just a particularly clumsy device for getting us to pay attention to the name. See my further comment on that below. He was trying to make us look at “Leon,” when he should have been pointing us to “Whale.” For an out-of-place name.

        It’s not like my own antennae don’t work overtime. But sometimes a cigar is just a stinky roll of tobacco–nothing more.

        • Sarah, this story has been written at a time of unprecedented global anti-Jewish hatred so bad that anonymous White House staff have described the Prime Minister of Israel as ‘chickenshit’. No matter the perceived provocation, senior politicians and their staff should not refer to anyone – let alone a head of state – in such a manner. Today I read further, that anti-Jewish slights continue to be made against members of an amateur Jewish boys’ football team in Manchester, U.K. – their opponents using the foulest language possible.Their words, not mine – I don’t use language like that. Do we understand one another? Goodbye and God bless.

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            Natalie–as someone who has at various times identified with not one but two-count ’em two frequently reviled ethnic/religious identities–and one of ’em by choice, no less!–and who is intimately familiar with how some Jews routinely talk about any non-Jew–this is getting overheated. There’s no shortage of hatred in the world and no one has exclusive claims on savage mistreatment through the ages. This was Paul being clumsy–no more.

            And God bless you too. And may there be peace everywhere, for everyone, for always.

        • MPmcgurty

          It didn’t twang the antennae of the slush pile reader or the editors either.

      • S Conroy

        I’m not sure if you’ve got that Leon Whale is an anagram for Halloween (or if you’ve read the other comments). No-one else hit that jackpot, self included. If the letters had been such that the annagram name was Mac Intyre, the kids might have speculated if it were an Irish or Scottish name. Really think that’s all there is to it. A plot-device that backfired, nothing more sinster.

  • Diane Cresswell

    Cheesy and fun. Reminds me of one of King’s adaption of stories for Creepshow anthologies. Good one to tell sitting around a campfire on Halloween.

  • Diane Cresswell

    Cheesy and fun. Reminds me of one of King’s adaption of stories for Creepshow anthologies. Good one to tell sitting around a campfire on Halloween.

  • S Conroy

    That image of the pumpkins’ tendrils sucking out the teenagers blood was pleasingly horrific. Agree with the commenters who want more tension- building horror and less generic talk, though of course “oh this is scary, we really shouldn’t, but let’s” is essential. And what’s with the name significance?

  • S Conroy

    That image of the pumpkins’ tendrils sucking out the teenagers blood was pleasingly horrific. Agree with the commenters who want more tension- building horror and less generic talk, though I agree with Carl Steiger too. “Oh this is scary, we really shouldn’t go in there, but let’s” is essential stuff. And what’s with the significance of Leon’s name?

  • Jen

    Love it, Paul!

  • Jen

    Love it, Paul!

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Ahem! Well, I wasn’t expecting to get such a critical, literary pumelling, but what the heck. I actually wrote this story as a bit of Halloween fun – as Diane put it, as a ‘campfire’ tale.

    As for our old friend, Leon Whale, there’s been a lot of puzzlement about the significance of his name. So perhaps the scariest element of this story is that with all those wordsmiths on hand, no one considered his name might be an anagram.

    Anyhow, happy Halloween!

    • S Conroy

      Ha. Cool.

    • MPmcgurty

      I’m terrible at anagrams. What’s it mean? 😉

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      All you needed was one of the kids saying “Whale–silly name for a farmer!” Having them puzzle over a non-existent ethnic link just made me go “huh?” instead of “hmmm…”

      • Samantha

        Whats the significance of the name? And how is it maybe Jewish?

        • Samantha

          The only thing that I can think of is the Halloween and Leon Whale have the same letters…anyway…..

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            Exactly–it’s an anagram for Halloween. No ethnic connotation.

          • Samantha

            and no impact on the story and the intention of an anagram fell through….if that was the intention it could have been done with some skill eg. the girl noticing that it had the same letters and maybe that’s even scarier being there….or something to make it matter…

    • Carl Steiger

      Mystery solved! I’m terrible at anagrams too, and I needed a blow to the head to consider that it might be an anagram in the first place.

      • Samantha

        no wonder you complain of a swollen head….(yesterday’s comment)….

    • Camille Gooderham Campbell

      Wow, now I feel dumb for missing the anagram…

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Ahem! Well, I wasn’t expecting to get such a critical pumelling, but what the heck. I actually wrote this story as a bit of Halloween fun – as Diane put it, as a ‘campfire’ tale.

    As for our old friend, Leon Whale, there’s been a lot of puzzlement about the significance of his name. So perhaps the scariest element of this story is that with all those wordsmiths on hand, no one considered his name might be an anagram.

    Anyhow, happy Halloween!

    • S Conroy

      Ha. Cool.

    • MPmcgurty

      I’m terrible at anagrams. What’s it mean? 😉

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      All you needed was one of the kids saying “Whale–silly name for a farmer!” Having them puzzle over a non-existent ethnic link just made me go “huh?” instead of “hmmm…”

      • Samantha

        Whats the significance of the name? And how is it maybe Jewish?

        • Samantha

          The only thing that I can think of is the Halloween and Leon Whale have the same letters…anyway…..

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            Exactly–it’s an anagram for Halloween. No ethnic connotation.

          • Samantha

            and no impact on the story and the intention of an anagram fell through….if that was the intention it could have been done with some skill eg. the girl noticing that it had the same letters and maybe that’s even scarier being there….or something to make it matter…

    • Carl Steiger

      Mystery solved! I’m terrible at anagrams too, and I needed a blow to the head to consider that it might be an anagram in the first place.

      • Samantha

        no wonder you complain of a swollen head….(yesterday’s comment)….

    • Camille Gooderham Campbell

      Wow, now I feel dumb for missing the anagram…

  • Chris Antenen

    I think I’m just bad at a critique. Sure I thought the dialogue was dated, and yes I got hit over the head too many times by adjectives, and no I didn’t get the anagram, but I thought the story was very funny, laughed out loud when the pumpkins started sucking blood from the teenagers. Having taken knives to many a pumpkin in my life, I thought some human somewhere deserved it. I thought the slow start was a good ploy (with timely teenage vernacular,) I suspected this was a quick hallowel’en story. Gave it a 3 because of the obvious writing no-no’s. Good story anyway.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      You critique just fine. I didn’t laugh–and neither of us is “wrong.”

    • Camille Gooderham Campbell

      No one’s critique is “wrong”. Whatever impression a story makes (or doesn’t make) on you is absolutely fine and fair, and every person most likely represents a segment of silent readers (that is, for every commenter who shares an opinion, there are probably hundreds to thousands of silent readers who agree), since the vast majority of readers as per our statistics do not rate or comment on stories. It is also entirely possible to enjoy something and see its flaws at the same time.

  • Chris Antenen

    I think I’m just bad at a critique. Sure I thought the dialogue was dated, and yes I got hit over the head too many times by adjectives, and no I didn’t get the anagram, but I thought the story was very funny, laughed out loud when the pumpkins started sucking blood from the teenagers. Having taken knives to many a pumpkin in my life, I thought some human somewhere deserved it. I thought the slow start was a good ploy (with timely teenage vernacular,) I suspected this was a quick hallowel’en story. Gave it a 3 because of the obvious writing no-no’s. Good story anyway.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      You critique just fine. I didn’t laugh–and neither of us is “wrong.”

    • Camille Gooderham Campbell

      No one’s critique is “wrong”. Whatever impression a story makes (or doesn’t make) on you is absolutely fine and fair, and every person most likely represents a segment of silent readers (that is, for every commenter who shares an opinion, there are probably hundreds to thousands of silent readers who agree), since the vast majority of readers as per our statistics do not rate or comment on stories. It is also entirely possible to enjoy something and see its flaws at the same time.

  • joanna b.

    paul, my editorial pens are “flicking around like whips” in their mad desire to have at this story.

    i hate halloween, i’m allergic to pumpkins, not more than one out of a thousand carved Jack O’ Lanterns shows the slightest bit of creativity, how do we dare to encourage our kids to line up for sugar? Yuck and ugh to the whole dreary mess.

    this story of yours shoulda woulda coulda been a perfect 5. it’s a terrific idea and great writing from “He climbed out of the car, flashlight in hand, reluctantly followed by Amy,” on to the end.

    that’s where the story might have started with what came before integrated into the middle.

    remember “kill your darlings?” that’s what the anagram needed: a good burial in a field of pumpkins. (btw, MP, Carl, Camille, i didn’t have a clue either. and thanks, samantha, for stating the non-obvious. i’d still be moving around the l’s and the e’s trying to figure it out.)

    what cast a “deep shadow” for me while reading this was the reference to Jewish-Americans. it instantly brought up for me the vicious stereotype of Jews being an avaricious, money-grubbing ethnic group. especially since it was being applied to a sociopathic character who was charging 3x the going price for pumpkins.

    if the authorial intent was to show Brad and Amy as bigoted people who deserved their fate, well, I think that needed to be made more explicit.

    i feel bad being so blunt about this but my point is that we all need to be careful about bringing in ethnic origins when they’re not part of, or necessary to, the story line.

    Transylvanian might have worked.

    to get back to the positives: the pumpkins on the march were sweet, delightful, charming, adorable. who wouldn’t want one?

    and, as far as i’m concerned, anyone walking into a pumpkin patch on Halloween Eve under a full moon is just asking for it.

    4 stars from me.

    • Samantha

      Well said Joanna esp. about the Jews. Im not Jewish but I took offense for the reasons you explicitly state. I have done a lot of reading lately – stories in the EDF archive and I saw a comment that Paul placed stating that he took offense by a reference a Scot made to the English (cant even remember the word but the definition was did not state it as a derogatory term).

      • Paul A. Freeman

        We have a fictional character in a ‘B-Movie’ Halloween story who thinks ‘Leon’ could be an Eastern European or a Jewish name. That’s all.

        • Samantha

          By no means am I saying you set out to offend. What Im saying is that you are a very skillful writer/commentator wordsmith that also has sensitivities to such issues and I would not have expected something like that being in one of your stories.

          • Samantha

            Obvious Eastern European names usually end in ski, vich, ov, in, etc etc…and Leo(n) is Greek meaning lion.

            All good.

          • Paul A. Freeman

            Yes, Eastern European surnames do often end in ski, vich, ov, in, but we were talking about the first name, ‘Leon’ as in ‘Leon’ Trotsky. And since it bothers you, the Scottish word for the English is ‘sassenach’ (there are variations on spelling) which can be construed both as a humorous term or a derogatory term. But the real question should be how did we get from you thinking I’d written a ‘nice story’ though you didn’t get that ‘Leon Whale’ was an anagram of ‘Halloween’, to pillorying me for a comment made by an unsympathetic fictional character?

          • S Conroy

            I didn’t get the anagram either and also stumbled on the name. One really nasty idea which came up involuntarily once I’d got to the end was “Is there supposed to be some connection between the Jewish name and the blood-sucking pumpkins?” (I live in Berlin and sensitivity to Jewish history is pretty high for obvious reasons.) Anyway I quickly decided this could not possibly be right – I was oversensitized – and that it was just an ignorant teenage remark.
            So it’s not your fault that the rest of us were a bit thick and didn’t get the anagram. If we’d got it, the question would be moot. Imo it would have been safer to shy away from the ethnic comments without a good reason for them, but hindsight is a fine thing.

          • Samantha

            I should not defend AND WILL NOT DEFEND my opinion …if a story is public, you are out there for good and bad critiques so I don’t understand why you cant accept them….your story was nice but there were some stuff not so nice about it. I did not mention the fact that your story seemed to take place in the US and you mentioning the crown jewels as if the average American knows or cares about that, let alone teenagers inferring Leon Trotsky and Tolstoy for that matter as if they are household names to teenagers everywhere esp. the MCs on a pumpkin stealing spree…

            I understand that you tried to accommodate your anagram concept – albeit unsuccessfully – but were somewhat careless in using irrelevant and/or offensive Jewish references (ie. charging more than the usual price….!!!!) in the process to place emphasis on the name/anagram. Sorry but your means did not justify your “ends” and that’s not just me. It would have been more appreciated if you just said that it was careless than try to prove us all wrong.

            Finally, I did not make an issue about the adjectives others mentioned because I liked them…but what is good for the goose is good for the gander…re: your offense to another writer’s comment about the English appears to me like someone that would have been slightly more careful.

        • Carl Steiger

          FWIW, I took it for a characteristically ignorant remark by an ignorant teenager, nothing more.

  • joanna b.

    paul, my editorial pens are “flicking around like whips” in their mad desire to have at this story.

    i hate halloween, i’m allergic to pumpkins, not more than one out of a thousand carved Jack O’ Lanterns shows the slightest bit of creativity, how do we dare to encourage our kids to line up for sugar? Yuck and ugh to the whole dreary mess.

    this story of yours shoulda woulda coulda been a perfect 5. it’s a terrific idea and great writing from “He climbed out of the car, flashlight in hand, reluctantly followed by Amy,” on to the end.

    that’s where the story might have started with what came before integrated into the middle.

    remember “kill your darlings?” that’s what the anagram needed: a good burial in a field of pumpkins. (btw, MP, Carl, Camille, i didn’t have a clue either. and thanks, samantha, for stating the non-obvious. i’d still be moving around the l’s and the e’s trying to figure it out.)

    what cast a “deep shadow” for me while reading this was the reference to Jewish-Americans. it instantly brought up for me the vicious stereotype of Jews being an avaricious, money-grubbing ethnic group. especially since it was being applied to a sociopathic character who was charging 3x the going price for pumpkins.

    if the authorial intent was to show Brad and Amy as bigoted people who deserved their fate, well, I think that needed to be made more explicit.

    i feel bad being so blunt about this but my point is that we all need to be careful about bringing in ethnic origins when they’re not part of, or necessary to, the story line.

    Transylvanian might have worked.

    to get back to the positives: the pumpkins on the march were sweet, delightful, charming, adorable. who wouldn’t want one?

    and, as far as i’m concerned, anyone walking into a pumpkin patch on Halloween Eve under a full moon is just asking for it.

    4 stars from me.

    • Samantha

      Well said Joanna esp. about the Jews. Im not Jewish but I took offense for the reasons you explicitly state. I have done a lot of reading lately – stories in the EDF archive and I saw a comment that Paul placed stating that he took offense by a reference a Scot made to the English (cant even remember the word but the definition was did not state it as a derogatory term).

      • Paul A. Freeman

        We have a fictional character in a ‘B-Movie’ Halloween story who thinks ‘Leon’ could be an Eastern European or a Jewish name. That’s all.

        • Samantha

          By no means am I saying you set out to offend. What Im saying is that you are a very skillful writer/commentator wordsmith that also has sensitivities to such issues and I would not have expected something like that being in one of your stories.

          • Samantha

            Obvious Eastern European names usually end in ski, vich, ov, in, etc etc…and Leo(n) is Greek meaning lion.

            All good.

          • Paul A. Freeman

            Yes, Eastern European surnames do often end in ski, vich, ov, in, but we were talking about the first name, ‘Leon’ as in ‘Leon’ Trotsky. And since it bothers you, the Scottish word for the English is ‘sassenach’ (there are variations on spelling) which can be construed both as a humorous term or a derogatory term. But the real question should be how did we get from you thinking I’d written a ‘nice story’ though you didn’t get that ‘Leon Whale’ was an anagram of ‘Halloween’, to pillorying me for a comment made by an unsympathetic fictional character?

          • S Conroy

            I didn’t get the anagram either and also stumbled on the source of the name. One really nasty idea which came up involuntarily once I’d got to the end was “Is there supposed to be some connection between the Jewish name and the blood-sucking pumpkins?” (I live in Berlin and sensitivity to Jewish history is pretty high here for obvious reasons.)

            Anyway I quickly decided this could not possibly be right – I was oversensitized – and that it was just an ignorant teenage remark.
            So it’s not your fault that the rest of us were a bit thick and didn’t get the anagram. If we’d got it, the question would be moot. Imo it would have been safer to shy away from the ethnic comments without a good reason for them, but hindsight is a fine thing.

          • Samantha

            I should not defend AND WILL NOT DEFEND my opinion …if a story is public, you are out there for good and bad critiques so I don’t understand why you cant accept them….your story was nice but there were some stuff not so nice about it. I did not mention the fact that your story seemed to take place in the US and you mentioning the crown jewels as if the average American knows or cares about that, let alone teenagers inferring Leon Trotsky and Tolstoy for that matter as if they are household names to teenagers everywhere esp. the MCs on a pumpkin stealing spree…

            I understand that you tried to accommodate your anagram concept – albeit unsuccessfully – but were somewhat careless in using irrelevant and/or offensive Jewish references (ie. charging more than the usual price….!!!!) in the process to place emphasis on the name/anagram. Sorry but your means did not justify your “ends” and that’s not just me. It would have been more appreciated if you just said that it was careless than try to prove us all wrong.

            Finally, I did not make an issue about the adjectives others mentioned because I liked them…but what is good for the goose is good for the gander…re: your offense to another writer’s comment about the English appears to me like someone that would have been slightly more careful.

        • Carl Steiger

          FWIW, I took it for a characteristically ignorant remark by an ignorant teenager, nothing more.

  • On one halloween in Michigan I was treated to Pumpkin Pike.

    • S Conroy

      That sounds like a horror story by itself.

    • MPmcgurty

      What is that?

  • On one halloween in Michigan I was treated to Pumpkin Pike.

    • S Conroy

      That sounds like a horror story by itself.

    • MPmcgurty

      What is that?

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Thanks for all the feedback, guys. It’s been very instructive and has given me a lot to think about.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Thanks for all the feedback, guys. It’s been very instructive and has given me a lot to think about.

  • Kathy

    One more comment, Paul. I enjoyed your story (although I too was distracted wondering about the significance of the farmer’s name), but (a minor detail) I think it would have helped to have the pumpkins in the field transition from “just pumpkins” to jack-o-lanterns (pumpkins with carved faces.) I also agree with your response about the possibility of the farmer’s name being Jewish. I am not offended when fictional characters make offensive remarks; it helps define who they are.
    Every once in a while I see comments that cause me to remind myself this is a forum for reader response to posted stories. Despite the small group of “regulars” who contribute significant editorial comment, it is not a writers’ critique group, is it?

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      Your last couple of sentences–is there a firm boundary between “reader response” and “writers’ critique group”? I mean, a critique group is just an organized bunch of members who give responses to what they are handed to read.

      I myself didn’t think the references to the name were offensive–I thought they came so far out of left field my head was spinning, trying to understand the purpose. I took the name as a whole–“Leon Whale”–which seemed uninflected with any ethnic connotation. I didn’t think “Leon” was a particularly unusual first name in an English-speaking country. But “Whale” is a funny surname, especially for a farmer. So that whole reference coming out of the mouths of two gormless teenagers kind of distracted me from the narrative, without serving Paul’s purpose of winking at the anagram.

    • MPmcgurty

      Hi, Kathy. I don’t consider this a writers’ critique group in that we aren’t by agreement handing one another a piece of work and asking, “Do you have suggestions for improving it?” Some of us are here simply for the enjoyment of reading a brief fiction piece, some of us say what we did or didn’t like, and some of us suggest improvements. Since the work here is already published, anything resembling critique might be used in future endeavors.

      I, for one, have learned quite a bit through readers’ comments.

    • Samantha

      It seems that new people are not welcomed here by some sections of the commentators….fine by me guys…

      • S Conroy

        Samantha, not sure what you’re referring to here. You’re more than welcome in my books (I’ve only been around a few months). If you’re offended by something, sticking around is the best response. It’s good practise for developing a thick skin if you’re going to be a writer.

        • Samantha

          S Conroy, I have a think skin as a writer…as a commentator I can do without… I can keep my thoughts and comments to myself since if some says the exact same thing but me becoming more explicit and agreeing with Joanna after my subtle comment initially, they get their knickers in a knot.. Im one of those people that like to exchange views as you well know and as MP said, I learn a lot from others’ comments. As a writer, I would never get on the offense (biggest defense if you ask me) when someone (many in fact) don’t share the same thoughts as the author of a story. That I find really weird esp. “But the real question should be how did we get from you thinking I’d
          written a ‘nice story’ though you didn’t get that ‘Leon Whale’ was an
          anagram of ‘Halloween'”…maybe im an idiot since I was the only one that did not get the brilliant anagram…

          I would like to thank you for exchanging views and to everyone else that taught me stuff here.

          • S Conroy

            That sounds very final, like a farewell? Think you should stick about. Don’t let one comment put you off what you obviously enjoy.

          • Samantha

            I will read stories through my email. Again, thank you for everything! Enjoy Berlin!

          • S Conroy

            Thx.

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        Samantha, writers are cranky. Put me top of the list. But let’s keep our dudgeons–high, low and in-between–on thick leather leashes. I’m always so glad to see new readers and commenters here–and I miss quite a number who have stopped showing up. It takes a little time to understand everyone’s personality–and boy oh boy is it dangerous to forget that online conversations are not the same as sitting in the room with someone, where tone of voice and expression help to interpret what someone REALLY means.

        This is an interesting exchange of ideas for many, many reasons. Don’t go away. Please.

        • Samantha

          with the quote at the end, I rest my case….there must be something wrong with us not understanding I guess…..I said nothing more than the obvious.

          I would imagine one appreciating people for reading their work and taking the time to give feedback….Thank you too for such a great month. Keep your great work up and I really loved your comments as I state on several occasions. Thank you for being so nice and open minded in discussions.

          If writers are cranky, they should just write and not comment then…or publish for their parents and friends to get a pat on the back. As I said, a comment acknowledging “it didn’t come out right” would have ended the story…and this from a NON Jew…

          “So perhaps the scariest element of this story is that with all those
          wordsmiths on hand, no one considered his name might be an anagram.”

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            Samantha, you haven’t seen my face, sitting here at my darling laptop (who’d a thunk I could love something like that!) and reading some of the comments on my stories–and on my comments. A miracle lightbulbs didn’t explode throughout the house. Writers have to get up every day and regrow the scar tissue.

            Like I said–get to know the personalities–make allowances for human frailty in all its manifestations–and stick around. This is a really interesting place–and something useful can come out of the most aggravating encounters. Trust me. The comments thread has been fertile ground for my other writing endeavors…no part of this animal goes to waste.

          • Carl Steiger

            I for one very much hope to see you again here. The clash of different views is sometimes raucous, but we can all learn from it.

  • Kathy

    One more comment, Paul. I enjoyed your story (although I too was distracted wondering about the significance of the farmer’s name), but (a minor detail) I think it would have helped to have the pumpkins in the field transition from “just pumpkins” to jack-o-lanterns (pumpkins with carved faces.) I also agree with your response about the possibility of the farmer’s name being Jewish. I am not offended when fictional characters make offensive remarks; it helps define who they are.
    Every once in a while I see comments that cause me to remind myself this is a forum for reader response to posted stories. Despite the small group of “regulars” who contribute significant editorial comment, it is not a writers’ critique group, is it?

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      Your last couple of sentences–is there a firm boundary between “reader response” and “writers’ critique group”? I mean, a critique group is just an organized bunch of members who give responses to what they are handed to read. Yes–a member can then revise a story still in progress, that’s the primary purpose. But authors appearing here are likely writing other stuff; this isn’t just wasted blather from readers.

      I myself didn’t think the references to the name were offensive–I thought they came so far out of left field my head was spinning, trying to understand the purpose. I took the name as a whole–“Leon Whale”–which seemed uninflected with any ethnic connotation. I didn’t think “Leon” was a particularly unusual first name in an English-speaking country. But “Whale” is a funny surname, especially for a farmer. So that whole reference coming out of the mouths of two gormless teenagers kind of distracted me from the narrative, without serving Paul’s purpose of winking at the anagram.

    • MPmcgurty

      Hi, Kathy. I don’t consider this a writers’ critique group in that we aren’t by agreement handing one another a piece of work and asking, “Do you have suggestions for improving it?” Some of us are here simply for the enjoyment of reading a brief fiction piece, some of us say what we did or didn’t like, and some of us suggest improvements. Since the work here is already published, anything resembling critique might be used in future endeavors.

      I, for one, have learned quite a bit through readers’ comments.

    • Samantha

      It seems that new people are not welcomed here by some sections of the commentators….fine by me guys…

      • S Conroy

        Samantha, not sure what you’re referring to here. You’re more than welcome in my books (I’ve only been around a few months). Imo if you’re offended by something, sticking around is the best response. It’s good practise for developing a thick skin if you’re going to be a writer.

        • Samantha

          S Conroy, I have a think skin as a writer…as a commentator I can do without… I can keep my thoughts and comments to myself since if some says the exact same thing but me becoming more explicit and agreeing with Joanna after my subtle comment initially, they get their knickers in a knot.. Im one of those people that like to exchange views as you well know and as MP said, I learn a lot from others’ comments. As a writer, I would never get on the offense (biggest defense if you ask me) when someone (many in fact) don’t share the same thoughts as the author of a story. That I find really weird esp. “But the real question should be how did we get from you thinking I’d
          written a ‘nice story’ though you didn’t get that ‘Leon Whale’ was an
          anagram of ‘Halloween'”…maybe im an idiot since I was the only one that did not get the brilliant anagram…

          I would like to thank you for exchanging views and to everyone else that taught me stuff here.

          • S Conroy

            That sounds very final, like a farewell? Think you should stick about. Don’t let one comment put you off what you obviously enjoy.

          • Samantha

            I will read stories through my email. Again, thank you for everything! Enjoy Berlin!

          • S Conroy

            Thx.

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        Samantha, writers are cranky. Put me top of the list. But let’s keep our dudgeons–high, low and in-between–on thick leather leashes. I’m always so glad to see new readers and commenters here–and I miss quite a number who have stopped showing up. It takes a little time to understand everyone’s personality–and boy oh boy is it dangerous to forget that online conversations are not the same as sitting in the room with someone, where tone of voice and expression help to interpret what someone REALLY means.

        This is an interesting exchange of ideas for many, many reasons. Don’t go away. Please.

        • Samantha

          with the quote at the end, I rest my case….there must be something wrong with us not understanding I guess…..I said nothing more than the obvious.

          I would imagine one appreciating people for reading their work and taking the time to give feedback….Thank you too for such a great month. Keep your great work up and I really loved your comments as I state on several occasions. Thank you for being so nice and open minded in discussions.

          If writers are cranky, they should just write and not comment then…or publish for their parents and friends to get a pat on the back. As I said, a comment acknowledging “it didn’t come out right” would have ended the story…and this from a NON Jew…

          “So perhaps the scariest element of this story is that with all those
          wordsmiths on hand, no one considered his name might be an anagram.”

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            Samantha, you haven’t seen my face, sitting here at my darling laptop (who’d a thunk I could love something like that!) and reading some of the comments on my stories–and on my comments. A miracle lightbulbs didn’t explode throughout the house. Writers have to get up every day and regrow the scar tissue.

            Like I said–get to know the personalities–make allowances for human frailty in all its manifestations–and stick around. This is a really interesting place–and something useful can come out of the most aggravating encounters. Trust me. The comments thread has been fertile ground for my other writing endeavors…no part of this animal goes to waste.

          • Carl Steiger

            I for one very much hope to see you again here. The clash of different views is sometimes raucous, but we can all learn from it.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Just to clear up one point for Natalie. I wrote this story over two years ago.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Just to clear up one point for Natalie. I wrote this story over two years ago.