Sometimes the story comes to you.
I was out late the first of October. Fall was in the air and the post-Homecoming revelers were still going strong as closing time approached. The door to The Balcony opened and out stepped one of the strangest looking characters I’d ever seen. I figured he was doing a test run with his Halloween costume because at the top of his neck sat a full-fledged Jack-O’-Lantern. Unceremoniously he plopped down in a seat across the table from me and let out a deep sigh.
“I hate this month!” he said.
I was dumbfounded. His face actually moved like a living being’s.
“That’s some costume,” I said. “Musta cost you a bundle.”
He shot back, “It ain’t a costume.”
He pulled on the stem at the top of his head and removed the crown.
“Look,” he said, leaning over so I could see inside the hole. Sure enough, it was empty—hollowed out.
I quickly tallied up the number of drinks I’d had. Only three, so I figured I wasn’t drunk yet. I stared at him. Further confirmation of his story: his top and bottom teeth didn’t match up. “I’ll be damned,” I said. “You’re an honest-to-goodness real Jack-O’-Lantern!”
“My name’s not Jack,” he said. “It’s Steve. I’m a Steve-O’-Lantern. Jack was the first one to gain notoriety back in the Middle Ages. Sleepy Hollow came a long time later. Jack took the place of the head of the first Headless Horseman. Screwed it up for all of us, damn his empty noggin’. Not one ounce of orange matter in his skull. He couldn’t hold on while the horseman was riding. Hit the ground and splattered into a thousand pieces, his name accursed ever since. Now every October you humans hack, slit, slice, and gash us to pieces. We’re sick of it. Totally sick and tired of it. It’s vegetable ethnic cleansing!”
“I-I-I’m s-s-sorry?” I stuttered.
“That’s right. You are sorry,” he said.
“I know your past. You’ve put a Ginsu knife to dozens of us and gouged out our insides. Just threw our guts away like they were some kind of slime. Then you put a candle in us and show our massacred head off on your front porch. When you’re done with us it’s trash heap time.
I played the ignorance card. “Steve, I had no idea.”
“That’s an understatement if ever there was one,” he said. “I’ve read your column. Your ideas suck! You’re probably gonna write this up as one of your stupid fake interviews.”
Steve-O’-Lantern grabbed me by the collar and pulled me nose-to-nose hole. “Look, Ichabod, all we want is some R-E-S-P-E-C-T. We’re planted, we grow, we’re picked, we’re used, we die. Ain’t all that different from you.”
I cogitated for a moment. “You’re right, Steve. It’s the circle of life.”
“Give me a break, Weeks!” he jabbed. “Your stupid tangenital references bore the hell out of me.”
I hung my head in shame. An orange tear slipped down Steve-O’-Lantern’s cheek. He turned his gaze to The Courthouse then looked back to me.
“On Halloween these streets will be filled with children and adults all in costume, and your homes will be decorated with Jack-O’-Lanterns, Steve-O’-Lanterns, Jane-O’-Lanterns…Just reach out and touch us. Rub the back of our heads. Smile at us. That’s all we ask. That’s all we want.”
Steve-O’-Lantern downed the last of his Bloody Mary and stood to leave.
“You can count on me, Steve,” I said. “You can count on me.”
Steve looked long and hard at me. “Pumpkin lives matter, too, Randy. Don’t you ever forget that!”
“I get it, Steve,” I replied. “Pumpkin lives matter.”
…and that’s the spooky view from The Balcony.
Randy Weeks is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Certified Shamanic Life Coach, an ordained minister, a singer-songwriter, and an actor. He does not now, nor has he ever, owned a Ginsu knife. Randy may be reached at email@example.com.