It’s Friday! And you know what that means? It’s time to announce the winner of last week’s writing challenge! We received many creative entries in response to our prompt about a witchy woman searching for love. Some stories ended rather badly for the love-sick woman while others ended rather badly for the object of her affections. Our winning entry, however, ends on a positive note. This cute tale of magic and romance comes to us from Jackie Shao! Congrats Jackie!
Check out the prompt and her winning entry below!
She knew what the neighborhood children called her. They would point and whisper, or even run away when they saw her coming. Sometimes, she would twist her face into an evil grimace and cackle, just to send them running faster. It’s not that she wanted to be an outsider, but no one in the small village of Greenwood ever really gave her a chance. That is, no one but Thomas Goodman, the local grocer. He seemed to be able to overlook the wart at the tip of her long, crooked nose and her black, straw-like hair. That was why she decided that one day, he would be hers!
By Jackie Shao
It started with a bunch of rosemary. Pleasant enough, if a bit misshapen and slightly musty.
Then came the veggies. Zucchini and tomato and leafy greens. Each batch was blemished and oddly-shaped and came haphazardly wrapped in a bundle of soil-caked cloth, and even without his extensive grocer’s experience Thomas would have known they were homegrown. He took them from his front steps every week—there may have been a shadow near the trees a few times, but he was polite enough not to look—and ate well enough.
He inquired about the mystery giver. No one knew, even though Greenwood was small enough for gossip to be the prevailing hobby of every man and woman over the age of puberty. But Thomas was a simple man, who treated his concern as a finite resource whose spending must be culled as judiciously as his coin. When no one volunteered themselves after a month, he stopped asking. Everyone has their right to privacy, he figured.
But then the pumpkins came.
As haphazardly delivered as the rest, the first small pumpkins were received as usual by Thomas. By this point, he had developed a system:
He would crack open his front door in the morning, taking care not to slam into whatever was on the steps like he once did with a bundle of extremely ripe tomatoes.
He would pick up the bundle and say “Thank you, ma’am” to the empty air while carefully not looking at the top of The Tallest Crab Myrtle Tree on His Front Lawn.
He would retreat into his home and consume the produce. Sometimes he wondered why she wouldn’t say anything back.
And so forth. Sometimes, he would go into the grocery store later and meet her again. Thomas’ job was routine enough that he had grown to look forward to their encounters. Most of the time they traded a simple “Hello.” A few times, Thomas would attempt to ask about her day, only for her to turn an alarming shade of red in the ears and scowl at him. Once, he even remarked about the latest batch of zucchini, praising their texture and complimenting whoever grew them, only for her to flee without taking the cans of tuna she had purchased.
In summary, their interactions were confusing. But they were also the highlights of Thomas’ days (there really wasn’t a lot happening in Greenwood), and he found slowly that he was looking forward more and more to the weekly deliveries, and to the way her wild black hair bounced every direction as she walked to him.
One day he noticed her eyes, and how bright brown they were. Crap. He felt his own ears flush for the rest of the day as long unused mental gears sprang back into action and produced some startling revelations. This continued for some weeks until the pumpkin incident.
The pumpkin incident happened at 5:37 am. Thomas knew this because that was the red number flashing on his alarm clock when a massive thud at the front door sent him shooting up from sleep to adrenaline-fueled panic. He grabbed his folding chair in what he hoped was a threatening manner and inched towards the front door.
As he approached, a muffled voice grew louder.
“mmMOh my goodness, you can’t scratch me like that mid-flight. Look at his porch! What am I going to do? Is he up? I bet he’s up, knowing my luck. And then he’ll see this mess and hate me like the rest of them.”
Thomas dropped the chair.
“No, I won’t,” he said as he flung the door open.
Into her. Sending her and a very startled black cat flying sideways.
Into a pumpkin.
Actually, to call it a pumpkin would be a terrible understatement. This thing that had fallen and exploded onto his porch transcended objective description into the realm of hyperbole and legends. One side of it stood unbroken like the mammoth temple of a lost civilization. The other, cracked into pieces and flooding the steps, flowed like the unstoppable magma of the heart of Earth itself. This was the pumpkin Cinderella’s coach would be made out of, if Cinderella was an Empress and eight feet tall. This was the pumpkin she had planted and delivered especially for him.
He felt something warm blooming in his chest as he laughed and reached for her. She reached out from the orange mush, still holding her broomstick as the cat yowled and leaped away.
“Thank you,” he said sincerely.
“You knew?” she said, eyes wide. They reflected the moonlight and seemed brighter than ever before. “You don’t hate me? You like it?”
He grinned wide and pulled her up, entirely unable to help himself.
“I like you,” he said.
(And they baked some pumpkin pie.)
Jackie is a recent college graduate, a mechanical engineer, and lover of all things pumpkin.
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