It was 10 o’clock on Halloween night. The customers of Hank’s Gourmet Falafel were chowing down on some prime falafels. However, three poor souls were unable to enjoy the cuisine of the Middle East.
“This sucks,” said April, the middle-sized jack o’lantern. “All I wanted for Halloween was to eat a falafel before I rotted away. Is that so wrong?”
“I getcha, April,” said the largest of the trio, Mike. “But it’s not like Toy Story where we can just scare ’em into doing our bidding. It’s like the sequel Toy Story movies where we’re confined to keepin’ our mouths shut.”
Lester tried to frown, but couldn’t. His tiny grin was plastered forever on his face. “I’d settle for a scoop of a topping.” The other two agreed.
At 10:15, a customer was chatting to her friend and said,
“Hey, as a joke, what if I put my falafel in this jack o’lantern’s mouth?”
“Totally. That would be hilarious.”
She inched her falafel into the Lester the pumpkin’s carved mouth and…
“I swear, I thought there was a pumpkin here. Did you take a picture?”
“N-noooo, I missed it, sorry not sorry but actually very sorry.”
April and Mike gaped at one another.
“He’s dead! He vanished!”
“Yeah, I getcha. But y’know, I’d rather die like that than rotting in a compost heap.”
April thought. “Yeah. Me too.”
10:45 came and a careless child dropped his falafel on the linoleum. “BAWWWW!” he wailed. He wailed and wailed until Hank came over.
“Don’t worry, wailing brat. Sir, I’ll make your son another falafel half-off. Is that okay?”
“He’s actually my nephew.”
“What should we do with the one he dropped?”
“Dump it in the big pumpkin’s mouth for all I care.”
Mike grinned. “Guess this is goodbye, April.”
Once the falafel fell into his mouth, he dissolved into a puddle of orange goop.
“WHAT?!” freaked out April. “That didn’t happen to Lester!”
“Bob, clean up that mess. And we’re closing in thirteen minutes!”
April began to worry. If she ate a falafel, would she vanish like Lester or goop like Mike? Should she try a falafel if the time came? Well, she couldn’t very well prevent it from happening, could she? Was this the end for her? Would she try falafel tonight, or go into the compost heap?
“You, pumpkin, No falafel for you.”
What? Did Hank acknowledge her existence? She wasn’t alive per se, but she had thoughts and desires, emotions too. She didn’t want to die, but it was looking like no way out at that point. What if she did eat a falafel? Would something happen to her?
Hank locked up and took April into the back room.
“Anything you want to say to me, April?”
How did he know her name? Was he a pumpkin-whisperer?
“Your friends are fine, if that’s what you’re thinking.” It wasn’t. “Lester’s body and soul have gone to a better place, where falafel is bountiful all the time.” He paused. “Mike was a tainted pumpkin and went to Pumpkin Hell, which is nicer than Human Heaven.”
April was baffled.
Hank unbuttoned his shirt to reveal a jack o’lantern within. “That’s right, I’m a pumpkin, and my magic falafels have sent your chums to the afterlife. But I’m two years old and I need a successor. April, instead of ever eating falafel, will you stay here for two years to guide needy jack o’lanterns to paradise and damnation?”
April was baffled.
“No,” she thought. “Give me a falafel so I can go to my end in peace.”
He did so, and she dissolved into goop, which vanished immediately.
With April gone, Hank let a squash named Barry with no agenda run the falafel shop. It was a much calmer atmosphere in general, but the cucumbers always came out weak, so it closed every other season just to reevaluate the flavor of the cucumbers. Frankly, they were never great, but it was a good marketing strategy, usually.