Freckled Jack O’Lantern

November is the season of mortality. Driving along the southern side of Morristown this late afternoon, the silage fields were harrowed up, dark earth and stone and pieces of corn stalk laid open and fallow for the winter.

Tonight, while the girls carved pumpkins and listened to music, I sat at my desk in the corner upstairs and called one of my oldest friends. We talked about frozen chickens in my freezer, pork, beets, carrots, cabbage. What do you need? I asked. I offered to make soup from beef bones and marrow. He hasn’t long to live, his life caught up quicker to him than he might have imagined. So many years ago, I met his pregnant wife for the first time. She wore a new dress the color of buttercups. That was in the house of many windows and myriad rooms, surrounded by fields of wildflowers. At a wedding one summer, I climbed rickety ladders in my bare feet to the hay barn’s cupola. That marriage ended. My friends’ marriage ended. Strangers to me now live in that house.

Downstairs, my children hunted for stubs of candles. My older daughter had carved flowers and vines and an earthworm on her jack o’lantern. The younger girl’s pumpkin had ears and eyelashes, smiling lips, hearts for hair, and freckles – freckles! – over bumpy orange cheeks. I struck a match and carefully put my hand in the pumpkins. We turned out the lights. The girls’ jack 0’lanterns glowed.

Abandoned house on a

Garden gone to

No one home

– David Budbill


Morristown, Vermont, November

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