Fall, 2009
24-Hour Short Story Contest
1st Place Winner!


Weeks of obsessive tending and gentle turning ensured a blue ribbon for his biggest pumpkin next weekend. His chest puffed with impending pride as he fantasized about the envious stares of the other town folk, especially that pretty, stuck-up woman next door, who always looked through him, not at him.

The cold wind started again and he shivered, watching the sky darken too quickly. As bright, painted leaves rained on his crop, he instinctively turned his head toward an infant's cry. At the top of the hill, under the old Maple, his stuck-up neighbor was shielding a bundle from the wind, fumbling with her blouse...

Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.


Vegetable Farm
by Jim Driesen, Maple Valley, WA

The tomatoes were at it again. Not that the eggplant didn't deserve it, but after all, he wasn't really a threat to the pea patch anyway. Sure, he blustered and threatened and acted like a bully, but was that any reason to march right over and cut him off at the stem? I think not.

The pumpkin called an emergency meeting of the veggie council.

"We're gathered here today to discuss the need for sanctions against the tomato aggressors," he thundered, as pumpkins will do. They thunder.

"Oh, stop that thundering," whined the carrot, "we can hear you all the way underground." Most of the veggies resented the pumpkin anyway. Always primping and preening as fall approached, the man-servant constantly pampering him, moving him this way and that. "I say, the patch is better off without that blowhard eggplant," the carrot continued.

"No one is saying it isn't," thundered the pumpkin, "but we can't just let one veggie march around and take out others just because they talk big or think about doing bad things. Heck, there wouldn't be a broccoli left alive if we did that."

"What about last time," a small voice with an accent from the corner said. "They got themselves in quite the quagmire, and then just left their mess for someone else to clean up."

"The zucchini has a point," thundered the pumpkin. "The tomatoes have shown aggression practically every chance they get. We should stop letting them get away with it."

"Fine," said the tomato representative, "we can just stop financing your whole operation. How about the time we helped out the corn field when the windstorm blew down the stalks? Or the time you, Mr. 'Thundering' Pumpkin, didn't mind taking our help when the rabbit was about to snip off your baby leaves last spring? We can just take our money and leave the patch altogether."

This caused quite a stir, with multiple buzzing and thundering and talking loudly. It was true, the tomatoes were the richest veggie in the patch, and it was true they were always there to help when disaster happened.

"I say we help the tomatoes in their quest to make the patch a safer place so veggies can be free," said the green peppers, as always, kowtowing to the tomatoes. Everyone knew tomatoes and peppers went well together.

At the sound of a baby crying, the meeting fell silent and all veggie eyes were on the hilltop above the garden.

She stood framed in the late afternoon sunlight, the cool breeze rustling her hair, cradling the bundle in her arms.

"She's so beautiful," whispered the crookneck squash to the onion.

"Shush," thundered the pumpkin.

She was unbuttoning her blouse slowly, tauntingly, as the veggies all stared. Then they realized the man-servant was walking out from the barn for another pampering session with the pumpkin. He looked up at the girl and his face reddened, just as the tomatoes did by late July, but he didn't look away. Giggling, she turned and vanished over the hill again. Distracted, he headed back into the barn.

"Damn," thundered the pumpkin, "I needed to be turned today. That hussy is always distracting him."

This caused a buzzing of resentment once again throughout the council meeting and the meeting adjourned with a vague promise to say some stern words against the tomato aggression, without actually taking any action, as usual.

The nights were getting colder; the leaves drifting down on the pea patch from the maples were a pallet of color. Things had quieted down since the tomatoes had elected a new leader promising change, and the pumpkin had focused on growing as big as he could get. The eggplant lay wilted and forgotten. The zucchini had taken over the south end of the patch, producing far more than anyone else, and thus another meeting was called.

"I warned you all that if we allowed those with an accent to enter the patch, we would regret it," thundered the pumpkin, now looking like quite the giant.

"They've far out-produced the rest of us," said the cauliflower.

From the corner, a quiet voice with an accent spoke up. "We thought this patch was the land of opportunity. Many of you barely produce if it's the slightest bit cool at night, or there's a little too much rain. You, tomato, you sometimes never even turn orange. We merely pick up the production the rest of you won't do."

There was a buzzing of worried veggies. "But look how big they are now," whined the carrot, "almost as big as the pumpkin."

"Blasphemy," thundered the pumpkin, pumping out his orange chest in indignation.

"The zucchini has a point," said the tomato representative. "We are unwilling to ripen when it's too wet, and yet they seem to thrive no matter what. We should open our doors to our zucchini brethren. After all, none of us were here before the spring, yet we all were allowed to flourish with the abundance of the pea patch.

"Speak for yourself," said the parsley angrily. "We were here before all of you, and you took over the whole place for your selfish selves." No one ever listened to the parsley.

"I say we build a fence to keep them out," said the beets, their purple heads poking up from the soil angrily. "We must keep them in their southern end of the patch."

They voted to study the fence idea, though most thought the zucchini would merely grow around it, and then passed a resolution reprimanding the zucchini for being productive.

Just then, the man-servant appeared with a wheel barrow from the barn, heading toward the patch.

"Shush," thundered the pumpkin.

The man-servant hefted the pumpkin into the wheel barrow and headed back to the barn.

After the frost that night, the patch fell silent. All veggie eyes were on the farm house where the Jack-o-lantern grinned from the porch. The zucchini would be calling the next meeting.

What Jim won:

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