The Perfect Pumpkin

by: Rebecca Taylor

There was a room full of choices but her mother had said she could choose just one. How could she decide which one would be her perfect pumpkin? She didn’t want just any pumpkin. She needed to have the best one. There was a lot at stake in the school’s pumpkin contest. There were prizes and they included money – money she could use to buy her bicycle – the one she kept looking at in the front of Thomson’s Store. She liked the flashy colours on the bicycle, its horn and the pompom decorations. She stared at the pumpkin, envisioning herself cycling around town. Imagine, she thought, a pumpkin could be your ticket to what you want most. Now, I need to choose that pumpkin; Mom isn’t going to wait all day either. There are orange pumpkins and ones with neat orange and green patterns. Maybe this is the pumpkin I need, one with patterns – maybe everyone else will choose a plain one and then I’d win, or maybe everyone would say that my special pumpkin was just too strange. I guess I have no way of knowing what will happen at the contest. I just have to try my best. There were huge pumpkins, she quickly dismissed those – too big for a school bag. She went to a pile of small pumpkins – easy to carry. She closed her eyes and picked one pumpkin up carefully feeling for the stem, so she didn’t knock over the whole pile. If she smashed the pumpkins, she would never be able to get her bicycle because she would forever be paying for the ones she’d broken in her pursuit for the best one. She opened her eyes and looked at the pumpkin in her hand and smiled. The pumpkin she had chosen had character. Its stem had a nice curve to it and the pumpkin had a nice shape to it. It was round in an oval sort of way. The pumpkin was mostly orange but had a few lines of green on it. She wondered if perhaps it was where the pumpkin had lain on the ground against its vine and hadn’t seen the sun.

“Rachel, are you ready?” called her mom from across the room.

“Coming mom,” said Rachel and she carried the pumpkin up to the cashier where her mom paid for it and then they left.

The pumpkin contest was three days later. Rachel had polished her pumpkin and tied green and orange ribbon around its stem. She decided that the pumpkin looked the best as it was. It didn’t need anything too fancy to show that it was beautiful. She hoped it would be able to compete with the other pumpkins in the natural pumpkin category. She was nervous as she put her student number in a tiny envelope and taped the envelope to the bottom of the pumpkin. The judging was top secret and she wouldn’t know the results until the very end of the day. She didn’t know if she would be able to concentrate, not knowing if she could have her bicycle.

Finally, there was an announcement on the loud speaker that the participants of the pumpkin contest could go to the gymnasium. Butterflies jumped around in Rachel’s stomach. She wondered if she’d win enough money to be able to get her bicycle, she wondered if she would get any prize at all. She wanted to win so badly but she knew that everyone who entered wanted to win which sort of created a no-win scenario when you took into account that some would win and some would lose. As exciting as the pumpkin contest was, there would always be some unhappiness surrounding it, but at least she had tried and she could be content in that. Rachel made her way through the crowd and she approached the table where her pumpkin was. There was a bright green sticker stuck to her pumpkin. There was a number 3 written in glittery marker on the sticker.

“Congratulations, Rachel,” said Ms. Marquette one of her teachers. “You did very well. Third out of ten is really good. I hope you’ll enjoy your prize.”

“Thank you,” said Rachel as she took the envelope that Ms. Marquette handed her. All of the winning pumpkins were going to stay on display at school for everyone to see. On the school bus on the way home, Rachel opened her envelope. Inside was fifty dollars. It wasn’t enough to buy the bicycle yet but it was a huge help. She would add it to the other money she’d been saving. Her dream ride was a step closer to becoming reality because of a pumpkin.

Candle’s Glow

by: Rebecca Taylor

Candle filled room lights up the night

Overflowing like the memories that are left in our hearts

Twinkling stars shimmer bright in the sky

Reminding us that our loved ones still smile brightly as they watch us

Daily lives continue in busy ways but reminders are everywhere

From times we had together to what you used to say

I know that you are an angel in heaven now

Touching others with your wisdom and joy

Many lives were brightened by knowing you

As I watch the flicker of the candlelight, know that I think of you.

Beyond her Duty

by: Rebecca Taylor

Molly Hopewell walked through the quiet halls of Prospects College where she was a professor. It was only quarter after seven in the morning and her classes didn’t start until eight thirty but as usual, she came in early. When she reached her office, there were a few students waiting for her as always.

“Good morning, everyone. What can I do for you all this morning?”

“I need to talk to you,” said one and the others nodded in agreement.

“Okay, let’s start with you Joss,” replied Molly and nineteen-year-old Joss Stamper followed her into her office.

“Okay, Joss, have a seat, you have my undivided attention.”

“I can’t take it anymore, Molly, my parents are driving me crazy, they were bad the last time we talked, but now it is insane. They absolutely hate Jordan; they won’t even give him a chance just because he has long hair. I love him, Molly, and they know I’ve been seeing him. It doesn’t make them happy but so far they’re letting me live at home. They’re just afraid I’ll move in with him if they don’t let me but that doesn’t stop them from criticizing. They insult the way he dresses, how he speaks, everything, right in front of him. Last night, my mother had a fit because when he stopped by to take me out for supper and his shirt didn’t match his pants. So what, he wasn’t showing up to have an interview for fashion designer or something, he was taking his girlfriend out, whom he loves very much. He listens to me Molly, he makes me feel special, he likes me for who I am, and he respects me for me. He is compassionate, has a steady part time job, and wants to marry me as soon as we’re both done school.”

“It seems to me that your parents are afraid. I don’t think they’ve gotten past Jordan’s exterior appearance. They need to get to know his inner self, like you do.”

“I’ve tried to tell them this but they won’t listen to a word I have to say about him. He doesn’t take drugs, rarely drinks alcohol, never pushes me into a difficult situation other than the one with my parents but even there he is so tolerant. He seems to ignore their abuse. He’s the one, Molly; I know he is. I’ve had other boyfriends I can feel it.”

“Have you tried really talking to your parents, Joss?”

“You cannot talk to my parents, they’re impossible!”

“I think that is something which most people say about their parents at least until they leave home and become parents. Why just last week Christine, my youngest daughter, said ‘Mom, how do you do it? Laurie is so much like me, and she’s driving me up the wall. I don’t know what to do with her. How did you handle me, I even have a husband and you were all alone?’ Give it a chance, Joss, make dinner for them, sit them down at the table and say, listen, I have something we need to talk about; don’t say anything until I’m finished talking.”

“I’ll try, Molly, but I don’t think they’ll listen. They’re stubborn when they make up their minds they refuse to budge.”

“Then be just as stubborn and tell them why and how much you love Jordan and that no matter how difficult they try to make it on you, you’ll still love him and that you won’t let them break you up. You can do it, Joss, I know you can.”

“Thank you, Molly, for listening to me even when they won’t.”

“Anytime, Joss.”

After her conversation with Joss, Molly saw twenty-seven year old Jenna Morris.

“Molly, I think I’m ruining my marriage. My kids and my husband just don’t seem to understand why I’m doing this. I got tired of working as a cashier at a department store, I had steady hours, that’s true and I was always home when my family got home but that isn’t what I want to do with my life. I had my first baby and married Joe when I was eighteen, I never had a chance to go to college or figure out what I should do with my life until now. Tammi’s nine now and Mary is seven. They’re old enough to help out and I don’t have to worry about them getting into stuff around the house. Now is the time I have to do this.”

“And you should do it Jenna, for yourself and for your family. The happier you are the happier your family will be. I know it’s hard but you have to stay optimistic and work around the inconveniences, which your education may cause. If you have to order out supper now or then because you don’t have time to cook it, so be it. If your kids have to do a bit more around the house every now or then, that’s okay. It will teach them to be responsible.”

“I know, but I feel guilty. Joe works so hard cooking at the restaurant; I don’t want him to think that I can’t even make one meal for my family a day when he does it for so many and earns us a living. The girls have homework each night and I have to help them and do my own. Some nights I don’t get home from class until eight o’clock at night and by then I have to get the girls ready for bed.”

“Buy frozen dinners that you can just pop into the microwave or make your own on the weekend which your husband can toss in the oven when he gets home, make a salad and have supper on the table. Ask him to help your daughters with their homework. Explain to him that some changes need to take place, because you’re going to get an education. You had children and took time away from that but now is the time to get back to it. You’re still in the first semester of your program, and you need the motivation to get through it. You’re going to get your advertising diploma. I know you can. Believe in yourself.”

“Okay, Molly, I can do this. I just have to do this, for me and for them. I guess this is a rough patch in my life but if I can overcome being a teenage mother and wife, I can do anything.”

“That’s the spirit, Jenna, have a great day. You’ll see everything will turn out.”

After all her classes were done for the morning, Molly was grading some papers in her office when her office mate Sandra McLean came in. She threw her books down her desk.

“That man, is the most irritating in the world. Who does he think he is, telling me how I’m going to live my life after he has the gall to tell me our marriage is over and that we’re getting separated?”

“Calm down, Sandra, start from the beginning. You’ve already told me about Bill wanting the separation and moving out, what does he think you should be doing.”

“He wants me to call his mother, and explain things to her; after all it is my fault. It’s time for him to get real. He’s the one going through his midlife crisis, not me. I thought our marriage was fine, how was I to know he was unhappy. Yes, he was acting strange but I’m no mind reader. I will not call Judith McLean, if she wants to speak to me, she can call me, but the conversation probably won’t be pretty.”

“You guys need to try counselling, sort out your differences. I know you and Bill, and we’ve been office mates for ten years, you two have been happy. I think he’s just going through a period in his life where he’s having a hard time putting everything in perspective. Counselling can help you both put everything in perspective. You’ve also got to think about Cynthia, you can’t put her in the middle of your fight. She’s just started university and even though she isn’t living with either of you, she loves you both so much, don’t make her choose sides, it will get you nowhere.”

“Molly, I think you should have thought about becoming a counsellor yourself, you always know what to say to make everyone feel better, figure out their problems. You live up to your surname Hopewell because you give hope. I don’t know what I’d do without you if you weren’t around and neither do the students.”

“You all give me purpose as well, I like to be able to help and when I see my students smiling in class, coming to me for help, I know why I do what I do. I have one of the greatest jobs in the world.”

“Thank you, Molly, for everything; I’d better be going I have second year business to teach.”

It was then that Jed Rollins came into her office. He was a carpentry student in his first semester.

“I’m ready, Molly, what are we going to go over today.”

“I thought we’d go over this week’s English assignment. We can start on it together and then on Thursday we can go over what you have done. Your reading and writing has really been improving in these last few weeks. I’m proud of you. You are going to be a great carpenter.”

“I’m so thankful that I got you as a professor, Molly, because if I hadn’t I don’t know what I would do. I have to take this English class but reading and writing are far from being my strongest skills because I’m dyslexic.”

“That’s nothing to be ashamed of, Jed, I know you can do it. You have the necessary perseverance that it takes to succeed.”

“Thank you for believing in me, Molly.”

“Any time, Jed, I’m going to be there when you graduate and you’re going to be thinking ‘I knew I could do it,’ and I’m going to be thinking ‘I knew he could do it.’ Don’t forget it.”

Molly left the school parking lot at six thirty. Her classes had finished at five but she had stuck around grading assignments and helping other students. When she got an e‑mail at six o’clock from Jenna, telling her how she had spoken to her family and explained everything that they had been supportive of her and changes were going to take place around the house, Molly knew how important the extra work she did was.

Always More

by: Rebecca Taylor

More than the makeup and the clothes they wore

More than the jewellery and shoes for sure

For hidden beneath the outer wear

Is a person with much to offer, love and care

Because behind the first glance, there’s always more.

Storm – Trap & Release

by: Rebecca Taylor

Winds swooshed around the building. Karly looked up and saw that where the doors in her house once stood, now there were concrete walls. How was she going to get out of her house? She was trapped in her own home by some force that she did not understand. The storm hadn’t taken the doors away; something had changed them to walls when the winds started. The windows were gone too. She was afraid of tree branches falling on them in the fierce winds but now they were barricaded by the grey concrete too. How could this be happening, she hadn’t seen anything and windows couldn’t be exchanged in seconds. The fourteen year old girl searched the room; she ran her hands along all the walls from top to bottom but couldn’t find any way out. If only she could get out, she could run next door and get help unless her neighbour’s house had been transformed too by some oddity. Karly opened the cellar door and ran down the rickety wooden steps. She tried the light switch but it didn’t light up the room like it was supposed to. Had the storm taken out the power or was the force playing with her? She used her nimble fingers to find the way to the closet where her family kept their camping supplies and located the battery operated lantern. She held her breath and pressed the light hoping it would come on. It did but as lifted it from the cupboard, it slipped out of her hands with a tug and shattered into a million pieces at her feet, the brilliant light it had been giving off snuffed out.

“Who’s there?” she whispered to the darkness. “What do you want from me? Please don’t hurt me.”

“I’m saving your life,” said a female voice from the darkness.

“I don’t understand. Please tell me who you are and why you want me,” said Karly in a shaky voice. She was shivering and cold like she had been turned into a block of ice.

“I am an agent of Mother Earth. You have much to live for and it is my job to protect you from this storm.”

“It’s just a thunderstorm. The winds are scary, but they’ll go away like they always do. Please let me go, please.”

“You can’t go out there. It isn’t safe. Your thunder storm is destined to be a major tornado. If I were not here saving you, your house would be a pile of rubble, you with it.”

“Where is my family? Do you have them too?”

“They are safe. Other agents are looking after them. You have the gift, child, you can communicate with me. Not many can feel the force and talk to it.”

“How long am I going to be stuck here in the dark? How do I know I can trust you? You’re a stranger to me.”

“I understand your reluctance, Miss Karly, but this is the only way that you will see the sunshine after the storm. Being with me is a chance you will have to take. Do not be afraid, but I am going to give you some light from my glow.” A moment later a luminous cloud lit up the basement.

“Wow,” said Karly quietly, “you’re pretty.”

“It’s a job perk,” said the cloud as they both heard the rumbling coming from outside. “You might as well sit down, Miss Karly, we could be here a while.” Karly sat and they listened to the storm rage outside.

“Why did you come to me when there are so many other people that need your help?”

“Mother Nature has sent many of her agents to help your town. Some of the people will not remember this storm. They don’t have your gift to talk to us and would think we were evil if they knew about us so we use our magic and let them sleep through the storm. Some like you are able to see how we cover the doors and windows and lock you in to save you from the storm’s violence.”

“If Mother Nature causes the storms, why doesn’t she just stop them before they start instead of sending agents to help some people?”

“Some storms are even too powerful for Mother Nature to stop. She trained us instead of help the humans and animals. There are not enough of us in the world yet but we hope that someday, there will be no more death or destruction from bad storms. Maybe if there are enough of us trained, we will be able to overpower the storms before they rage up.”

“I’m glad you’re here to help me and my family and my friends,” said Karly.

“Me too,” answered the bright cloud.

Much later, Karly didn’t know how much time had passed, with the windows and doors closed over, there was no telling what time of day it was, the cloud swirled around like a ballet dancer and the house returned to normal. The windows were uncovered and the doors worked. Karly ran up the basement steps and pulled open the front door. Trees were down everywhere and the street was torn up. Every house on Berry Street as far as she could see was untouched.

“I don’t understand,” said Karly. “The storm damage, why none of the houses?”

“The people in this town have been tested. Some will never know why they were spared but you will. It is your job child, to make the world a more beautiful place.” With that the cloud disappeared and Karly was left staring at the destruction. Moments later her parents appeared at her side.

“Are you okay?” asked her mother hugging her.

“Yes, I’m fine.”

“Were you scared?” asked her father.

“Yes, Daddy,” she said, “but not for long. I went to the basement and when the storm stopped I came out here.” She didn’t dare tell him about Mother Nature’s agent. She didn’t know if he had the gift to communicate or not but she knew she would never forget and planned to make the world a better place, one action at a time. She would start by helping pick up braches that had fallen in the neighbourhood.

Mixed Emotions

by: Rebecca Taylor

A heart as mixed up as a stirred batch of chocolate chip cookies

Yet at the same time as happy as the sun smiling down

The dread of night fills the soul like a frightened animal

Something feels strange as a cat having puppies might

Life as confusing as a capsizing boat

Yet moments of clarity are visible through the rain drenching clouds

Sometimes it feels like walking in a bubble through a fog

And other times the answer is as clear as a crystal vase

Life throws mixed emotions at all like a bowling ball hurtling down a lane.

Nothing to do but enjoy the game of life.

What I Can’t Say

by: Rebecca Taylor

Previously published by Barebacklit (in 2013)

Why is it that the words I want to say most

The ones that should be so easy do not come

That I am afraid of picking up a pen or a phone and telling you

Two little words like you matter

Or maybe even, let’s have coffee

At night in my dreams it is so easy

But in the daylight, fear or common sense take over

And I agonize about what I want to say

But cannot seem to find a way

My emotions sway back and forth

And I don’t know how to bridge the gap

My heart wants to say the words

But my brain won’t let it

This is why the words I want to say

Remain unspoken.

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