The first cut

The pale skin reflected the flickering flames of the guarded open fire with only a dull shine on its mottled and now rather pitted surface. Age and environment had not been kind to the poor old thing now nearing what was the end of any useful life.

A small hand grabbed rather roughly at the dry wrinkled neck and rolled the firm but distended body round to have the best side of it face forward in the shadowy light ready to receive some rather more intrusive attention.

“Be very careful Jake,” his mother had a pensive note in her voice, “you only get one chance to get it right remember.”

Jake only half turned his head in silent reply but a bright reflection from the broad polished implement in his steady but obviously eager hand gave a sharp highlight to the already obvious glint in his eye.

“It’s OK mummy, I know what I want to do.”

He turned back to concentrate on the inviting and as yet blank skin. In his mind’s eye Jake had a good idea what he wanted to do but his enthusiasm was dampened by a lack of experience and a nervousness supplied by the enormity of the privilege he had secured for the first time on his own.

The hesitancy had not gone unnoticed but ‘mummy’ stayed back from the arena of carnage that she knew was going to develop. Despite preparing as best she could with an oil cloth cover on the table and suitable bowls and pans ready on the side, she was well aware of the task that would fall to her, as it always had done in the years that they had sacrificed this humble soul.

With Jake taking the first blow this year, it was almost a right of passage in the century< old suite of special things that they looked forward to on their rolling calendar of excitement and excess.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to start you off?” She couldn’t control her excitement any longer, “Just so you have something to work around, I..11

“I can do it!” Jake retorted without taking his eye off the prize, “I’m just thinking about it!”

“OK dear just wanted to help.”

Secretly she wanted to take a firm grip on the blade and plunge it into the softening flesh, through the now unresisting skin to reveal the juicy interior and all the possibilities that it offered her culinary experience. She focused again on the ironing that she was mechanically getting through all the time planning the rest of the evening in her kitchen. The scraping, slicing, roasting, pulping; she licked her lips at the thought of it and in the momentary closing of her eyes in the pleasure of anticipation found that she had missed that most important event for her young protegé.

The point he had chosen would not have been the one she might have but, it was his journey and he had to make the same mistakes that she had at his age. She almost verbalised her concerns as she watched the speed that the assault was being inflicted.

The second and third incursions had been relatively successful and the space that manifested was recognisable, unfortunately the fourth was totally misguided. She knew that there would be disappointment if she didn’t step in but a mother’s hopes and the indecision that goes along them made her miss the moment and the blade was in, almost up to its short hilt and the second opening that Jake had so clearly seen for his creation was lost.

“Oh, dear,” his mother couldn’t stand back any longer and the iron clattered into its holder and the shirt fell off the end of the board to the floor; it didn’t matter, “now then it’s OK, you’re doing a great job there son, there’s no reason we can’t have a face with an upside down eye, it’s only a bit of fun.”

She had seen the disappointment flood his face knowing that in his world he had messed it up but all she could do was take his hand and guide the blade with him to bring out the face that resides in every pumpkin, which they did.

With the job done and a satisfactory result all round they both brought it to life with a small candle that Jake lit with a long taper through the creatures suitably haphazard nose above the gruesome grinning almost toothless mouth.

“Hot chocolate anyone?”

Jake smiled and leant into his mothers arms with a grin almost as big as the one he had helped to create.


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