The Cast: Curt (a good friend in high school), Myself (Casey Jones).
Many years ago, around Halloween time, I sat at the breakfast table, eating cereal and reading the newspaper’s comics—ahh, the joys of simple things. In the comics, I came across a great bit of writing and promised myself that if could ever use it, I would. So I am.
I cannot remember the strip (I think it was Rose is Rose by Don Wimmer and Pat Brady) but the gist of it is two little boys are talking and one says to the other, something like, “I really enjoy smashing pumpkins.” The other responds with, “I like smashing pumpkins too.” Then the father of one of the boys storms into frame and chastises the two boys against vandalism and how despicable it is to destroy someone else’s property.
Calmly, one of the boys clarifies that they are talking about the band Smashing Pumpkins and that they would never demolish another person’s Jack-O-Lantern and then both of the boys walk out of frame. The father—now properly humbled—stands and laments his disconnect from the youth of the day. A brilliant bit of writing.
And so, with that, I thought that I would fulfill that promise I made to myself all those years ago and tell you of how I came to really enjoy smashing pumpkins.
Halloween has become one of my favorite holidays. Christmas only beats Halloween due to it being the celebration of the birth of the savior of mankind—a most important thing. Anyway, as a teenage superhero, Halloween allowed me and my fellow heroes the ability to walk around, in public, in full costume, and fight crime, with no questions asked. Usually, we would deter T.P.er’s and stop older kids from bullying younger children and/or taking their candy (you can’t take candy from children, that’s just wrong on so many levels).
Usually, on Halloween, I would dress up as Casey Jones (from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame). The ‘fame’ was kind of fun. Once, a van stopped in front of me to deploy its payload of wee-little-would-be-trick-or-treaters, and as the door slid open and disgorged the costumed mob I was greeted with high fives and exuberant cries of, “It’s Casey Jones!” And that is fun.
This one particular year the rest of my team was gone—I don’t remember why. And since patrol isn’t fun on your own I convinced a good friend—the same friend from 3rd-period history—to go wandering around town with me. Curt didn’t dress up in costume, but we would still knock on the occasional door and trick-or-treat for Snickers or whatever they were handing out. We chatted about this and that, looked out for the smaller kids and had a good time. Night was dragging on and the little Halloweeners were disappearing into their homes to consume their sugary treats until they were sick and then pass-out.
As Curt and I neared the end of an out-of-the-way block, on an empty street, I felt my ‘spider-senses tingling’ (thank you Spider-Man) and as a car approached from behind, I prepared for what I knew was coming. Even though I hadn’t turned around, there was something familiar about the sound of that car’s engine. I knew danger was right behind me. I just didn’t know what form it would take.
A few years before, Erich—while temporarily living in another town—had a teacher who had spent a couple years in England and had brought home a cricket bat. With much finagling, begging, add a dash of wheeling and dealing, he eventually procured it for me. More specifically, for one of my alter ego’s: Casey Jones. Because Casey Jones has a cricket bat (see the first live action film from 1990), and there was no way I was going to be able to get one in my little town. Back then, no online shopping, and so no Amazon. Also, a small farming community is not going to have a lot of need for unique sporting equipment.
Back to that Halloween night.
Curt and I were nearing the end of the street—both of us on the right side of the road, Curt on my left, me to the far right—and a car was headed toward us, from behind. The sound of that engine was all too familiar. I could feel darkness approaching. I knew something was coming, but I couldn’t know what it was. I was unsure about turning around. But, something inside me said, “Get ready. It’s coming.” So I did.
With our backs still facing the car’s approach, both of us still walking and Curt completely oblivious to the impending threat, I drew my cricket bat from the make-shift golf bag slung across my back, and waited. As the car approached I felt it. The danger, getting closer. Closer, as the car neared. Closer, my senses warned me. Then, right as the car reached the point where it was either going to hit us or drive by it happened.
If my instincts were wrong, it would look like I was about to attack an innocent automobile. But, if my instincts were right… I would possibly save the lives of Curt and myself. I trusted my instincts. I knew they weren’t wrong. My instincts yelled, “NOW!!!” With both hands gripping my bat, I spun around hard and added that momentum to the swing of my bat. I didn’t know where to swing, what I was swinging for, or even what I was swinging at. I just listened, trusted, and swung. Impact! A perfect hit! Like something you’d see in a movie.
As the car attempted to pass us by they had also attempted to commit a drive-by ‘pumpkining’ (it’s like a drive-by-shooting, but with a pumpkin instead of bullets) of both Curt and myself. However, it failed. Their aim was off and so the pumpkin was going to fly harmlessly right past us, into the exact spot I had begun my swing. With the energy from my spin added, and the fact that I was raising my bat in that swing, the result was an hard, solid, upward hit of a downward object. The pumpkin went back where it had come from. The open window of the car.
Since the pumpkin was a used Jack-O-Lantern, it was already weak (and light), so when I hit it, the pumpkin cracked and fragmented as it went back into the faces of our would-be assailants. Oh, the looks on their faces. Total shock and surprise.
The car, without slowing down, continued on its path, rounded the corner—pumpkin upon the faces of those inside, and then drove away not to bother us again that night. Nor for a very long time after that.
“What just happened?” Asked Curt.
“I smashed somebody’s pumpkin,” I replied.
Over the last 20+ years, my family and I have used that same bat for smashing pumpkins. As Halloween comes to an end, my family collects our old Jack-O-Lanterns and then we find a nice spot to destroy them. We take turns swinging and smashing the gourdy guts all over. Sometimes, into our garden. Sometimes off a cliff edge (it’s biodegradable). It’s good family fun. It’s tradition.
I really enjoy smashing pumpkins (and the band isn’t bad either).