|The Ugly Pumpkin comes out at twilight to haunt the files of those awaiting Baptism.|
But hereabouts in the Holy House of Soubirous, the villagers still whisper a tale fraught with menace and trepidation; it is the Legend of the Ugly Pumpkin. Drained of any healthy color and encrusted with warts, this hideous menace lurked about the rectory for weeks one autumn years ago.
Rumor was, it found its way from a farm stand in the oddest of places – an empty stretch of Beach Drive between Chevy Chase and Silver Spring, where pedestrians fear to tread alone at night and the wind howls eerily at rare moments when the traffic on East-West Highway subsides. The pastor slowed down while passing the vegetable array on his way to a nearby nursing home, and when he returned to campus, The Ugly Pumpkin was in the back seat. Spooky.
There was no carving it into a jack-o-lantern, nor prettying it up into an Autumn Display. It presented itself menacingly on various desktops, occasionally donning one or another of the hats that seem to proliferate in this house. Staffers cried and visitors screamed, until one day it was gone. Its heinous shell was found scraped clean, along with its stringy innards, in a trash bag in the kitchen. Forensic investigation yielded no insight.
For years, only its legend remained, and a few blurred photographs that might also show the Loch Ness Monster, or Bigfoot. Its name is mentioned furtively, in hushed tones, but everyone knows what is meant when you say The Ugly Pumpkin.
Now, it’s back. After years of vigilance, the pastor grew lax and again visited a farm stand. No, no, not that same one; he won’t make that mistake again. This one looked harmless, crowded and bustling. He left the hatch of his car open to accommodate the four huge chrysanthemums he was buying, while he shopped for gourds and fall vegetables and fruit. When he returned home, there it was in the passenger footwell: The Ugly Pumpkin.
Rectory workers avoid a certain corner office where it has been sighted. The mailman won’t come within twenty feet of the front door – when he shows up at all. Strange sounds are heard from downstairs late at night, which may or may not be a refrigerator door opening and closing. Nobody can find the dog.
There is only one thing for it. It may take a few weeks to organize a band of willing villagers with torches to set out together one night, and someone willing to feign helplessness, as bait. Because around here, we know what to do with An Ugly Pumpkin.
With a cleaver big enough, you simply split it in two, scrape out the stringy bits, and roast the halves in a hot oven. Roast until tender, a few minutes in a blender, and your Ugly Pumpkin will render the most marvelous bright orange puree. Cook that into a custard, get that stuff crusted, and soon enough you’ll have pie of pumpkin, ugly no more. BWA-HA-HA-HA! And we’ll all live happily ever after, or at least breakfast well for a few days. The End.