By Amy Marques
I didn’t mean to steal your pumpkins.
I was on my way to my gran’s. You might know her. She lives three curves beyond, where there’s a stone wall and an old gate that’s always open. The hinges got so rusty that it stopped moving, and Gran said we might as well leave it open because she lives in the safest place in the world.
Now I’ve ruined it.
I didn’t mean to. Honest.
That is, I did mean to take them. I didn’t think to question it, just grabbed as many as I could and plopped them into my car. Now I can’t return any because we ate them all. Gran is the best cook I know, and she was delighted with them. She stuffed and baked the littlest ones, and made a pumpkin puree with her famous herb butter. Have you ever tasted her herb butter? She adds sage from Harry’s garden, lemons from Ms. Patty’s front yard, and everyone in town gets their butter from Old Sam.
See, Gran always said that family gardens grow the best food. There’s nothing like it. It’s the realest food in the world. When I was growing up, it was our special game. Mom and I would pick things up on our way to Gran’s. We’d stop for plums here, greens there, and eggs if we could find them. Nobody ever bothered to put up a sign or charge any money; it was surplus harvest, and everyone was welcome to it. After a while, I came to recognize the stops. Sometimes we’d see someone and wave. Sometimes we just took our basket and filled it up with whatever they’d left at the gate for us.
I haven’t done the route in years because I was away for university. This was my first time doing it without Mom. I worried that it wouldn’t feel the same without her, so when I saw that there were eggs set out by the yellow barn house, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a sign that this place would never change. It would always welcome me home. I forgot the basket, but that didn’t matter. The passenger seat of my car sags and nothing rolled away.
When I reached your place and saw the pumpkins waiting, I thought nothing of it. I stopped the car, waved towards the house just in case someone was watching, and grabbed the bounty.
Now everyone thinks there’s a thief in the village. I say “everyone” because I heard it from the butcher who heard it from Ms. E. If you were in The Eye’s third grade class like I was, you know that she sees everything. Problem is, what she knows, the whole village will soon know.
Even Gran is scared (and Gran is never scared) and is going on about how we need to fix the gate, so she can lock it at night. I don’t have the heart to tell her.
Please accept these peas and spinach and these pumpkin cookies in payment. I’ll never do it again. I swear. Is it too much to ask that you stop saying they were stolen? It’s bad enough that Gran thinks there’s a stranger skulking around; she would be so disappointed if she knew the truth. Can we please put this behind us without Gran finding out it was me?