Two Pumpkins Walk Into a BarsteemCreated with Sketch.

“Hey, Jack.”

“Yes, Jack?”

“You hear the one about the two muffins?”

“No?”

“Two muffins are sitting in an oven. The first turns to the second and says ‘is it getting hot in here?’ The second screams ‘EEK! A TALKING MUFFIN!’”

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“Very funny.”

“I thought it was apropos.”

“Given that we’re two talking Jack-o-Lanterns?”

“Yes, given that we’re two talking Jack-o-Lanterns.”

“Well, it was pretty bad. I hope you’re happy.”

“Jack?”

“Yeah?”

“That’s a pretty big question.”

“What?”

“Well, you said ‘I hope you’re happy’ and it got me thinking - am I happy?”

“And?”

“I don’t know that I am.”

“I’m sorry to hear that?”

“I suppose I’m content though. Fulfilled.”

“Fulfilled? How so? We’re two Jack-o-Lanterns stuck on a porch who can talk, but no one else can hear us. What I’d give for a body or even for the passers-by to be able to converse with us.”

“Jack, I think you’re looking at it the wrong way ‘round. I think… I think we’re not stuck on this porch - we belong on this porch. We have meaning. We’re meant to provide a decoration for this house and, through our mere existence, we do.”

“I’d still like to get up and go.”

“Why would you want that? You’d immediately be faced with crisis - what are you supposed to do? Where are you supposed to go? How would you find fulfillment in the world? You’d be trading the security of knowing who you are and what you are meant to do for a life of meaninglessness.”

“It wouldn’t have to be meaninglessness - I could come up with something that has meaning for me. Like, I could bring people happiness around the world by joining a circus or something.”

“Then you’d be condemned to living a lie. Any meaning you construct - whether you want to help everyone in the world or you just want to pursue the most pleasure you can - would be a fabrication that, deep down inside, you would know that you could swap out for some other meaning as soon as you so desired. I think that would be the epitome of folly.”

“You mean you’d rather just sit here, a Jack-o-Lantern, until you die?”

“Yes, absolutely. I know what I was made to do and I’m doing it. It’d be cool to see and do some other things, but at the core of my soul I know who I am and what I am supposed to be doing. I think you should take solace in that and not be so quick to want to open the door to the unknown.”

“I still think I’d like to travel and see and just move.”

“And I think you’re mad to think that. Imagine a traveler who has no other goal than to travel. Their path is open in front of them, a thousand roads in every direction. Which do they pick?”

“The one that makes them the most happy? The one that fulfills them the most?”

“How would they know that in advance? Could you imagine what stress and anxiety a decision like that must induce? The choice of a path would certainly weigh on them for some time prior, causing their sleep to become restless and their food to become tasteless. Then, once they picked a path, what new anxieties would spring forth - would they have been better off choosing another? Then, once they got to their destination and were ready to travel once more, they would once again be assaulted by the impossibility of choosing between a thousand new paths. And the cycle would repeat.”

“They’d still be traveling though. That would have to count for something.”

“But that’s just it - consider any human’s life. Every day they awake with a thousand options in front of them. Do they sleep in? Do they make breakfast? Have coffee? Tea? Do they go to work? Do they quit their job? Do they get into a vehicle and drive as far as it can take them? Do they go mad with choices and kill themself - and if so, how? Even the choice to stop making choices is an overwhelming decision.”

“You’re saying all this, but most everyone seems to go about their lives just fine - at least outwardly.”

“I think most of them believe the lie that they have meaning, else they’d go mad. I suspect that inertia plays a part as well - of course you’re going to school today, you’ve been going to school every day for as long as you can remember. Of course you’re going to work today, you’ve been going to work since you got out of school. I think there’s a corollary there as well - the madness is most present in those without that inertia, without that routine. Those who make art. Those who travel. Those who have the means to escape a traditional routine and pursue only their pleasure. Without that routine, they don’t even have the lie of meaning to fall back upon and, when they push boundaries to find some resistance, they find the universe has none. They grasp at what they can to the point of excess - money, power, sex. It must be madness.”

“So, you’re glad you’re stuck here, as a Jack-o-Lantern, until you die?”

“Yes, absolutely. I know what I was made for and, upon dying, I know that I’ve fulfilled my purpose. Could you imagine that - dying knowing that your whole life was worth less than an ant? An ant was created to build the colony and that’s what the ant does. It knows it. You and I were created to sit and be decoration and that’s what we’re doing. A human? They must go to their deathbed uncertain that the lie they told themself is the truth.”

“Are you afraid to die?”

“Do you remember when your candle was not yet lit?”

“No.”

“Do you remember when it went out a bit ago and someone came by to relight it?”

“No.”

“Then how can either of us be afraid of death? We were created with meaning, with purpose. We have only one path - to fulfill that purpose. It’s not like either of us can choose not to be decoration. Therefore, when death comes, we’ve done what we’re supposed to do. How can I be afraid of death?”

“Is there anything you are afraid of?”

“I’m a little afraid of being alone, I suppose. When your candle went out I had no one to talk to and my mind began to wander. I know I’m the only one who thinks my thoughts and the only one who feels my feelings, but it’s nice to share them with another. Which, I suppose, brought on this conversation - I like telling you jokes. I like talking with you. I like being a part of your life and I like you being a part of mine.”

“Thanks, Jack.”

“You’re welcome - thank you for listening.”

“So, you’re afraid of losing me? Losing this connection?”

“Yeah. That would make for a shit situation. That being said, when you were gone, I could still take solace in the fact that I was fulfilling my purpose. While I’d prefer to have you around, I have a life-preserver to cling to. Could you imagine not having that?”

“Oh, man, that must suck! I’m thinking of that traveler you were talking about. How hellish that experience must be - knowing they have no purpose, mixed with a thousand choices in front of them, with a bonus that no matter what choice they make it won’t matter as they lay dying. Put that together with a general isolation - knowing that any connection they have, any friend they make, will be gone and forgotten in just a short time. It must be like attending a funeral each time someone gets on a bus!”

“It absolutely must be. I don’t know how they do it. What drive can there be that would propel a person through that? What internal engine - in fact or fiction - would be enough to push a person forward, especially in the case of a traveler? What created meaning inflates big enough to make one scale the cliff of absolute freedom of choice; to abandon the security blanket of friends and family? If I didn’t know it happened, I would think it impossible.”

“Well, I guess you’ve convinced me not to grow imaginary legs, Jack.”

“Ha! I didn’t really mean to get so deep into it. I was just think out loud about what it means to be happy. What it means to be content.”

“Well, you’ve impressed me! Where’d you learn all of that anyway?”

“I don’t know, Jack. I guess a little light went on in my head.”


This is an entry in @mctiller's flash fiction contest. I had a great time writing it and I look forward to reading the other entries!

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This post was shared in the Curation Collective Discord community for curators, and upvoted and resteemed by the @c-squared community account after manual review.

I thought this was going to be a comedy piece, but you turned it into two talking pumpkins having a philosophical conversation about life and choices. I had to keep reading. I love the way you ended it as well.

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Thanks! The ending definitely came first. Glad the philosophy bit wasn't too much of a slog!