Grandpa Joe’s name wasn’t really Joe, but he loved to be called that. He wasn’t even really a grandpa. He never married and never had any children, but he loved visiting the kids at P.S. 306 every Tuesday and Thursday from 9-11, where he would read to them and listen to them read. Some days they worked on math problems or just played games. He was Grandpa Joe for the last forty years.
“Grandpa Joe, Grandpa Joe,” Sallie, Jacob, and Omar called, ignoring the teacher’s scolding as they ran into the library for their play time.
“Shh,” Grandpa Joe whispered one cool October morning. “The pumpkin monsters followed me.”
Omar skidded to a stop.
“P-p-p-p-pumpkin monsters?” Jacob stuttered as he began looking around the library for ten-foot-tall orange monsters with green vines laying in wait to grab him by the legs and toss him into the monsters forever open mouth only to be devoured by their massive fangs.
Sallie looked at the scared faces of her classmates and laughed. “Good one, Grandpa Joe. Why’d they follow you?” she asked, sitting down at the table.
“Well,” Grandpa Joe started, waving for Jacob and Omar to hurry over and sit. “It all began last night when I was cleaning out the pumpkins for Halloween. There was a knock at the door and when I opened it, I couldn’t believe my eyes –”
“Who was it?” Omar asked.
“It was the Pumpkin King.”
“Nah,” Jacob said, shaking his head. “No such thing.”
“As sure as I’m sitting here right now, it was the Pumpkin King. He had a green thorny crown on his orange head and wore a green cape with orange trim. But that wasn’t the strangest part. His scepter was a Jack-o-lantern, complete with burning candle in its mouth.”
Sallie covered her mouth and giggled.
“What’d he want?” Jacob asked.
“You wouldn’t believe it! He needed my help retrieving the Soul of Halloween. It took me all night and I had to travel all the way to kingdom come and back through pumpkin patches and witch’s villages to get it. I even had to fight a giant orange dragon with black teeth that breathed candle flames. But I got it back for him and now the pumpkin monsters are after me for the payment I earned from the King.”
“What’d you get?” Sallie asked.
“It’s right here in this white sock,” he said, placing a filled sock on the table.
“Ooh,” the trio said, admiring the sock with wide eyes.
Grandpa Joe reached into the sock and pulled out a small bag of freshly roasted pumpkin seeds and opened it. The trio laughed but began to squabble over who was going to get the first seed, so Grandpa Joe turned the story into a math lesson where the children had to divvy the treasure evenly between the three of them. The school librarian and teacher watched from afar and chuckled. Grandpa Joe had a way with kids. No matter what the lesson was, he could find a way to make it fun.
He didn’t come in Thursday or on the following Tuesday and talk spread through the school. The children were sure that the pumpkin monsters or some other horrible monster who walks only at night had captured him. Teachers were worried that there had been an accident.
“Attention teachers,” the principal’s voice announced through the speaker. “Please come to the faculty lounge immediately. Thank you.”
Children were happy about an unplanned break, but teachers exchanged confused looks as they all made their way down to the lounge.
“What’s up, Mr. D?” several teachers asked when they walked in the lounge.
Once all the teachers were gathered, Mr. D. pulled out a newspaper clipping. “I saw it this morning,” he said, sniffling.
Several teachers sat down, and the room became quiet as reality killed confusion.
“Andrew “Grandpa Joe” Carrigan, 72, joined his fiancée and unborn child in heaven Wednesday night after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. Services will take place Friday, October 31 at 12:00.”
Sniffles and sobs filled the teacher’s lounge.
“I never knew his real name,” several teachers muttered.
“I will be sending an announcement to all the parents that school will be cancelled on Friday. We will have the Halloween party and costume contest on the 30th instead.”
Over 13,000 students, former students, and friends showed up in Halloween costumes to see Grandpa Joe off.
This story was inspired by:
Fandango’s One Word Challenge — cerebral
Word of the Day Challenge — squabble
Three Things Challenge — grandfather, pumpkin seeds, white sock