The old lady was giddy with delight. She rubbed her gnarly hands together and smiled, showing off her one remaining tooth. The pumpkin had grown bigger than she had ever imagined and it had only just begun to turn yellow.
"What a beautiful pumpkin you are!" she spoke to the pumpkin, gently stroking its sides, "How big you have grown! You are my pride and joy."
She walked slowly around the pumpkin as she spoke. Her back was bent at close to 90 degrees and she walked using a cane.
"The entire village will be jealous of me! Yes they will be. I'll show them! How lucky that they can't see you right now, my dear pumpkin. You were clever to choose this spot to grow big in, weren't you? Nice and hidden you are, behind my little hut. Nobody comes this way. Nobody will see you until you are ready, my pumpkin."
The old lady went back into her hut and looked at the pumpkin from the small window on the back wall of her hut. From here the pumpkin looked almost as big as her hut.
When the villagers see the pumpkin, they'll all be so jealous, she thought, they'll wish they hadn't ignored me for so long. But how will I get them to see the pumpkin? They never come this way.
A thought occurred to her, I'll invite them to a party! It will be the grandest party ever given in the history of this village. Sure, when my sister got married, it was a grand affair. The big shot husband from the city, had thrown a big party. Everybody got good and drunk. But it was so long ago. Probably it's just me who remembers that party. I'll throw the grandest party in the collective memory of the villagers.
So it was settled. She would throw a grand party for the entire village. She would carve out the pumpkin and cook every possible dish she could think of. She would set out chairs in the garden out front and serve them pumpkin dishes of all kind. Then she would take them behind her hut to show them the pumpkin. It would be the grand finale of the party. The villagers would be humbled by her generosity and then see the huge pumpkin that still remained after all the dishes had been cooked and they would all go home feeling jealous of her.
For the next few days, the old lady carved out pieces of the pumpkin and prepared dishes just to test them out. When she had finalized all the dishes that she was going to make, she went around to everyone's house in the village and invited them to the party on Sunday afternoon. She said it was her farewell party. She was old and didn't have many more years left to live and she wanted to give the entire village a nice party before she died. The greedy villagers eagerly accepted.
On Friday morning she began cooking the actual dishes. Her tired old body found new vigor and she worked tirelessly throughout the day and into the night. Saturday too she spent entirely on cooking more and more dishes.
When the guests arrived on Sunday, they were greeted by intoxicating smells coming from her hut. They peered inside and it was full of food. There were pots and pans and other utensils of all shapes and sizes, filled with appetizing food. The villagers could barely control themselves but the old lady was nowhere to be found so they decided to wait for her.
"Hey! Old lady!" the fat farmer shouted, "Where are you old lady?"
"Don't you know her name?" his wife nudged him with her elbow.
"No. What is it?" the farmer said.
"Well how would I know? I am asking whether you know it."
"I don't know."
He asked the others but no one seemed to know her name.
"I remember her sister's name," the farmer's mother said, "She was a nice girl. I used to play with her when I was young."
"Well what was her name?" the fat farmer asked.
"Whose name?" his mother asked.
"The old lady's sister's," the fat farmer said.
"Which sister?" his mother replied.
"Mother! You just said you used to play with her sister."
"I used to play? With whom? This isn't my age to play!"
"Forget it!" he shouted. He turned around and shouted again, "Old lady? We are here for the party."
"Her sister gave a grand party when I was young," his mother said.
Before the fat farmer could jump on his mother and kill her, the old lady shouted back from behind her hut, "I'm coming!"
It took her five minutes to walk around her hut. Everyone in the village was there. The fat farmer and his fat wife, his mother and young daughter; the lady with the crooked nose and her one legged husband; the short farmer and his tall son; the middle age professor with the thick spectacles; the three unmarried pretty sisters, the oldest of whom was beginning to look not so pretty anymore; and the cunning grocery store owner still rubbing his white beard.
The old lady welcomed them all and told them to sit on the chairs she had set out in the garden so she could serve the food. After it took her five more minutes to get inside the hut, the fat farmer got up and decided to help the old lady.
The food was fabulous. There was deep fried pumpkin sprinkled with fresh herbs and rock salt; stir fried pumpkin cut in little cubes; mashed pumpkin; a fresh salad of pumpkin shavings and garden herbs; boiled pumpkin; two pumpkin soups, one with diced pumpkin and the other a smooth thick soup without any lumps. There was pumpkin pie; pumpkin bread; raw pumpkin shaped like a loaf of bread; pumpkin cake and pumpkin tart. There was pumpkin with all kinds of gravy; sour gravy, sweet gravy, sour and sweet gravy, spicy gravy, and even gravy with a slight bitter aftertaste. There was pumpkin sweetmeat; boiled pumpkin soaked in sugary syrup; pumpkin glazed with honey. There was pumpkin latte and also a frothy pumpkin cold drink. Roasted pumpkin seeds were offered as snacks for eating in between the entrées.
The feast began and the old lady looked with amusement at the way the villagers devoured her dishes. The fat farmer and his wife buried their faces in pumpkin pies as if they were in a pie eating contest. The farmer's old mother found new vigor and fought with her granddaughter over some mashed pumpkin. The professor adjusted his spectacles and sniffed at his plate before shoveling the contents into his mouth. The crooked nose lady brought plate after plate for her one legged husband. After a while she got tired and focused on her own food instead. The one legged husband emptied his plate and seeing his wife busy, hopped across the garden on one leg to get another plate. The short farmer sat with his feet dangling in the air while his tall son ate pumpkin cake. The grocery store owner sat nearest to the hut so that he could refill his plate faster than anybody else. The three unmarried sisters giggled with heads bowed over their plates.
The old lady was satisfied. This was exactly what she had hoped for. She walked from guest to guest, just looking at them and smiling with satisfaction. The guests didn't like the intrusion and told her to go somewhere else.
Soon, the food in the hut was finished. The villagers entered the hut and licked the large utensils clean. They came out and demanded more food from the old lady.
"But that's all I made," she said.
"Then make more!" they said in unison, their faces covered in pumpkin and greed.
"I don't have anymore to cook. You ate so much. Aren't you full?" the old lady asked.
Just then the youngest of the three sisters came running from behind the hut and shouted, "The old lady's lying! She has a huge pumpkin behind the hut."
Everybody rushed behind and stopped suddenly on seeing the giant yellow pumpkin. It had a door and two windows carved into it. It had been hollowed from within and contained the old lady's furniture. She was clearly living inside the pumpkin.
The villagers ran inside, all of them barely able to squeeze inside. They were overcome by the intoxicating smell of the pumpkin and began eating it from within. They clawed the walls and scraped off pieces of pumpkin to stuff in their mouths. Some of them bit right into the walls.
By that time, the old lady had managed to come around and was now shouting at the villagers.
"Stop eating my pumpkin. It's my house."
"You've had enough! Go home you greedy pigs!"
She tried to scare them with her stick but she was too slow for them. She could only poke at them from the windows but couldn't go inside the hut because it was already jam packed with the villagers.
In front of her eyes, they demolished her house and ate it. Once the walls and the roof were gone, they got down on their knees and ate the floor. The old lady just stood their, bent at right angles over her stick. She had tears in her eyes.
Only when they had made sure that nothing of the pumpkin remained, did the villagers stop. Their bellies had swollen to such a size that it looked as if they were all about to give birth at any moment.
"No! What have you done! I hate you all!" the old lady cried.
The villagers lay on the ground, unable to move, their hunger finally satiated. The old lady went from one person to the other and hit them on their belly with her stick. But the villagers hardly seemed to feel the impact. Like lions resting after a good meal who are only slightly annoyed by the flies, they swatted at her once in a while to make her go and hit someone else.
Finally the old lady gave up and sat down where her pumpkin used to be and cried.
The villagers moaned in epicurean ecstasy. Suddenly they heard distant thunder. Then it got louder. It took them a while to realize that there were no clouds in the sky and the thunder was coming from inside their bellies.
The fat farmer was the first to feel the vibrations of the coming motions. "Uh oh!" he said and got up.
"What's happening to us?" the grocer wanted to know.
"I don't know, but I feel like my stomach is about to burst." the professor said.
Groaning and moaning the villagers got up and ran back to the village in a hurry. The old lady stopped crying and walked over to the front side of her hut to see what was happening.
The village was filled with loud noises. As if an air raid was taking place. Blasts emanated from every corner, mixed in with screams of pain and regret. A smell rose from the village and headed for the skies. It created a visible haze that blocked out the sun. When it hit the old lady's nose, she smiled. It was the smell of pumpkin.