Along The Frontage Road by Michael Chabon, 2001
The magic trick:
Connecting three different things through a trip to the pumpkin patch
The story does a nice job of connecting three things – a memory of the narrator’s childhood, a recent family death, and the larger ills of society – using the throughline of a trip to the pumpkin patch.
And that’s quite a trick on Chabon’s part.
I don’t remember where we used to go to get our pumpkins when I was a kid. I grew up in a Maryland suburb that, in those days, had just begun to lay siege to the surrounding Piedmont farmland, and I suppose we must have driven out to somebody’s orchard or farm—one of the places we went to in the summer for corn and strawberries, and in the fall for apples and cider. I do remember the way that my father would go after our pumpkins, once we got them home, with the biggest knife from the kitchen drawer. He was a fastidious man who hated to dirty his hands, in particular with food, but he was also a doctor, and there was something grimly expert about the way he scalped the orange crania, excised the stringy pulp, and scraped clean the pale interior flesh with the edge of a big metal spoon. I remember his compressed lips, the distasteful huffing of his breath through his nostrils as he worked.
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