Pumpkin Hill

Pumpkin Hill  is set in rural western New York near the church where I served from 1975-1981. Pumpkin Hill is a small rise on Rt. 237 near the Bergen Swamp.

Six people's lives are changed forever by the startling events that occur at this crossroads. Harry Backman is a mentally ill young man whose voices draw him to what he hopes will be an apocalyptic moment on Pumpkin Hill. Leonard Grace is an elderly gentleman in a loveless marriage on his evening walk to the Hill. Laura Hall is a writer and the wife of a Presbyterian minister whose automobile accident forms the heart of the story.

Warren, Laura's husband, is a young minister searching for the truth while struggling with whether his wife will live or die. Eloise, Harry's longsuffering mother, fears the worst about her son's involvement in the accident. Bertha, Leonard's crusty wife, struggles with what is real as she comes to grips with years of loss and now her husband's fate.

Pumpkin Hill is a story about going forward even when there is no clear path to follow; it is about tenacious hope in the face of desperate truth; and ultimately it is about the everlasting power of human connection.

 

 

 

Excerpt from Chapter 6

 

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            When her cantankerous ways got to him, Leonard would head out on the road to Pumpkin Hill, just a two mile walk to the intersection with county road 237.  Far from the smoke and fire of Bertha Grace.

            The snow was falling harder now. Leonard stood under the street light looking up, imagining that the snow wasn’t really falling, but that it was being thrown to the ground by a distant hand. As a boy he loved to stand in the snow, mouth wide open for whatever that hand might toss in.  He smiled at the memory and leaned his head back but lost his balance and almost fell. “Damn,” he said, upset that the boy was gone.

            The road ahead was covering fast, the tire tracks from earlier in the evening turning into soft furrows. His old rubber buckle boots kept his feet warm and dry, so he contined on. The wind came up and almost took his breath away. He looked back to the village with its cluster of houses on the edge of town. He could see their house and the bathroom light on. Bertha must be getting ready for bed. It would be quiet when he returned. Maybe he would sleep on the couch in the living room or even the cot in the basement.

            237 was just ahead. Leonard could see a slim figure walking in his direction from beyond the intersection. “Who would be out on a night like this?” he wondered and then laughed. The county road sloped up and to the left through fields of winter corn and cabbage. In the distance he could see car lights coming fast. When he looked down the road again, he could see a figure standing in the intersection, his arms straight out, his body still as could be, his back to the oncoming car.  Leonard didn’t think much of it at first until the figure didn’t move and the car didn’t slow down. The figure seemed oblivious to what was about to happen. 

            “Hey!” Leonard yelled. No response. “Hey!” he called again. Nothing.

            Leonard began to run, which was little more that a fast shuffle in the snow and ice. He called out again and this time the figure turned and looked at him. He faced Leonard, arms stretched out, legs together, looking like a crucifix that someone had planted in the road.

            Leonard’s chest heaved in the cold air. He pushed on, but it was pointless. He was out of breath and worse, his left arm and leg felt numb. His jaw ached. He lost his balance and fell, his face in the snow. He tried to yell again but couldn’t speak. He opened his mouth as wide as possible, hoping, as he had so many years ago, that someone would realize that he was in trouble.

            He now lay within several yards of the man standing in the road. Leonard tried to call out once more. The man looked at him and smiled.

            “You are the first. I knew you would come.”

            The weather report on the car radio said that the storm had reached near blizzard conditions. The county roads were all closed and everyone was encouraged to go home or take shelter wherever possible.

A half mile up the road, Laura Hall struggled to see through her snow covered wind shield.