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The Golden Coin

Ricky had never even touched a bow until the summer day his uncle and aunt took him to the Pirate Fair, so he could hardly believe it when his arrow flew straight to the center of the straw-filled target.

The teenage attendant, dressed like a buccaneer in a ruffled shirt and ragged pants, seemed startled, too.

“Congratulations, kid,” the make-believe sailor said, then quickly remembered he was supposed to use pirate-speak. “Aye, matey. ’Tis a fair shot,” he growled. “The cap’n will be honored if you accept this.”

The sun glinted on the golden coin the pirate handed the boy. Ricky thought it was beautiful, and he ran to show it to his relatives.

“Look what I won,” he said, stopping short as he realized his cousins had a pile of similar tokens they’d won for throwing pirate daggers and climbing pirate ropes.

“We can redeem them for toys,” said his cousin Lucy, who was young and perpetually excited. She pointed toward a booth filled with souvenirs.

Ricky shook his head. “I want to keep my coin,” he said.

“It’s not really gold, you know,” said his cousin Paul, who was older and perpetually cynical. “It’s just a piece of junk.”

Ricky clutched the coin more tightly. It felt like it belonged in his hand.

“Ricky can keep it if he wants to,” his aunt said firmly. And that was that.

For the next few weeks, Ricky felt as if he had a lucky talisman. With the coin in his pocket, he believed he could run faster and jump higher. He could tell better stories, and people laughed harder at his jokes.

Then school started, and Ricky’s luck ran out.

Things began to go wrong the day he brought the coin to Show and Tell and talked about how the pirate had given him the coin and how it made him feel confident.

That’s when he realized he had made a mistake.

He saw the way Muskrat, the class bully, was looking at him. There was a glint in Muskrat’s eye. Ricky knew the much larger boy wanted the coin for himself.

A few days passed, with Ricky avoiding Muskrat the best he could. At recess, he tried to stay at the other end of the playground. At lunch time, he stayed at the other end of the cafeteria. It worked, until the day in early October the class took a field trip to a pumpkin patch out in the country.

“OK, class,” the teacher said. “You’re each allowed to pick one small pumpkin to take home. Try not to step on the plants. Stay on the paths in between.”

About 25 children got off the school bus and looked at the field. One girl raised her hand. “Do the pumpkins mind if we carve them up for jack-o-lanterns or eat them in a pie?”

“Not at all,” the farmer said with an indulgent laugh. “As long as you use them for a good purpose like food or fun, they’re happy.”

As the group ventured into the field, Ricky vowed to stay close to the grown-up volunteers who had come along. But, despite his best intentions, this plan didn’t work. Better, rounder pumpkins seemed to be calling him, luring him farther from the group – until he was alone at one end of the field with Muskrat.

“Let me see that coin,” Muskrat demanded, lowering his head for a charge.

Ricky felt the coin in his hand. He wasn’t sure how it had gotten there, but he knew he had to save it, even if he couldn’t save himself. He tried to hide the golden disk in a pumpkin blossom that looked like a big yellow snapdragon. But as he reached toward the blossom – whoosh! – a nearby pumpkin practically inhaled the coin. A slender crack appeared in the rind, and Ricky guided his treasure into the orange flesh until it disappeared. Then he turned and ran.

Muskrat tackled him within seconds, and, soon, two adults were pulling the boys apart but not before Muskrat had turned Ricky’s pockets inside out and given him a bloody nose.

“It’s … somewhere … in … the … patch,” Muskrat sputtered, comprehension dawning even as the teacher said something about detention and no more field trips and this was the thanks she got for trying to do something nice.

Neither boy paid much attention. They were both thinking about how they’d return to the field.

It took Ricky three days to get back because he waited for the weekend. On Saturday he wheeled his bike out of the garage and set off, out of the city, past a housing development and an industrial park.

Oh, what a long time it took to reach the farm. He pedaled and pedaled, but it was twilight by the time he found the right place. Still, he felt stronger now that he was closer to the coin. But, where was it? Gently, carefully, he made his way from pumpkin to pumpkin, touching each one to see if he could feel a bulge.

Ricky had brought a small jackknife to pry the coin out, and suddenly it occurred to him that might hurt a pumpkin.

“Sorry,” he whispered.

That’s when he heard a loud splat. Muskrat was in the field, too, smashing pumpkins. The bully kicked one. He hit another with a baseball bat. Beige seeds and broken rinds splattered here and there.

“Muskrat! Stop!” Ricky yelled.

Muskrat did stop. He had to, because the pumpkins were fighting back.

A vine twisted around Muskrat’s ankles, pinning him to the ground, and medium-size pumpkins started to jump on him, each one dealing a blow. Then one of the heaviest pumpkins in the field, the kind that could have been a contender for a blue ribbon, started to roll toward the class bully.

Ricky screamed, realizing the scene could turn bloody.

Muskrat moaned, feeling bruised all over.

The big pumpkin narrowly missed Muskrat’s head, as if it were toying with him. Then it turned around to try again …

YOU’RE INVITED

To finish this story, if you’re a student in 12th grade or younger.

Tell us what you think should happen to Muskrat, Ricky and the special coin.

Make your conclusion to the story as long or short as you wish, and send it to the Times Leader Halloween Story Contest, 15 N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711, in care of Mary Therese Biebel, or e-mail it to mbiebel@leader.net.

Times Leader judges will choose four winning entries and publish them Oct. 26.

Deadline for entries is Oct. 19.

Questions? Call 829-7283.

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