Cooking a Pumpkin PieMature

Name of Character: Heinrich Himmel

Brief bio: A very young and penniless German soldier, on his way home from the Army. Somewhat changed by his experience in the recent war.

Brief description of world: Europe, c. 1815.

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The snow was already falling, but it wasn't sticking. Himmel hoped it did not. He was hungry, and spotted a couple of houses on the horizon. He began to walk more quickly. Houses usually meant food, and if one was lucky, a bed to sleep in.

He arrived at the small farmyard houses. They were cold and dilapidated, and as he cautiously opened the front door, looked as if they had been recently evacuated. There were various utensils still hanging on the cupboards, a pail in the corner and on the table, ripe and glorious - a pumpkin.

Himmel had to prod it first to see if it was real, such was his astonishment at this magnificent object. His thoughts turned back to food, and he looked around for a knife to cut it with, and found only his greasy, bloodied bayonet. "There's got to be a way to cut this," Himmel said thoughtfully to himself. He had been talking to himself a lot since he had seen front line action against the French.

"I have an idea!" he said. "I'll bake it just like my mother did!"

For a great memory had come to he forefront of his mind. Mother's pumpkin pies, his childhood favourite. And Adolf's, too, but of course he couldn't talk about Adolf in front of people.

What did she do first? She scooped out the innards of the pumpkin. Heinrich happily mutilated the food with his bayonet until bits were scattered all over the stone kitchen, and then looked at the resulting mess with glowing pride. Then what? she scooped out the innards, he remembered.

Heinrich, who was worryingly dextrous when scooping out innards, grabbed a ladel and hauled out the pumpkin flesh, and put it in a pan. He took another pan, and, throwing his bayonet aside, opted for a small woodaxe, hacking the pie and the table top into little pieces. He heaped that into the pail covering it with string and a cloth, and then stepped back.

"Looks like we need to heat this up, Adolf," he said. But then he felt sad: Adolf only existed inside his head, after all.

Another bright idea came to him. He took the pail outside, and mounted it on top of a makeshift tripod he made out of chocks of wood, which lay scattered around the house - the scene of an earlier scuffle. He then delved inside his pack. He had taken the grenades from the corpse of a soldier on the battlefield a while back, and placed them under the tripod now, pulling out the pin and then running backwards, hands over his ears. The grenade exploded with a shake of the ground, and the bucket soared, landing a little way away. Heinrich ran to it, set the entire thing up again, and tried it again.

Once the pail had withstood three grenades, he brought it back inside, and opened it. The pumpkin was warm, frazzled, and smelled of burning. The rind came away as he touched the pumpkin. "Now what, Adolf?" he asked, but Adolf was not there.

Of course! He pulled out the shellshocked pumpkin, and with the butt of his gun bashed it into a puree. Now, there was crazed pumpkin on the table, as well as a pan, and the pail with the rind in it. Himmel took a step back. Now what had Mother done?

She had made a pie crust.

So Himmel searched the house for ingredients. He found: a pot of honey, three small chicken eggs, and a canister of milk, and three or four bottles of spirit. Himmel drank two and then set the third on the table. He emptied the pail outside, and then looked at his ingredients.

There was no flour. His gun was too greasy to serve as an ersatz rolling-pin.

For now he would concentrate on the pumpkin. He broke the eggs into the pumpkin pail, and added the honey and some of the milk. It was sticky and wouldn't stir properly. Knowing he needed spice, he took his cartridge-pouch and poured gunpowder in substitute. Now, he had to heat it up.

"Adolf, you'd know how to do this," he said, knowing that Adolf was beyond helping him.

Now he remembered - and took his gun, and lay the nozzle over the spirit bottle. When deprived of gunpowder, his gun sparked feebly, and it did so now, setting the spirit violently alight. Delighted, Himmel held the bucket over the flame.

Very soon, the air around the bucket was acrid and the mixture had turned dark grey, and was prone to violent bubbling and minor explosions. The spirit was low and the light almost extinguished, and Himmel's arm was tired. He st the bucket down, and left his pie to cool down.

He was by now ravenous. The pie was cool, now, it was dark, so he set the last spirit bottle alight, and sat down at last. He looked at the grey pie, in its metal pie-crust, and stuck the ladel inside it and scooped a chunk out.

The pie smelled awful and it tasted gritty. Himmel washed it down with milk, but, before taking a second ladelful, he stopped and looked down towards the table, almost in prayer.

"This is to you, Adolf," he said. "A dear brother. Rest in peace."

He was completely and utterly alone. The spirit flame flickered, but otherwise nothing stirred. Himmel took the ladel once again and scooped out more of the foul pie.

"Not bad," he said, chewing on it.

The End

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