Once upon a time, there lived two mice who were the very best of friends. Debbie and Gwenie were inseparable. They did everything together: the mundane and the exciting. They would talk and laugh endlessly and it was said they even breathed in time. It would be surprising if someone thought they didn’t have a telepathic connection.
They were the very best of friends at birth, and to all it seemed they would continue to be the very best of friends until they were buried side-by-side. That is, until last September, when the annual city-wide pumpkin-growing competition began. Debbie decided she’d enter because it could be fun. Gwenie didn’t think it was worth the effort, but as any good friend, she encouraged Debbie. Neither of them expected this pumpkin-growing competition to be the end.
Debbie wanted to win this competition. She needed to be the Pumpkin Champion. She didn’t know why, but the title seemed more important than life itself. So she gave her life to the pumpkin. She watered it and gave it fertilizer. She put the pot on wheels and rolled it around the yard to follow the sun across the sky, her little mouse muscles straining as the wheels forced their way through the grass. She whispered to the pumpkin, loved it. At night, she stood on top of it and wielded her rake to fight off any animals that might come to devour it.
Debbie did not eat, she did not sleep. Gwenie brought her food like clockwork, but she never smiled. Debbie now breathed in time with the pumpkin, not Gwenie. Debbie was snappish and skittish, never allowing Gwenie near the pumpkin and never straying far from it. After a few weeks of this, Gwenie stopped trying to speak to Debbie at all. She left the food on the back porch and vanished.
Debbie was not always with her pumpkin. Everyday, at a random time (to throw off sabotagers), Debbie set a crate over her pumpkin to protect it and left the garden. She peered over her neighbor’s fences, scoping out the competition. As she watched the pumpkins, a sense of victory filled her. Her pumpkin was significantly larger than any of these ants. Except for Tessie’s pumpkin. Tessie was outside at all hours, polishing her pumpkin. Her pumpkin appeared as large as Debbie’s.
The day before the Ultimate Public Pumpkin Weighing, Debbie was pacing circles around her pumpkin. Most of the pumpkins weren’t even a quarter of the size of Debbie’s. Debbie’s pumpkin had outgrown four pots and she could barely push it around the yard anymore. But still, she was not guaranteed the Pumpkin Championship. Tessie’s pumpkin was just as large. Debbie just might get second. Debbie could not lose everything she had worked toward, everything she had ever wanted.
That night, Debbie drilled a small hole in the top of her pumpkin and dropped pebbles inside. The pumpkin was halfway full when she ran out of pebbles in her yard, so, in the middle of the night, Debbie took a wheelbarrow to Gwenie’s house and stole all her rocks. Gwenie did not see.
Debbie won the Pumpkin Championship by a large margin. Her pumpkin was nearly five times as massive as Tessie’s (thanks to the rocks). Tessie ran from the competition sobbing as Debbie accepted her ribbon. Nothing had ever felt so good.
The next day, Debbie invited Gwenie over for pumpkin pie in celebration.
“Congratulations,” Gwenie said when they were seated at the table.
“It was nothing.” Debbie shrugged like it was actually nothing.
Gwenie gestured to the pie with her fork before taking a bite and saying, “We’re eating your pumpkin.” It pleased Gwenie to eat the horrid pumpkin.
“I had nothing else to do with it.”
“I thought you loved your pumpkin,” Gwenie exclaimed. Debbie had chosen the pumpkin over Gwenie, so it must be worth something.
“You’re not wearing your ribbon…,” Gwenie observed.
Debbie laughed. “I’m not going to brag about winning a dumb ribbon for having the biggest pumpkin. What would people think of me?”
Gwenie blinked in surprise. “We haven’t spoken in months because of this pumpkin! You broke our friendship for the pumpkin and you don’t even care about it anymore?”
Debbie cocked her head. “We’re friends.”
“Are we? I’ve been talking to Katie down the street lately.”
Debbie frowned. “Oh. Well.”
“I’ll forgive you if you say you regret it,” Gwenie said. She wanted to salvage their friendship.
“I could say that, but it wouldn’t be true.” Debbie shrugged.