So my grade school would have an annual Pumpkin Face Contest where participants from every grade would have to carve or paint or mache a pumpkin and hopefully win a prize. This evolved into an opportunity for first graders with no talent to have their parents work on their pumpkin and cheat to an empty victory. An incredible owl pumpkin with real feathers glued to it comes to mind...a proud first grader standing next to it getting his first taste of what it's like to deceive and take credit for someone else's work. Lame.
I always floundered and couldn't come up with anything that would win. The only year I DID win was when I entered Charlie Chaplin. My mother bought me a cigar to use and I glued it under his mustache and sat back and waited to win first place. Apparently honorable mention (the equivalent of winning tenth place) garnered one with a soft pretzel (which, at the time, cost students a dime at Recess). It was wet from the salt and going stale. That was the only time I won. A cold pretzel prize.
The categories a person could enter were: Most Original, Fancy, Funny, Scary. I really should have gone with Scary every year. Why I didn't is BEYOND me. Anyways, I entered Most Original that last year and used an idea from my father. Mind you, this is not the same as having your parent make your pumpkin for you. He said "Most original? You should carve a face in a pumpkin pie!" Gold. Pure gold. I KNEW I'd win first place. My father was a genius. The best advice he had ever given and I'd have a blue ribbon to prove it.
I couldn't wait until the morning of the competition to carve it (as was suggested by my mother). So the night before, I carved two triangle eyes into the pie, a triangle nose, and for teeth, rather than carving a mouth with two square-ish teeth like I SHOULD have done, I used candy corn - lined up like fifty tiny sharp Halloween teeth. We stuck it in the refrigerator for the night. I woke up to find pools of condensation all over the brownish surface of the pie. The candy corn ran into little colored puddles of sticky water. I blotted the surface with paper towels but it seemed every time I checked back on the pie, it was wet again. And looking like it had hepatitis. No matter, it would still be the most original thing anyone had ever seen.
The pumpkins were always displayed in the cafeteria of the school. Walking in that morning with all the other participants carrying their awkward orange entries, I was pretty smooth with my white pumpkin pie box. I looked around to find the row of tables for the Most Original entries. I sat my pumpkin pie next to the other two pumpkin pies with carved faces. Both of which had mouths the way I SHOULD have carved mine, and both of which were, regardless of their cooler faces, just as unoriginal as mine - by definition. Thanks, dad.
I didn't even get a pretzel.
Proving the originality of the pumpkin pie design - a comic from freaking 1951 depicting a carved pumpkin pie - with a mouth better than mine.