It happens when we're asleep, one of the multitude of things that happen when we're asleep. Teeth grind. Temperatures drop. Skirts lift. Breath hitches or lurches or dies. Night is granular in a way that day is not; it is instant rubbing up against instant, darkness against darkness, where day is a wash of light.
Night by night, the pumpkin disappears.
It's not magic. Some Vespucci of a squirrel discovered the pumpkin about a week ago, and since then, rodent explorers have made nightly forays to the porch. I check on the pumpkin every morning, just as the sun starts to get its thumbs into the world. I hunt up my slippers, drink a full glass of water, step out into the coldening world to discover, each day, another inch gone.
The neighbors are done with pumpkins. They've affixed wreaths to their doors, lined their railings and gutters and stairs with twinkling lights. Through their shut shades, their Christmas trees scold me. I have not put up a tree, not even a fake one. I have not made Christmas cookies or advent wreaths or stockings or nog. My pumpkin, not particularly festive even during its October heyday (it remained stubbornly small, single, chaste) and only tolerable during Thanksgiving, has nothing to do with Christmas.
It does have to do with waiting, though, and this is the time of the year that we wait. If you're Christian, it's Advent, and you're waiting for Christ. If, like me, you don't believe, you're still waiting. You wait for the days to trickle through their narrowest point; you wait for your family to gather you in. The day slivers down to nothing, a thumbnail moon.
I'm not done with the pumpkin. As of this morning it's gone soft inside. There are bits of orange, like shrapnel, scattered at its feet. I wait. Soon will come more teethmarks, less flesh, fatter squirrels, mold, darkness, spring.