The Pumpkin Signal
The Pumpkin Signal
A Rumple Buttercup Fanfiction
Based on the story Rumple Buttercup, by Matthew Gray Gubler
Also inspired by Sting’s “Message in a Bottle.”
One morning, in the tiny town beneath the purple peaked pine tree, Rumple Buttercup was just about to come up out of the rain drain where he lived when he heard a very loud “MEOW!”
An orange cat raced by. It looked frightened.
Then Rumple heard a very loud “WOOF WOOF!”
A brown dog raced by, after the cat. It looked very determined.
Rumple watched as the cat clawed its way up a nearby tree and stood on a branch. It puffed itself up and hissed down at the dog.
The dog looked up at the cat and barked again and again.
Then a man ran after the dog and the cat. He looked very red in the face and was breathing very hard.
“Max!” he gasped. “Leave that poor cat alone!”
“WOOF,” said Max.
The man grabbed Max’s collar and put a leash on it.
“Woof?” asked Max.
“Let’s go to the park,” the man said. Max liked this idea and said, “WOOF!”
A fat old woman came by, walking as fast as she could, which wasn’t very fast. She called out, “Butterball?”
At first Rumple thought she might be talking to him, except that his name was Buttercup and not Butterball. But then she went to the tree where the cat was on the branch and said again, “Butterball? Butterball, please come down.”
“Meow,” said Butterball sadly.
“Oh, dear, are you stuck?” the woman asked. Then she looked around. “Can somebody help me get my cat out of this tree?”
“I can!” Rumple exclaimed happily. He climbed out of his rain drain, went to the tree, and reached up his long arms. Carefully, he lifted Butterball off the branch and handed him to the woman.
“You saved him!” the woman exclaimed. “Would – would you like a pumpkin cookie? To say thank you for getting Butterball out of the tree?”
“Pumpkin cookies sound delicious,” Rumple said. He had never eaten a pumpkin cookie before, mostly because he had never found one in the trash can next to his rain drain.
The old woman took him to her house and gave him an entire plate of pumpkin cookies and a glass of milk, too. The cookies were very yummy. Rumple could see why nobody ever threw one away.
The woman talked and talked. Rumple found out that her name was Mrs Applewait. She was almost as round as an apple herself. She said, “I don’t have many friends. Only Butterball. I’m glad you got him out of the tree. I feel very lonely whenever he’s not there, even if he never talks back.”
“My best friend is named Candy Corn Carl,” Rumple said. “He never talks back, either. But I would feel lonely without him, too.”
Mrs Applewait insisted that Rumple take more cookies when he went home, for himself and for Candy Corn Carl.
A few days later, Rumple was sitting in the park watching the man throw a ball for Max to chase. It was a bright, sunny day and he was enjoying the sun on his green scaly skin.
Rumple turned around and saw Mrs Applewait coming towards him.
“There you are!” she said. “Butterball is stuck in a tree again. Can you get him down?”
“I can do that,” said Rumple. He went to the woman’s house. Butterball was sitting on a branch in a tree in the front yard. Rumple lifted him down.
“Please come in,” Mrs Applewait said. “I’ve baked pumpkin cookies again to-day.”
Rumple went in. They had a long friendly talk, and Rumple got more cookies to take home and share with Candy Corn Carl. Candy Corn Carl never ate, not even pumpkin cookies, but he liked to watch Rumple eat, and listen to him talk about nice Mrs Applewait.
Butterball appeared to be a very silly cat who was always climbing trees and getting stuck, even when Max was not chasing him. Rumple had to rescue him at least once a week, and sometimes more. But Mrs Applewait always had pumpkin cookies and milk for him to say thank you.
One morning, when Rumple was on his way to the park, he saw Mrs Applewait in her front yard. She was setting up a stepladder by the tree.
Oh, Rumple thought, maybe Mrs Applewait is getting Butterball out of the tree by herself. Now she won’t need me anymore.
And he felt very sad. He almost wanted to cry, because he liked visiting Mrs Applewait.
But then he saw that Mrs Applewait was climbing up the stepladder with Butterball in her arms. And as Rumple watched, she set the cat on the branch and patted him until he settled down and wrapped his tail around his legs. Then she got down from the stepladder and carried it away.
Rumple just stood there. He didn’t know what to do.
Mrs Applewait came back out and when she saw Rumple, she came over.
“Thank goodness you’re here!” she said.
But before she could say anything else, Rumple asked, “Why did you put Butterball up in the tree yourself?”
Mrs Applewait started to cry. Then she said, “If I tell you, you’ll think I’m weird.”
“I won’t think you’re weird,” Rumple said.
Mrs Applewait wiped the tears away and said, “I felt lonely and I wanted to talk to you. But I’m too shy to just ask. It’s weird to be so shy.”
“Everyone is weird,” said Rumple. “Look at me! I have five crooked teeth, three strands of hair, green skin, and my left foot is eleven percent bigger than my right foot. I’m weird!”
“Yes, but that’s a different kind of weird than the being shy kind of weird,” said Mrs Applewait.
“No, it’s not,” said Rumple.
Mrs Applewait was not convinced.
Rumple lifted Butterball out of the tree and gave him back. Butterball began to purr.
Mrs Applewait stroked Butterball’s back and said, “It’s easy to ask somebody for help if they can see what the problem is. But it’s harder to ask if you’re lonely and just want to talk.”
“Maybe your words need a disguise,” Rumple said.
“If it’s hard to just ask, maybe you could hang up a banana peel whenever you want to talk to me.”
Mrs Applewait said, “I don’t have a banana peel.”
“Well, what do you have?” Rumple asked.
Mrs Applewait looked around, then said, “I have one very small pumpkin that’s not big enough to make cookies out of.”
“If you hang that on your door, then when I see it, I’ll know that you’re lonely and I’ll come and talk to you,” said Rumple.
Mrs Applewait smiled, and Rumple felt better, too.
The next day, Rumple saw the small pumpkin hanging from Mrs Applewait’s door, so he went in to see her. She didn’t have cookies, but they still talked for a long time.
The next day after that, Rumple was walking to the park when he passed by the house where Max lived. There was a pumpkin hanging on the door and Max was jumping at it.
“Max!” called the man from inside. “Leave that pumpkin alone!”
“Woof!” Max barked. Then he saw Rumple and ran over. “WOOF!”
“Hello, Max,” said Rumple.
“Rumple!” called the man, coming out of the door. “You saw the signal!”
“What signal?” asked Rumple.
“The pumpkin,” the man pointed out. “Mrs Applewait said that we can hang a pumpkin up on our doors … you know … if it’s hard ...”
“If it’s hard for you to say you’re lonely and you want to talk?” Rumple guessed.
“Yeah,” the man admitted. “I know I have Max, but it’s not the same. He only ever says woof.”
“Woof,” said Max, and the man leaned over to scratch his ears.
The man looked at Rumple. “Would you, um, like to come with Max and me to the park … and … you know … ?”
They went to the park and played with Max and talked. It was wonderful.
A few days later, Rumple saw pumpkins hanging on many other doors all over town. Oh, no, he thought. How can I visit everybody at once?
But then he saw a woman and her daughter go to Mrs Applewait’s door. And then he saw an old man with Max and the man in the park.
And Rumple realised that maybe he didn’t have to do it all by himself, because word had got around.
Now everyone knew the pumpkin signal.
Written 17 June 2019