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The Many Crimes of Peter Pumpkineater: A Short, Short Story

Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

Humpty Dumpty

The pastoral scene of sheep grazing in rolling meadows and cows gleaning the harvested cornfields was both surreal and deceptive. For while it was the land of fairy tales and nursery rhymes, things were not all well. The folks were not living happily ever after. In fact, people were disappearing. One day they were content living out their roles in the land of make-believe. The next day, they were gone.

Sheriff Dumpty had scrambled his brains trying to solve the mystery of the vanishing village people. Little Bo Peep was the first. It wasn’t only her sheep that were lost. The little girl was also missing. Next was that strange little lad who ran around shouting, wolf. Everyone wanted him to quiet down, but no one wanted him to disappear. Oh, and poor Jill. She climbed that hill alone every day to fetch a pail of water. Jack had been missing for weeks.

And finally, Sylvia Pumpkineater had gone missing, which she often did anyway, but only for a day or two. She had been gone almost as long as Bo Peep. Poor Peter, Sylvia’s husband. He must have been devastated. He just went on tending his garden of giant pumpkins. He was a loner, so no one ventured out there to see how he was doing.

Jack Sprat

Sheriff Dumpty and Chief of Police, Jack Sprat, not to be confused with all the other Jack’s in town, decided to review all the evidence. They scoured each victim’s story for clues until they came to Sylvia Pumpkineater. Her story was a footnote at the end of Peter’s tale. How could they have missed it? It was as plain as the nose on Pinocchio's face.

Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater,

Had a wife and couldn’t keep her.

Put her in a pumpkin shell,

And there he kept her very well.

But it was just a nursery rhyme, one of the stories lived out by the people in the village and surrounding countryside. He wouldn’t really do it, would he? But that would only account for Sylvia, not all the others who were missing.

Peter Pumpkin-eater

Sheriff Dumpty, with warrant in hand, picked half a dozen men to be his deputies. It tended to be a bit confusing because all their names were Jack. There was Jack B. Nimble, Jack Beanstalk, Jack M. Hedgehog, Jack Horner, Jack G. Snuffbox, and Jack Dullard. They headed out to Peter’s Place riding on horses, except for Jack M. Hedgehog who rode on the back of his rooster.

When they arrived at Peter’s farm, Peter met them on the road in front of his house.

“Now, Peter,” said Sheriff Dumpty, “I have a warrant, and we’ve come to take a look at your pumpkins.” Peter waved the warrant away since he did not know how to read.

Peter was outraged and demanded the Sheriff and his deputies leave at once. But the Sheriff gave his men a command. “Jack,” he said, “go out into the field and examine all the pumpkins.

All six Jacks climbed the fence and wandered off into the field, thumping pumpkins as they went.

Little Bo Peep

Half an hour later, the Jacks returned with Bo Peep, a young lad who kept shouting, wolf, another Jack who was carrying an empty pail, and Sylvia, Peter’s wife.

The trial was held immediately. Peter was questioned about each of the kidnappings. It seemed that Little Bo Peep’s sheep had wandered off and ended up on Peter’s land where they ate all the young pumpkin plants. The hill that Jack and Jill climbed daily was on Peter’s property. He finally grew tired of chasing them off and kidnapped Jack one day while Jill was busy tumbling down the hill. The lad who cried wolf day in and day out was simply irritating, so Peter found a way to shut him up. Finally, there was Sylvia, his own wife. Her frequent disappearances turned out to be one night stands in the surrounding villages. Peter had put an end to that foolishness. Because of their offenses against him, Peter had locked them each in a separate, giant pumpkin shell.

Each of the victims was also an offender in some fashion. Sheriff Dumpty figured they had already been punished enough and let them go free.

Giant Pumpkin

Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,

Had another and didn't love her;

Peter learned to read and spell,

And then he loved her very well.

Peter was found guilty on four counts of kidnapping and four counts of false imprisonment. Since the jail in town was undergoing complete remodeling, Peter was sentenced to one year locked in one of his own pumpkin shells.

Sylvia left Peter after the trial and moved in with one of her boyfriends. Peter eventually remarried the village school teacher who taught him to read. Peter read the Bible and got religion which meant that everyone in the village began to once again live happily ever after.

© 2018 Chris Mills


Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on January 25, 2019:


Very enjoyable take on the stories.

Liz Westwood from UK on December 28, 2018:

I admire the clever way that you weave the plot and rhymes together. This is creative writing with a twist.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 27, 2018:

Dora, I'm glad you are enjoying these updated nursery rhymes/fairy tales. I'll add more, but very slowly.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 27, 2018:

Shauna, They will probably come out slowly. This would be an easy format to run into the ground. I'm glad you like them. I am paid in full every time someone puts on a smile while reading one of my stories.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 27, 2018:

Who knows how many childhoods we are afforded in life. Maybe as many as we want. Thanks for visiting, Ann.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 27, 2018:

Sean, Is it me or the stories that need to be rehabbed? haha, probably some of both. Thanks for reading and for your comment.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 27, 2018:

Happy Holidays, Mr. Dierker.Glad you liked the story.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 27, 2018:

Chris, you bring back memories of these fairy tales in fresh updated scenarios, and make them enjoyable again. Thanks for sharing your excellent story-telling skills.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on December 27, 2018:

What a story! I love it, Chris. Talk about just desserts, huh? I love the creativity you're using to transform these nursery rhymes into adult fun.

Keep 'em coming!

Ann Carr from SW England on December 27, 2018:

What a delightful rendition of just about all the nursery rhymes I can think of; well done, Chris! Imaginative of you to come up with this and a seasonal end. It made me smile and took me back to my childhood (or is this the second one?!).


Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on December 26, 2018:

Oh! My dear brother Chris, I know an excellent Fairytale Rehabilitation Center, I think it's the best for your case! Haa! Haa!

It was hilarious, my friend, I loved it. You remind me of one of my favorite authors, Terry Pratchett!

A good-hearted man with humour is one more God's gift to the world!


Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 26, 2018:

Thank you Mr. Mills for the great story. Happy Holidays from the Dierkers.

Gabriel Dierker.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 25, 2018:

Paula, if you want a laugh, I recommend "Fitting Room 101". As always it is a privilege to have you visit my hubs. I hope your Christmas was a screaming success.

Suzie from Carson City on December 25, 2018:

LOL...Clever, creative and much fun to read!...I enjoy something light and some laughter at this time of the evening. Thanks, Chris1 Paula

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 25, 2018:

Doris, thanks for being first to comment on this story. Thanks for recommending it.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on December 25, 2018:

Chris, that was unique, and I smiled all the way through it. Definitely recommended reading from me! Merry Christmas!

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