pushed the list aside, found a pack of tattered cards, and laid out a hopeless solitaire of his own devising. Minutes later, Arnold stepped jauntily …Robert Sheckley: The AAA Ace Stories
“What is a Jack-o’-lantern?” she asked.
“It is a pumpkin, hollowed out, its flesh carved with a design, usually a face, and a candle placed inside turning it into a lantern. Do you not have them?”
“No. But why is it called Jack?”
“I don’t know. I suppose, since there is usually a face carved in it, it was given a name – Jack.”
“No. There is always a reason why,” she said.
The Jack-o’-lantern is related to the Will-o’-wisp. It literally means “Jack, of the lantern.” The Will-o’-wisp occurs in folklore throughout the world, in various forms, the lights seen in the distance being souls, lost souls. Usually witches.
Meanwhile, their erstwhile compadre, the Jack-o’-lantern exists in various folklores. Occasionally, it is known as Jack McLantern. For Jack was a wicked soul. And the devil one day came to claim him. But he made a deal with the devil. As one would sometimes, often, do in a folktale. For our dear protracted protagonist, a jack of all trades, was, in fact, a thief! And one day he was being chased by villagers. It was this day the devil came to claim his soul. But he made a deal with the devil. The devil protected him from the villagers. For Jack was more afraid of their wrath than the wrath of the evil one. And as part of the deal, the ever wily Jack, he made the devil promise that he would never go to Hell. And it was agreed. And Jack was off. He got off, Scott-free, or so he believed.
“Who is Scott?” she thought.
But sadly, he did not bargain for immortality. For he had heard the betrayals that occurred in such deals. So when he died he was, by his own bargain, disallowed entrance to Hell. While his additional years of wickedness insured he could also never enter the kingdom of Heaven. With nowhere to go Jack was doomed to roam the Earth forever as a Will-o’-wisp. However. Jack was ever a wily one. And his favorite food was a turnip, later morphing into a pumpkin, as things happen in folktales. And his spirit, a shiny, shimmering spirit, giving off the light of Hell fire, was trapped within. It turned a mundane foodstuff into a shining lantern. And it protected those who utilized it from spirits ever-more-so malevolent and powerful than Jack by showing them a terrible fate.
2008. Amsterdam. I enter an empty bar. It is the dead of winter. It is cold and the streets are deserted. As is the bar. Deserted but for the barkeep. A British man standing behind the counter looking stoic. Early Iron Maiden plays featuring the first singer, Paul Di’Anno.
“My boyfriend left me last night and took all my records. All but Iron Maiden. The early Maiden. With the best singer. Paul Di’Anno. But it’s all right. I can listen to Paul Di’Anno the rest of my life.”
Stiff upper lip.