The evening started with caramel apples, cider, and candy corn.  It ended with gauze, medical tape, and me cleaning blood spatter off my wall, CSI style. I know a lot of people who work in youth ministry that have horror stories of leaving kids behind at gas stations on the way to camp, or broken limbs during a Wednesday night game, or handling irrationally angry parents because the youth LEADERS TP'd the wrong person's house.  In fact I remember sitting around a table at a Mexican restaurant in southern California with my youth pastor and some friends listening to stories about mission trips gone awry:  Mexican hookers offering services to students for "5 dolla," mercy-killing scaby, dying dogs in Tijuana by smashing them under rocks, you know, stuff of legend.  We all leaned back in our chair and guffawed as we listened and imagined it.

Maybe one day I will guffaw about last Thursday night.

I don't know where we went wrong - we crammed 13 girls into our dining room and gave everyone a steak knife...


We were 20 minutes into the pumpkin-carving-party when we witnessed "the incident."

One of our girls, Shannon, is...competitive. (See also aggressive and cut-throat.)  She's the salutatorian of her class, and a varsity cheerleader as a freshman.  She does gymnastics, plays softball, and is super-involved in a hundred other things.  Shannon wins dodgeball almost every time we play; last time she had just come from getting her nails done (she was nominated to represent her class on homecoming court).   Her drive and beast-ness has earned her the nickname "Shan-Man."

Well Shannon was showing a pumpkin who was boss.  Everyone else was all, "How do I get out the seeds?  My pumpkin is gross.  This is too hard."  And Shannon was all, "Let me show you how it's done." Her pumpkin was hollowed out before anyone else finished cutting off the lids.

Then it happened.

"Um, I don't think I need to use the knife anymore..."


(in unison) "ouuuUUUAAAHH! OH MY GOSH!!!"

Blood on the floor, blood in the pumpkin, blood on her clothes, my wall, the curtains.

We ushered Shannon into the kitchen and rinsed out the laceration across her ring and pinky fingers.  Judging solely by Shannon's physiological response (the mascara streaming down her face, the shaking, the sweating, the hyperventilating), I was SURE we were going to the hospital to reattach some digits.

So  - can you picture it?  Shannon is laying on the floor of my kitchen, moaning, with a cool towel across her forehead and her hand stuck up in the air, wrapped tightly in a bloody kitchen towel. (Even this could not keep her from texting her boyfriend - with her tongue.) Leaders are calling her mom, fanning her face, and pouring apple juice down her throat, and telling her to find her "happy place."   Then all the middle schoolers, like lemmings  with acne and pumpkin guts on their hands, drop their knives and storm the kitchen with their cell phones, to catch some of the action.  At which point my leader-friend Christina stands up and announces - "EVERYBODY SIT.  I'M STAYING RIGHT HERE AND CARVING MY PUMPKIN AND SO. ARE. YOU."


Well, this night is going well.  Welcome to Girls Night, visitors!  The Halloween version! Complete with blood and guts and gore!  And an adrenaline surge to rival that of the most horrific haunted house.  We're SO glad you're here, won't you join us next week?  We'll be sacrificing chickens and setting my house on fire.  The group that slays together stays together.

After three solid minutes of pressure on the wound, lots of ice, peroxide, gauze, tape, and the maximum dosage of Aleve (and a Hello Kitty band-aid), Shannon stopped shaking/sweating.

She got up off the floor, walked into the dining room AND FINISHED CARVING HER PUMPKIN.  Atta girl, Shan-Man.

The lack of ambulance action gave me room to hope that there may not be any lawsuit action, so I poured myself another mug of apple cider and returned to my pumpkin.

They turned out well, don't you think?

Maybe next time we'll just have a prayer meeting.

(It should be said that we had 4 very capable leaders present, and Shannon is a 0-60 type of person who freaked just a smidge at the sight of her own blood.  Once her finger was cleaned up, we were able to see that it was OKAY.  She performed in the pep rally the next day without incident.  If her whole hand is necrotic when I see her Sunday, I'll be sure to hire a lawyer.)