Screams halloween contest prompt pumpkin patch about 1000 words
|Gravel growled and dust clouds puffed behind the Volvo as it braked to a stop in front of the dilapidated farm house. A door clicked open, a shoe crunched gravel, and the car twitched as the door slammed shut. A handsome man in his forties took a comb out of his blazer and tidied his long black hair. A black velvet patch covered one eye. The socket was empty. He could have had a glass one, but...One deep blue eye gazed at the sagging steps leading up to the flaked paint porch and memories seeped up through three decades.
His great-grandmother was over eighty. All bent over, she was barely taller than the chair in her kitchen which was always filled with the scent of herbs. The family had been farmers. As the nearby city grew, they had sold their farm, except for the small plot containing the house, to developers. The house at the edge of town was a relic out of place in style and time.
She had had a small garden where she grew her herbs and pumpkins. The seeds she had brought from Sicily when her family had emigrated here.
Grandma Zeppa waved. “Come here, Alberto. Let’s choose a pumpkin for a stew.”
He stood up from studying a beetle and rushed over to the pumpkin patch. Her pumpkins were small and dark green, so dark they were almost black. Pointing to the biggest one, he said “This one looks good, Grandma.”
“I think you chose the best one. Here, take these scissors.”
The boy went down on his knees with the scissors.
“Wait. I have to say the words.” She closed her eyes, lifted her head, and spoke in an old language. “It’s done. Cut and take it to the kitchen.”
“Grandma why do you talk to the pumpkins?”
“To be kind to them. If I don’t, they won’t be kind to us. I talk to them everyday. That’s why they grow delicious.”
He nodded, for it made sense to him.
Grandma Zeppa stirred the small pot of chopped pumpkin gently. “Alberto, how is school?”
Her great-grandson shrugged. “It’s okay.”
“What’s your favorite class?”
“Um, maybe art class. I really like Ms. Wikup.”
Grandma Zeppa poked a piece of pumpkin. She had sliced off most of the rind, so streaks of green laced the orange. “The stew is ready. Would you like some.”
“Yeah, I love your pumpkins.”
Grandma Zeppo kissed his head. “You’re a good boy.”
Alberto smiled. “Does my hair taste good, Grandma?”
Chuckling, she answered, “Yes, I could eat you for supper.”
“I’m too skinny. You should eat my sister. She’s chubby. I think she’d taste better than me.”
Laughing, she urged. “Then, eat more. Here, eat.”
The man smiled bitterly at the memory.
Memories skipped half a decade.
His parents and sister were with him to visit Grandma Zeppa. He found the smell of hospitals unpleasant and put a sleeve over his mouth and nose.
His mother said, “Don’t be rude, Al. Put your hand down.”
They entered the room. Grandma Zeppo instantly gestured for them to come to her bed as if she had known they would be coming at that moment. His mother, her only child, sat down at the lone chair. “Mariya, who’s living at our house?”
“No one, Mama. It’s been empty since you came here.”
“How long have I been here?”
“A few nights. You..”
“Listen. You know where I keep the pumpkin seeds.” As my mother nodded, she continued, “Chop them up and burn them.”
Mom paused. “Don’t worry Mama. We’ll go over to the house, tidy things up, and destroy the seeds.”
She died that night.
Two weeks later they went to the house.
The boy found a small brown paper bag filled with seeds. “Mom, what do I do with the seeds?”
“Put them in with the other trash.”
But, he didn’t put all of them there.
Flash forward to Halloween a year ago.
His wife, Alice, brushed away her wavy brown hair with the back of her hand. “I’m glad this taffy turned out so well, Al. The pumpkins from your seeds added to the taffy make a great treat. We should give it a name.”
Al popped one into his mouth “How about Chewy Louie?”
She grinned, “Not bad. Or, Bumpkin Pumpkin?” She laughed when saliva dripped out as he tried to say something.
That night they had handed out all the taffy wrapped in orange wax paper to the kids trick or treating including their only son, Adam.
Strange things began to happen a few days later.
Marbles became the hottest item among the children of the neighborhood and only the glass cat eyes. Other children felt nothing for marbles. The first week they played the usual games kids play with marbles, but from the second week they just kept rolling them in their fingers and scrutinizing them from every angle. On the thirteenth night everything changed.
It started with a tingling in his fingers and a dryness in his mouth. He felt sweat soak his pajamas, the eeriness of hundreds of fingers probing under the pillows of dozens of homes, the freaky gripping of screwdrivers, knives, and icepicks. He felt the chill of a hundred feet stepping on a cold floor and the lurching of tiny bodies as they sought balance. He saw the sleeping forms of dozens of siblings and parents. His hand pressed down on the faces as the other arm glided toward the eyes.
He saw his son approach with an insane grin and evil eyes. The sour taste of fear filled his mind as he saw the knife in his son’s hand. His son forced his face to one side, slid the knife into his eye, and flicked it out. Pain exploded. Then, he heard the screams of his wife.
He blinked. He saw the farm house in front him, and a tear rolled down his face.
Grandma Zeppa had told him the pumpkins would grow bad unless she spoke the words. He had learnt the words. Words he had forgotten. He had never known their purpose. Now, he did. He wondered if the children would ever recover, as he stared vacantly with his one eye.