This is the second half of a two-part story. If you missed Part I, you can check it out here.
“Pumpkinder” – Part II
Kirby slammed the front door and ran straight to his room closing the door behind him. His heart pounded from a cocktail of guilty conscience and fear. He had never stolen anything before. He resented the adrenaline waterfall that overtook him, but he couldn’t stop thinking about that giant pumpkin. He didn’t know why, but that was something he never wanted to go near again.
There was a tap tap tap from the bedroom door. Kirby jumped, looked at his backpack laying on the floor next to his bed, the zipper open just a couple of inches. The door swung opened.
“Hey, son. Thought I heard you come in. Where’s your brother?” said Mom.
“Oh he was right behind me. I’m sure he’ll be here soon,” though Kirby would be just as happy if he didn’t. He was unhappy with his brother for making him go through with pumpkin pilferage.
“Alright. But I wish you two would stick together walking home. It’s a crazy world out there.”
Kirby rolled his eyes.
“I know, I know, I know,” Mom backstepped. “Hey did you get those pumpkins?” she asked. She looked down at the floor and spotted the backpack, full and lumpy, orange-yellow skin visible through the slit in the zipper. She reached down to grab it.
“Mom, wait,” Kirby pled.
“What?” mom said with look of shock at Kirby’s reaction.
“Nothing. They’re all there.” Kirby slouched.
“Thank you, Kirbs. I knew your brother might forget again, but I was guessing you would come through for me.”
“You’re welcome.” Kirby said. A captive confession pounded against the inside wall of his chest begging to get out.
“Are you feeling okay?” mom sensed something peculiar.
“Just tired. I’m going to go to sleep I think.”
“Alright, well rest up. Big day tomorrow. All Hallow’s Eve. I love you, son.” She backed out of the room with four pumpkins balanced in crossed arms and shut the door awkwardly with her elbow.
Without changing his clothes, Kirby slumped onto the bed. His eyelids sunk like a ship’s anchor in the sea.
Kirby felt a fire burning in his mouth. He wondered what time it was, the house was dark and quiet. His gums burned and ached. The pain was growing, searing. He shouldn’t have gone to bed without flossing. The thought of an emergency dentist visit on Halloween day was dreadful, but preferable to this immutable pain. He pressured his gums with the top of his tongue in an attempt to quell the pain. The tooth was loose. That’s weird, it had been a long time since he had lost a baby tooth, but he remembered the process as gradual. He grasped the tooth between his thumb and index fingers and pulled. The tooth gave easily. He held it close to his face and saw only a pumpkin seed. His heart slammed like a kick drum. Was he losing his mind? As he was inspecting the tan tooth-seed, his gums began to burn, the fire spread across his entire mouth. He reached between his lips as another tooth gave way and fell to his bedspread. Then another. Then all at once his teethseeds began crumbling, crumbling too quickly for him to spit them out. The thumping, burning pain built and built until it exploded with a bang. With a pile of pumpkin seeds on his bedspread and a void in his mouth, Kirby whimpered. His head fell back to his pillow, the pain too much for his consciousness to bear.
“Happy Halloween, Kirb-stomp,” Cole said as he flew across the bedroom and flitted open the blinds to reveal the morning sun. Kirby’s eyes evaded the light. He stuffed his fingers through his lips and felt a full set of pearly-whites. “What are you doing?” Cole questioned, his face scrunched together in disgust and confusion.“Nothing. Nothing at all,” Kirby responded. The pain had been so tangible. Relief swept over him. he’d only lost his seeds in a dream.“Whatever, man. Get up. If we’re late for school we don’t get to trick-or-treat tonight. I’m not missing out on free loot because my little brother decided to sleep in.”
Kirby walked though the front door of his house after an uneventful and seed-free day of school. He told Cole he would go home to change into his costume and then meet back up with him for some trick-or-treating, but the combination of sleep-deprivation and guilt made him crave his covers early. Cole wouldn’t care. He usually wanted Kirby to leave him alone with his friends anyway. As Kirby passed the kitchen on his way to his bedroom, he noticed in his periphery a jack-o-lantern candle burning on the island counter. Mom must have been in a hurry when she and Dad left for their Halloween dinner party. It wasn’t like her to leave a candle burning in an empty house. Kirby blew out the candle. Next to the smoking jack-o-lantern laid a small meatloaf wrapped in aluminum foil with a scratched out note on a white napkin that read, “Heat at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Love you. – Mom.”
Kirby felt the hunger that grew in his stomach. He skipped the oven and went straight for the microwave. As he waited the one minute and thirty seconds for the gamma rays to blacken his meat-brick, he wandered over to the table. Man, mom really went all out in the breakfast nook. Plastic bats hung from the ceiling, construction paper ghosts littered an orange table-cloth, pumpkins and gourds formed a wide centerpiece that occupied almost most of the table, and one small pumpkin pie teetered near the table’s edge. Kirby’s favorite. Guilt washed over him anew.
Beside the pie laid a piece of parchment paper, rolled up and tied with an orange and black bow. Kirby slipped the bow off the scroll and unraveled the note. In elegant cursive, it read:
“To Kirby and Cole,
In return for yesterday’s pumpkins. Your just desserts. A mother never forgets her children.”
Surely mom knew that he had stolen the pumpkins. She was punishing his conscience, or worse, he had fooled her altogether. Exhausted and guilty, he left the meatloaf spinning in the microwave, and fell headfirst into bed.
Kirby opened his eyes to a bright orange light that flickered through the crack beneath the door. He heard thuds and knocks from the front of the house. “Cole?” he yelled out. No answer. He opened the bedroom door and slowly meandered through the hallway lined with lit jack-o-lanterns on either side, each with a carved face: different version of anger, menace, or melancholy. He followed the audible bangs and thuds into the living room. In the center of the carpet, with his back to Kirby, Cole sat cross-legged, hoveled over, snarling like a wildebeest.
“Cole?” Kirby said, his voice unintentionally soft as a whisper.
Cole stopped moving. He turned toward Kirby, his movement sluggish but intentional.
“You took all the credit, so I took all the pie.” Cole waved a fork at Kirby in accusation. An empty pie-pan laid on the carpet between his legs. He held the pan up to his face and licked away the crumbs with urgency.
Kirby looked around the room. He noticed for the first time the pumpkins that surrounded them. There were hundreds. Each was a different size; some carved, some un-carved. This couldn’t have been Mom. No, this was too much. Kirby began to put the pieces together in his mind.
“Cole. We’ve got to get you to a hospital. Something’s wrong.” Kirby stretched his hand out to his brother and turned toward the door. Pumpkins blocked the exits, windows and doors. No way out.
“You’re just mad because you didn’t get any pie.” Cole taunted.
“Cole,” said Kirby as he inched toward his brother. “I’m not mad about the pie, but it wasn’t Mom’s.”
“Whatever. You’re just trying to scare me. Then whose was it?” Cole asked.
“There was a big pumpkin at that house yesterday, bigger than all the rest, and I know it sounds crazy, but I think we took its chil…”
Before Kirby could finish his thought, Cole’s face began to swell. His smug expression softened into fearful realization.
“Kirby?” Cole said.
His hollow eyes connected with Kirby’s one last time then lifted their aim to the ceiling as Cole collapsed to the carpet. His body convulsed, writhing between an empty pie pan on his left and a silver fork still gripped tightly in his right hand.
“Cole? Cole? Wake up. Please, Cole.” Kirby held his brother tight. He looked around the room. The hallway behind him was now full of lit jack-o-lanterns. Not an inch of floor laid uncovered. He looked once more toward the front door. The pumpkins rested closer than before. He tightened his grasp and buried his head in his brothers arms as the pumpkinder closed in.
Outside, two 5th graders wandered by Cole and Kirby’s house, pillow-cases half-full of candy, ghoulish masks pulled half-off onto the tops of their heads. “What about this house?”
“Nah, the light’s not on and the blinds are drawn.”
“Yeah, but they’re obviously home. You can see they’ve got candles lit just by looking at their curtains.”
“It’s up to you if you want to chance it. I’m not going up there. There’s something creepy about the way they decorated, and I don’t mean in a good way.”
The two boys leered at the front porch, the house void of decoration save for one portly orange-and-yellow jack-o-lantern directly blocking the door, its blemished face carved to resemble the tragic mask of Greek theater. The light inside the large pumpkin fluttered faintly, tepid and listless. Against the quiet of the night they heard a faint howl, a grieving moan. They stared, hypnotized by the faint candlelight. The two boys traded glances, shook their heads in consensus, and retreated down the street.
Thanks for reading. If this story brought a thought to your mind, leave a comment and let’s discuss! If you missed it, read Part I here and check back next Monday for more Weekly One-Pagers.