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halloween fiction

I don’t like this story so much anymore, I think it needs work. I wrote it a long time ago, I probably should have reworked it, but eh. Someone suggested I run it and who am I to turn down a suggestion?

GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS

When the first pumpkins rose up, small and more brown than orange, Mr. Engle ripped them from their vines and handed them out to the neighborhood children. They simply laughed and threw them in the streets, more gestures aimed at ridiculing him. They squished the gifted pumpkins with bicycle tires and baseball bats and skateboards and soon the heavy tires of Explorers and Navigators laden with snotty babies and soccer equipment rode over the remnants of the pumpkins, plastering the seeds and skin into the pavement where they became an All You Can Eat Buffet for seagulls and crows.

He had offered the pumpkins as a Welcome-Wagon gift in reverse, thinking that giving a piece of himself, his garden, his babies, to the neighborhood kids would finally make him welcome. He eyed the mess in the road and realized otherwise.

Mr. Engle stalked back into his house, saying nothing to the ungrateful children who stood around watching the birds peck at the pumpkin guts, muttering rude nicknames for him under their breath.

Soon, the bigger pumpkins arrived, shapely and large and a proper shade of orange. The parents of the ungrateful little slobs walked past the house during their power strides around the block and complimented Mr. Engle on how large, how orange his pumpkins were.

One evening Mrs. Vallone stopped mid gait and gawked at the monstrous pumpkins rising from the garden like fall moons.

“That is quite a lovely pumpkin patch you have there.”
“Mmhmm” Mr. Engle refused to engage in conversation with a woman who could raise such a beast as Stan Vallone.
“They would really make excellent carving pumpkins,” she said, in the form of a request phrased as a nonchalant sentence. Mr. Engle wasn’t stupid. He knew what she was getting at.
“Well, Mrs. Vallone, I already handed out pumpkins and your son saw fit to smash his in the street and ride his skateboard through the innards.”
“Oh come on, now. Mr. Engle. Those weren’t good pumpkins. They were runts.”
“The point is,” he said, ignoring her insult, “they were a gift from me and they smashed them right in front of me.”
“Oh, Jesusmaryjoseph, get over it. A gift.” She rolled her eyes.
Mr. Engle turned to her and said “Your son and his friends are snotty little prigs, Mrs. Vallone. And I can see the rotten apples do not fall far from the tree.”
Mrs. Vallone gasped a bit and as her mouth hung open, waiting for her brain to fire off the correct indignant verbiage, Mr. Engle stalked away into his sunroom, slamming the screen door behind him. The thin walls of the room shuddered and Mrs. Vallone stood by the pumpkin patch a moment before she stuck up her middle finger at the space where Mr. Engle berated her.

“You know what?” she said to nobody in particular. “Fuck him.” She bent down and pulled the largest, smoothest, orangest pumpkin off of its vine. She scanned the street and looked toward Mr. Engle’s sunroom to make sure no one had seen her and then she trotted down Williams Court, balancing the pumpkin on her hip like a weighty laundry basket, smug in her vindictiveness.

She had intended to carve the pumpkin, even gave thought to carving a likeness of Mr. Engle’s face into it, but the thing was so huge, so perfect that Mrs. Vallone, ever the happy homemaker, decided to bake a delicious pumpkin pie. No, no..not even a pumpkin pie. Pumpkin muffins, so all of Stan’s little friends could surreptitiously share in the bounty of Mr. Engle’s gardening skills.

As Mrs. Vallone was happily buzzing around her kitchen in her little checkered apron lining up the baking soda and flour and cinnamon and leveling off the brown sugar, Mr. Engle was standing in his garden in the very spot where a rather large and rather orange pumpkin once lay. He was befuddled, flummoxed and, after doing a sort of math theorem in his head having to do with pumpkins and Mrs. Vallone, enraged.

Mr. Engle was not the sort to let his rage get the better of him. He simmered and stewed and stroked his scraggly gray beard for an inordinate amount of time, standing right there in the garden, the sun slowly sinking, and it was not until the darkest of sunset shadows was cast over the shallow imprint of where his missing pumpkin once was that Mr. Engle did a slow walk back through his yard, into the sunroom and down, down, down the winding, splintered steps into his workshop.

“Best cupcakes EVER, mom!”
“Totally, Mrs. V. I don’t even like pumpkin and these taste amazing.”

Mrs. Vallone beamed a thousand watt smile across her kitchen at the boys.
“What’s your secret, Mrs. V?”
Should she tell them? Oh, how could she not?
“The secret, boys, is Mr. Engle.” She put her hand up nervously to her mouth like a dainty woman about to let loose a forbidden word. “I stole the pumpkin from him!” She nearly giggled.

The boys howled with laughter and lined up to smack a high-five into Mrs. V’s manicured hand.
“Way to go, mom.”
“Yea, way to give it back to that old creep, Mrs.V.”
“Fuck, yea,” said Mrs. V., and the boys nodded approvingly.

—-

Stan Vallone woke at 1am with a need, a desire to see Mr. Engle’s pumpkins. There was no rhyme nor reason to his need, it just was. He rose out of bed, slipped into his sweatshirt and headed down the stairs and out the door. Four minutes later, his mother, struck by the same sudden need, also walked out the door. In the street they met Kevin and Ryan and Brad and a couple of other kids, all with vapid smiles and dazed eyes. Kevin said, “Nice muffins, Mrs. V.,” and the others mumbled the same.

They walked like a troop of sleepwalkers, Mrs. Vallone their yawning, lumbering den mother, until they came to the corner of Williams and Forest, where Mr. Engle’s house and yard filled the expanse of the curve. They each, without knowing why or questioning their own motives, straddled over the wood post fence and tromped across the lawn toward the pumpkin patch. And one by one they filed right into the patch, each boy, and then Mrs. V., digging their heels into a spot in the ground, burrowing their feet in the damp soil.

As the minutes and hours wore on, they became a bizarre garden of flesh and bone, vines trailing up and around their legs, their skin becoming like vinyl, soft and lumpy and orange, their faces contorting until they disappeared completely, just rounded lines forming up and down around their heads. And all the while they could think and breathe and see and hear. They could not move, they could not scream, they could not escape the fate that Mr. Engle had set them on. They could only stand and witness what was happening to each other. They could only glance – while their eyes could still see – and see skin turning orange and legs entwining with leaves and feel the pain of transformation, a pain that Mr. Engle probably could have lessened but chose not to.

Mr. Engle stood silently in the sunroom, watching through the screen door. He waited while the moon moved through thin clouds, shedding odd light and shadows upon the planted humans. He waited while a light rain fell, while the clouds moved, while the moon waned, and he didn’t move from his perched place at the door until the last of Mrs. Vallone’s face was obscured by a thick skin of pumpkin flesh.

He pulled the boys from the patch first, so Mrs. Vallone could watch each boy being ripped from the ground and dragged into the house. He saved Stan for last and for a brief moment held him upright in front of the Mrs. V. pumpkin and then chided himself for gloating, for wasting valuable time. When the boys were all dragged down to the workroom, Mr. Engle came back for Mrs. V., and whispered to her in a sing-song fashion as he slid her across the lawn, into the sunroom and down, down, down the stairs.

“Do you like Halloween, Mrs. Vallone, do you?”
Clunk, her body went on the stairs
“It’s my favorite holiday.”
Clunk
“I love to decorate.”
Clunk
“Especially with pumpkins.”
Clunk
“Lovely, lovely pumpkins.”
Clunk
“You know what I like? Scarecrows with pumpkin heads! That’s just spooky, don’t you think, Mrs. Vallone?”
Clunk

Finally, Mrs. V. was heaved onto the pile of pumpkin boys, all the while screaming inside her head, Nononononononononooooooooo, but unheard by anyone but herself.

—–

“Don’t you just love Halloween, Mr. Roberts?” Mr. Engle was standing on his porch, talking to the postman.
“I do, Mr. Engle. I love the weather, the atmosphere. It’s a great time of year.”

He handed Mr. Engle a few bills and the latest copy of People. “And I just love those pumpkin heads on your scarecrows!” He looked over toward Mr. Engle’s garden, where a row of small scarecrows and one larger one hung on makeshift crosses, each with a pumpkin head, each head with a face carved into a frozen grimace of horror and pain. “That ought to scare the bejesus out of the obnoxious boys around here.”

“Oh, yes,” said Mr. Engle. “I’m sure.”

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halloween fiction

I don’t like this story so much anymore, I think it needs work. I wrote it a long time ago, I probably should have reworked it, but eh. Someone suggested I run it and who am I to turn down a suggestion?

GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS

When the first pumpkins rose up, small and more brown than orange, Mr. Engle ripped them from their vines and handed them out to the neighborhood children. They simply laughed and threw them in the streets, more gestures aimed at ridiculing him. They squished the gifted pumpkins with bicycle tires and baseball bats and skateboards and soon the heavy tires of Explorers and Navigators laden with snotty babies and soccer equipment rode over the remnants of the pumpkins, plastering the seeds and skin into the pavement where they became an All You Can Eat Buffet for seagulls and crows.

He had offered the pumpkins as a Welcome-Wagon gift in reverse, thinking that giving a piece of himself, his garden, his babies, to the neighborhood kids would finally make him welcome. He eyed the mess in the road and realized otherwise.

Mr. Engle stalked back into his house, saying nothing to the ungrateful children who stood around watching the birds peck at the pumpkin guts, muttering rude nicknames for him under their breath.

Soon, the bigger pumpkins arrived, shapely and large and a proper shade of orange. The parents of the ungrateful little slobs walked past the house during their power strides around the block and complimented Mr. Engle on how large, how orange his pumpkins were.

One evening Mrs. Vallone stopped mid gait and gawked at the monstrous pumpkins rising from the garden like fall moons.

“That is quite a lovely pumpkin patch you have there.”
“Mmhmm” Mr. Engle refused to engage in conversation with a woman who could raise such a beast as Stan Vallone.
“They would really make excellent carving pumpkins,” she said, in the form of a request phrased as a nonchalant sentence. Mr. Engle wasn’t stupid. He knew what she was getting at.
“Well, Mrs. Vallone, I already handed out pumpkins and your son saw fit to smash his in the street and ride his skateboard through the innards.”
“Oh come on, now. Mr. Engle. Those weren’t good pumpkins. They were runts.”
“The point is,” he said, ignoring her insult, “they were a gift from me and they smashed them right in front of me.”
“Oh, Jesusmaryjoseph, get over it. A gift.” She rolled her eyes.
Mr. Engle turned to her and said “Your son and his friends are snotty little prigs, Mrs. Vallone. And I can see the rotten apples do not fall far from the tree.”
Mrs. Vallone gasped a bit and as her mouth hung open, waiting for her brain to fire off the correct indignant verbiage, Mr. Engle stalked away into his sunroom, slamming the screen door behind him. The thin walls of the room shuddered and Mrs. Vallone stood by the pumpkin patch a moment before she stuck up her middle finger at the space where Mr. Engle berated her.

“You know what?” she said to nobody in particular. “Fuck him.” She bent down and pulled the largest, smoothest, orangest pumpkin off of its vine. She scanned the street and looked toward Mr. Engle’s sunroom to make sure no one had seen her and then she trotted down Williams Court, balancing the pumpkin on her hip like a weighty laundry basket, smug in her vindictiveness.

She had intended to carve the pumpkin, even gave thought to carving a likeness of Mr. Engle’s face into it, but the thing was so huge, so perfect that Mrs. Vallone, ever the happy homemaker, decided to bake a delicious pumpkin pie. No, no..not even a pumpkin pie. Pumpkin muffins, so all of Stan’s little friends could surreptitiously share in the bounty of Mr. Engle’s gardening skills.

As Mrs. Vallone was happily buzzing around her kitchen in her little checkered apron lining up the baking soda and flour and cinnamon and leveling off the brown sugar, Mr. Engle was standing in his garden in the very spot where a rather large and rather orange pumpkin once lay. He was befuddled, flummoxed and, after doing a sort of math theorem in his head having to do with pumpkins and Mrs. Vallone, enraged.

Mr. Engle was not the sort to let his rage get the better of him. He simmered and stewed and stroked his scraggly gray beard for an inordinate amount of time, standing right there in the garden, the sun slowly sinking, and it was not until the darkest of sunset shadows was cast over the shallow imprint of where his missing pumpkin once was that Mr. Engle did a slow walk back through his yard, into the sunroom and down, down, down the winding, splintered steps into his workshop.

“Best cupcakes EVER, mom!”
“Totally, Mrs. V. I don’t even like pumpkin and these taste amazing.”

Mrs. Vallone beamed a thousand watt smile across her kitchen at the boys.
“What’s your secret, Mrs. V?”
Should she tell them? Oh, how could she not?
“The secret, boys, is Mr. Engle.” She put her hand up nervously to her mouth like a dainty woman about to let loose a forbidden word. “I stole the pumpkin from him!” She nearly giggled.

The boys howled with laughter and lined up to smack a high-five into Mrs. V’s manicured hand.
“Way to go, mom.”
“Yea, way to give it back to that old creep, Mrs.V.”
“Fuck, yea,” said Mrs. V., and the boys nodded approvingly.

—-

Stan Vallone woke at 1am with a need, a desire to see Mr. Engle’s pumpkins. There was no rhyme nor reason to his need, it just was. He rose out of bed, slipped into his sweatshirt and headed down the stairs and out the door. Four minutes later, his mother, struck by the same sudden need, also walked out the door. In the street they met Kevin and Ryan and Brad and a couple of other kids, all with vapid smiles and dazed eyes. Kevin said, “Nice muffins, Mrs. V.,” and the others mumbled the same.

They walked like a troop of sleepwalkers, Mrs. Vallone their yawning, lumbering den mother, until they came to the corner of Williams and Forest, where Mr. Engle’s house and yard filled the expanse of the curve. They each, without knowing why or questioning their own motives, straddled over the wood post fence and tromped across the lawn toward the pumpkin patch. And one by one they filed right into the patch, each boy, and then Mrs. V., digging their heels into a spot in the ground, burrowing their feet in the damp soil.

As the minutes and hours wore on, they became a bizarre garden of flesh and bone, vines trailing up and around their legs, their skin becoming like vinyl, soft and lumpy and orange, their faces contorting until they disappeared completely, just rounded lines forming up and down around their heads. And all the while they could think and breathe and see and hear. They could not move, they could not scream, they could not escape the fate that Mr. Engle had set them on. They could only stand and witness what was happening to each other. They could only glance – while their eyes could still see – and see skin turning orange and legs entwining with leaves and feel the pain of transformation, a pain that Mr. Engle probably could have lessened but chose not to.

Mr. Engle stood silently in the sunroom, watching through the screen door. He waited while the moon moved through thin clouds, shedding odd light and shadows upon the planted humans. He waited while a light rain fell, while the clouds moved, while the moon waned, and he didn’t move from his perched place at the door until the last of Mrs. Vallone’s face was obscured by a thick skin of pumpkin flesh.

He pulled the boys from the patch first, so Mrs. Vallone could watch each boy being ripped from the ground and dragged into the house. He saved Stan for last and for a brief moment held him upright in front of the Mrs. V. pumpkin and then chided himself for gloating, for wasting valuable time. When the boys were all dragged down to the workroom, Mr. Engle came back for Mrs. V., and whispered to her in a sing-song fashion as he slid her across the lawn, into the sunroom and down, down, down the stairs.

“Do you like Halloween, Mrs. Vallone, do you?”
Clunk, her body went on the stairs
“It’s my favorite holiday.”
Clunk
“I love to decorate.”
Clunk
“Especially with pumpkins.”
Clunk
“Lovely, lovely pumpkins.”
Clunk
“You know what I like? Scarecrows with pumpkin heads! That’s just spooky, don’t you think, Mrs. Vallone?”
Clunk

Finally, Mrs. V. was heaved onto the pile of pumpkin boys, all the while screaming inside her head, Nononononononononooooooooo, but unheard by anyone but herself.

—–

“Don’t you just love Halloween, Mr. Roberts?” Mr. Engle was standing on his porch, talking to the postman.
“I do, Mr. Engle. I love the weather, the atmosphere. It’s a great time of year.”

He handed Mr. Engle a few bills and the latest copy of People. “And I just love those pumpkin heads on your scarecrows!” He looked over toward Mr. Engle’s garden, where a row of small scarecrows and one larger one hung on makeshift crosses, each with a pumpkin head, each head with a face carved into a frozen grimace of horror and pain. “That ought to scare the bejesus out of the obnoxious boys around here.”

“Oh, yes,” said Mr. Engle. “I’m sure.”

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and i feel fine

I started the daunting task of going through about 10,000 blog posts (no exaggeration) from the last seven plus years (this includes every blog I’ve ever written for). Among the rubble, I found this short story I started and never finished. Contemplating finishing it. Opinions, as always, encouraged.

And I Feel Fine

and i feel fine

The noise of my air conditioner going at full blast all evening drowned out the sounds of the world falling apart, so I was caught completely unaware this morning.

I suppose I didn’t feel the earth move or the house shake because I had gone to bed piss drunk and just a bit strung out on some Vicodin.

I should explain. I’m not always like that. I just had a bad day. Well, a bad week. My wife left me, my dog ran away, my latest art exhibit sold only one painting and, well, you’ve probably heard stories like mine before. Up until last week, my life was moving along rather smoothly. Monday came and suddenly the world had it in for me. It was a gang killing, I tell you. Tuesday stabbed me, Wednesday shot me, Thursday hog-tied me and made me watch Celine Dion videos.

And now, Friday. The world has gone to hell, it seems. My street is on fire and I think the old Brown house imploded. Trees have sunk into the ground, cars are spinning in mid-air and the children – my GOD, the children – they are like roving gangs of attack dogs, stalking up and down the street, seemingly oblivious to the flames and whatnot. Whatever happened overnight while I was in my pity-me stupor has given the neighborhood children an evil dose of rabies.

My first thought is to turn on the television to see what the hell is going on, but I guess when your town is aflame and the sidewalks have buckled, the cable will go kaput. Same for the internet. Which is a moot point, as my computer has slid off the desk and onto the floor in a heap of plastic shards and wires. The F4 key shot straight across the room, into the eye socket of my poseable Spider-Man and he appears to be winking a hint to “save as” before it all goes to hell. Too late, Spidey. I step on B, curse a little and that’s when I hear the pounding at the front door.

It’s the kids. They look feral and hungry and, well, scary. I’m a grown man. A grown man with a hangover and the dulling effects of Vicodin still lingering in his brain, but a man nonetheless. I will not let some children, rabid or otherwise, make me afraid in my own home. Right. I stamp my foot down for good measure. No one is there to see my indignation except me and the fruit flies that have gathered over my kitchen sink. It’s like a convention over there and I forget the deranged children for a moment as I imagine a fruit fly convention, complete with entertainment and little name tags and a registration desk. What kind of lectures to they have? Will they be dining on my rotten bananas at the lunch lecture? Is babysitting available?

(Now, don’t think I’ve lost my mind. No, I’ve always had thoughts like this. My brain is somewhat…scattered. Easily distracted. And I’m probably still drunk at this point)

The pounding at the door starts up again. The kids are still there and I think one of them is gnawing at the doorhandle. I decide to be brave.

“What? What do you want?”
“Gunh. Ugnhur. Gnnnarrrr!”
“Come again?”
“GUNHHHHHHURRG!”

Ok, so they’ve lost their ability to speak. This is wonderful. Grunting, rabid children who appear to be very hungry and not at all unlikely to eat a fellow human. I slide the deadbolt closed, realizing how futile it is. It does give me a brief moment of feeling like I’ve done something to protect myself, though. I take what I can get.

“Mr. Grant! Mr. Grant!”
Oh, lord. It’s Mrs. Beasley, that bat who lives next door to the Browns (who, apparently, no longer live anywhere) and who has an unnerving habit of putting a Mr. in front of my first name. I hear her voice above the cacophony of grunts and groans and fire and crumbling buildings. Her voice is that shrill, that high all the time, though in this instant it’s tinged with a bit of panic. I look out the small window in my door and I see Mrs. Beasley standing on my walkway, holding this morning’s paper and looking for all the world like the universe is not imploding around her.

“Mr. Grant, my Sasha peed on your newspaper!” Sasha being her little fucker of a dog – some small, yapping, obnoxious white piece of fluff that’s supposed to be descended directly from royal dog blood or some shit like that. Mrs. Beasley does not seem to be aware that the Grimwald boy is tearing at her house dress, teeth bared and eyes blazing. This annoys me more than alarms me. I expect that if I’m going to go into full panic mode about a situation that everyone will panic right along with me. It’s like going to the doctor, alarmed that you’ve developed a strange growth on your back and the doctor, instead of looking as alarmed as you did upon discovering the growth, seems to think it’s all a run of the mill annoyance. It’s infuriating. Hello? Panic? Alarm? Are you with me or not? Because if you’re not going to settle into my mode of hysteria, then I’m going to label you an immediate enemy.

So now I’m staring at Mrs. Beasley like she’s the spawn of Satan himself.

“Open the door, Grant. I know you’re home!” She’s staggering up the walk – staggering because she’s dragging the Grimwald boy behind her and he’s gnawing on her baggy-stockinged leg, spitting out pieces of hosiery as he tries to get to the meat. “I just want to pay you for the newspaper and apologize for Sasha’s incontinence.” The last syllable of incontinence goes up a notch in pitch and Mrs. Beasley disappears from my view. Alarmed, I slide open the deadbolt and open the door just a crack. That’s enough to see that the Grimwald boy has pulled Mrs. Beasley to the ground and is about to latch onto her face with his mouthful of baby teeth. I contemplate this for a minute, wondering why he would go for her gaunt face which is nothing more than wrinkles held together by a slab of foundation. Why not the midsection, or leg, somewhere meaty where a growing boy could get some nutrition? This gives me an idea for a drawing, but the idea is lost when my reverie is broken by a high pitched wail. It’s coming from the boy, not Mrs. Beasely. I fling the door open, forsaking my own safety (sorry, I feel the need to point that out, because I look like an ass up until now). Sasha is dragging the kid off of Mrs. Beasley, her teeth firmly set into the boy’s arm. There’s blood, there’s screaming, there’s growling and there’s Mrs. Beasley looking like she just woke up from a ten year coma and is surprised to find out that gas is four dollars a gallon. She looks around at the boy, her dog, the crumbling houses and spinning cars and asks “Did something happen here, Mr. Grant?”

“Something. Yes.”

She pulls Sasha off the boy and kisses her nose.

“It would be polite to ask me in, Grant.”

“Would you like to come in, Mrs. Beasley?” She smiles at me. You know how sometimes you will glance at an old lady, like your grandmother, or your aunt – the one who smells like death – and you see something in them, just a small, brief glimmer, that makes you think they must have once been beautiful young women? Yea, not so much with Mrs. Beasley. Something in her smile makes me think she was an ugly, sour kid, the kind who was destined to become a lonely old lady walking her incontinent dog in her bathrobe every morning.

I clear the couch of plaster that has been raining down from the ceiling and offer Mrs. Beasley a seat. Sasha is dripping blood out of her mouth, and I think she peed on my rug, but the resale value of this house has gone to shit in the past few hours anyhow.

Another high pitched squeal from outside, not as feral as the boy’s. Before I can figure out the source of the scream, the front door flies open and there’s Terri, the neurotic high school kid from next door. She’s babbling about vampires, aliens, robots, the rapture, nuclear war and something about never getting on Facebook again. She’s freaking out at a million miles an hour and I let her go until her freak engine has run itself out. She collapses on the floor and curls up into a little ball of Armageddon sorrow. Sasha runs over to her, licks her face a few time and then pees on the girl’s leg.

“Mr. Grant?” Mrs. Beasely stands up, smooths out her housedress. “Do you think you could take me dancing at the Copacabana tonight?”

I take stock of the situation. Outside: end of the world, feral, flesh eating children. Inside: An old lady with sudden onset dementia, a teenage girl with OCD and Sasha the Incontinent Wonder Pup. I have all the makings of a failed sitcom.

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fiction: the cat came back

More Halloween themed short fiction that no one will read 🙂

Twice he brought mice. Bloody, ragged stumps of rodent left on the doorstep.

“Good kitty, Bradford,” Oswald said, because he knew that the cat was only offering him a gift. How was a cat to know that humans don’t think half-eaten, blood-caked rats make good presents? It’s something the cat was doing most every day and, although Oswald was sickened by it, he didn’t want to make the cat feel bad, so he never chastised him for it.

Last week, there were several birds, a baby squirrel and a beautiful blue jay torn to shreds by angry claws. Oswald’s front stoop was littered with feathers and smears of jay innards.

The duck was probably the worst. Oswald found the poor thing splayed out on the doormat, bleeding into the flowered letters on the welcome mat, feathers everywhere. It was days before he could get the gut stains out of the W and the E.

Perhaps the worst was the rabbit, its body ripped open, entrails hanging, so fresh that the rabbit was still warm, so mutilated that Oswald threw up right into the gaping hole that was once the bunny’s abdomen.

After the rabbit incident, Oswald tried to tell Bradford that he didn’t want these presents. But Bradford, being a cat, couldn’t understand that. Oswald began to scold him and spray him with water every time the decrepit corpse of an animal was deposited on the doorstep – which was now a daily occurrence, but Bradford would just look at him like “What? What did I do wrong??” and Oswald realized the futility in teaching this cat how not to drag his bloodied prizes home.

The morning when Oswald opened the front door to retrieve the paper and found only the neighbor’s racing pigeon, headless and pried open, he had enough. Tired of cleaning up blood and burying his “gifts,” Oswald took Bradford to the woods and left him there. He consoled his conscience with the fact that his precious kitty must be a wild, feral cat by nature and he would be better off running free through the woods where he could pounce on owls and sparrows and woodchucks to his heart’s delight.

The next morning when Oswald opened his front door to find only the newspaper and no blood or guts or stinking animals with intestines hanging out, he felt better about his decision.

It wasn’t until the following morning, when Oswald cautiously opened the door and found Bradford’s bloody, bodiless head on his doormat, eyes fixated in horror, flies milling around its ears, that he knew he had bigger problems than a killer cat.

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a halloween short story

Some fiction for the holiday.

GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS

When the first pumpkins rose up, small and more brown than orange, Mr. Engle ripped them from their vines and handed them out to the neighborhood children. They simply laughed and threw them in the streets, more gestures aimed at ridiculing him. They squished the gifted pumpkins with bicycle tires and baseball bats and skateboards and soon the heavy tires of Explorers and Navigators laden with snotty babies and soccer equipment rode over the remnants of the pumpkins, plastering the seeds and skin into the pavement where they became an All You Can Eat Buffet for seagulls and crows.

He had offered the pumpkins as a Welcome-Wagon gift in reverse, thinking that giving a piece of himself, his garden, his babies, to the neighborhood kids would finally make him welcome. He eyed the mess in the road and realized otherwise.

Mr. Engle stalked back into his house, saying nothing to the ungrateful children who stood around watching the birds peck at the pumpkin guts, muttering rude nicknames for him under their breath.

Soon, the bigger pumpkins arrived, shapely and large and a proper shade of orange. The parents of the ungrateful little slobs walked past the house during their power strides around the block and complimented Mr. Engle on how large, how orange his pumpkins were.

One evening Mrs. Vallone stopped mid gait and gawked at the monstrous pumpkins rising from the garden like fall moons.

“That is quite a lovely pumpkin patch you have there.”
“Mmhmm” Mr. Engle refused to engage in conversation with a woman who could raise such a beast as Stan Vallone.
“They would really make excellent carving pumpkins,” she said, in the form of a request phrased as a nonchalant sentence. Mr. Engle wasn’t stupid. He knew what she was getting at.
“Well, Mrs. Vallone, I already handed out pumpkins and your son saw fit to smash his in the street and ride his skateboard through the innards.”
“Oh come on, now. Mr. Engle. Those weren’t good pumpkins. They were runts.”
“The point is,” he said, ignoring her insult, “they were a gift from me and they smashed them right in front of me.”
“Oh, Jesusmaryjoseph, get over it. A gift.” She rolled her eyes.
Mr. Engle turned to her and said “Your son and his friends are snotty little prigs, Mrs. Vallone. And I can see the rotten apples do not fall far from the tree.”
Mrs. Vallone gasped a bit and as her mouth hung open, waiting for her brain to fire off the correct indignant verbiage, Mr. Engle stalked away into his sunroom, slamming the screen door behind him. The thin walls of the room shuddered and Mrs. Vallone stood by the pumpkin patch a moment before she stuck up her middle finger at the space where Mr. Engle berated her.

“You know what?” she said to nobody in particular. “Fuck him.” She bent down and pulled the largest, smoothest, orangest pumpkin off of its vine. She scanned the street and looked toward Mr. Engle’s sunroom to make sure no one had seen her and then she trotted down Williams Court, balancing the pumpkin on her hip like a weighty laundry basket, smug in her vindictiveness.

She had intended to carve the pumpkin, even gave thought to carving a likeness of Mr. Engle’s face into it, but the thing was so huge, so perfect that Mrs. Vallone, ever the happy homemaker, decided to bake a delicious pumpkin pie. No, no..not even a pumpkin pie. Pumpkin muffins, so all of Stan’s little friends could surreptitiously share in the bounty of Mr. Engle’s gardening skills.

As Mrs. Vallone was happily buzzing around her kitchen in her little checkered apron lining up the baking soda and flour and cinnamon and leveling off the brown sugar, Mr. Engle was standing in his garden in the very spot where a rather large and rather orange pumpkin once lay. He was befuddled, flummoxed and, after doing a sort of math theorem in his head having to do with pumpkins and Mrs. Vallone, enraged.

Mr. Engle was not the sort to let his rage get the better of him. He simmered and stewed and stroked his scraggly gray beard for an inordinate amount of time, standing right there in the garden, the sun slowly sinking, and it was not until the darkest of sunset shadows was cast over the shallow imprint of where his missing pumpkin once was that Mr. Engle did a slow walk back through his yard, into the sunroom and down, down, down the winding, splintered steps into his workshop.

“Best cupcakes EVER, mom!”
“Totally, Mrs. V. I don’t even like pumpkin and these taste amazing.”

Mrs. Vallone beamed a thousand watt smile across her kitchen at the boys.
“What’s your secret, Mrs. V?”
Should she tell them? Oh, how could she not?
“The secret, boys, is Mr. Engle.” She put her hand up nervously to her mouth like a dainty woman about to let loose a forbidden word. “I stole the pumpkin from him!” She nearly giggled.

The boys howled with laughter and lined up to smack a high-five into Mrs. V’s manicured hand.
“Way to go, mom.”
“Yea, way to give it back to that old creep, Mrs.V.”
“Fuck, yea,” said Mrs. V., and the boys nodded approvingly.

—-

Stan Vallone woke at 1am with a need, a desire to see Mr. Engle’s pumpkins. There was no rhyme nor reason to his need, it just was. He rose out of bed, slipped into his sweatshirt and headed down the stairs and out the door. Four minutes later, his mother, struck by the same sudden need, also walked out the door. In the street they met Kevin and Ryan and Brad and a couple of other kids, all with vapid smiles and dazed eyes. Kevin said, “Nice muffins, Mrs. V.,” and the others mumbled the same.

They walked like a troop of sleepwalkers, Mrs. Vallone their yawning, lumbering den mother, until they came to the corner of Williams and Forest, where Mr. Engle’s house and yard filled the expanse of the curve. They each, without knowing why or questioning their own motives, straddled over the wood post fence and tromped across the lawn toward the pumpkin patch. And one by one they filed right into the patch, each boy, and then Mrs. V., digging their heels into a spot in the ground, burrowing their feet in the damp soil.

As the minutes and hours wore on, they became a bizarre garden of flesh and bone, vines trailing up and around their legs, their skin becoming like vinyl, soft and lumpy and orange, their faces contorting until they disappeared completely, just rounded lines forming up and down around their heads. And all the while they could think and breathe and see and hear. They could not move, they could not scream, they could not escape the fate that Mr. Engle had set them on. They could only stand and witness what was happening to each other. They could only glance – while their eyes could still see – and see skin turning orange and legs entwining with leaves and feel the pain of transformation, a pain that Mr. Engle probably could have lessened but chose not to.

Mr. Engle stood silently in the sunroom, watching through the screen door. He waited while the moon moved through thin clouds, shedding odd light and shadows upon the planted humans. He waited while a light rain fell, while the clouds moved, while the moon waned, and he didn’t move from his perched place at the door until the last of Mrs. Vallone’s face was obscured by a thick skin of pumpkin flesh.

He pulled the boys from the patch first, so Mrs. Vallone could watch each boy being ripped from the ground and dragged into the house. He saved Stan for last and for a brief moment held him upright in front of the Mrs. V. pumpkin and then chided himself for gloating, for wasting valuable time. When the boys were all dragged down to the workroom, Mr. Engle came back for Mrs. V., and whispered to her in a sing-song fashion as he slid her across the lawn, into the sunroom and down, down, down the stairs.

“Do you like Halloween, Mrs. Vallone, do you?”
Clunk, her body went on the stairs
“It’s my favorite holiday.”
Clunk
“I love to decorate.”
Clunk
“Especially with pumpkins.”
Clunk
“Lovely, lovely pumpkins.”
Clunk
“You know what I like? Scarecrows with pumpkin heads! That’s just spooky, don’t you think, Mrs. Vallone?”
Clunk

Finally, Mrs. V. was heaved onto the pile of pumpkin boys, all the while screaming inside her head, Nononononononononooooooooo, but unheard by anyone but herself.

—–

“Don’t you just love Halloween, Mr. Roberts?” Mr. Engle was standing on his porch, talking to the postman.
“I do, Mr. Engle. I love the weather, the atmosphere. It’s a great time of year.”

He handed Mr. Engle a few bills and the latest copy of People. “And I just love those pumpkin heads on your scarecrows!” He looked over toward Mr. Engle’s garden, where a row of small scarecrows and one larger one hung on makeshift crosses, each with a pumpkin head, each head with a face carved into a frozen grimace of horror and pain. “That ought to scare the bejesus out of the obnoxious boys around here.”

“Oh, yes,” said Mr. Engle. “I’m sure.”

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