""Beneath the pressure of torments such as these, the feeble remnant of the good within me succumbed. Evil thoughts became my sole intimates-the darkest and most evil of thoughts.""
-Edgar Allan Poe, The Black Cat

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Perfect Pumpkin

By T.K. Millin

With Halloween being a week away I knew I had little time to find the perfect pumpkin to gut and carve for the scariest jack o’ lantern contest at work. This year that prize money was going to be mine, no matter what.

Having lost the last three years’ contest I decided I needed to find a new place to buy my pumpkin. It seemed over the years finding one that wasn’t bruised, crooked or puny in the grocery store had become more and more difficult.

I knew in order to find the perfect one it would have to be locally grown, so over the upcoming week-end I planned on going to the Farmer’s Market in town to pick out the cream of the crop.
My alarm clock announced the rising sun sooner than I expected, but wanting to beat the early morning crowd, I jumped out of bed and threw on a pair of worn jeans and t-shirt. 

The lawn was glistening with droplets of dew and the air had turned cool and crisp overnight. I traipsed across the slippery grass praying my heap would crank up.

“Come on damn it!” I pressed on the gas and turned the key again.

A tap on my window startled me. My neighbor was sipping on a steaming mug and motioning for me to roll the window down.

“What do you want Mr. Turner? I have somewhere I really need to be.”

“It looks to me, Mary, as if you’re not going to get somewhere very fast.”
I turned the key and the engine cranked. “Yes!”  Then it sputtered, backfired and died. “Shit!”

“I came over to see if you needed help.” He placed his mug on the roof and said, “Pop the hood.”

“Thanks, I really am in a hurry.” 
By the time he got my piece of junk started, two hours had passed. I panicked the whole way toward town at the thought of being pulled over for speeding and, worst, only finding pumpkins left that no one wanted.

The parking lot was packed, but I managed to fine one lone spot in the front hidden by a large truck. Following the pumpkins, gourds, and more signs I weaved my way through the crowd, passing table after table of antique tools, holiday crafts, and fresh farm eggs. Finally I spotted a table with a display of apples and gourds.

“Do you have any pumpkins?” 

The elderly man who looked as though he rode into town with his sidekick, Tonto, simply shook his head.

“Please you have to help me. You see, there’s this contest, and well I have to win, and well I don’t want to go to the grocer for a pumpkin, and well that’s why I’m here.”

He sat expressionless, shaking his head.  Suddenly, a man’s voice from behind said something foreign. I spun around and my heart stopped.   

“Sorry, my grandfather doesn’t speak English. How can I help you, Mrs.?” The tall dark hunk said.

Damn it, I wish I had taken time to at least put a smidge of lipstick on. 

“It’s Miss . . . Mary.”

“Hello Miss Mary, I’m KoKo. How can I help you?”

“That’s an interesting name.”

“It’s Blackfoot, means night.”

I smiled at the elderly man. “I was just explaining to your grandfather that I’m desperate.”

KoKo raised his lush brows.

“For the perfect pumpkin.” After an awkward moment of silence I added, “It’s for a contest.”

“I’m sorry but we sold out.”

“Oh KoKo please, can’t you help me? Time is running out.”

He paused and then nodded. "Follow me.”
“KoKo may be the most gorgeous man I’ve ever laid eyes on, but I think he may be a little off his rocker.” I thought as I placed the satchel and pumpkin seed in the freshly dug hole.  

I walked back to the house and poured a stiff scotch and sat by the fire. Who ever heard of planting this late in October and expecting to have a full grown pumpkin in a week? But, then again, he is an Indian and he said the seed came from fertile ground.

Every night for the following week I went out into the garden after work and watered my pumpkin seed, waiting for some sign of life, and every night panic would consume my every thought.

The night before the contest I again headed out to the garden, eager to see what I would find. “Damn that son of bitch! I bought that stupid Indian hocus pocus with the last of my week's allowance.” 

I sat by the fire and poured another glass of scotch, wondering what I was going to do. All week long I bragged about how mine was going to be the scariest face. I slammed my drink and poured another when, suddenly, I realized I forgot to make a wish like KoKo told me to when I placed the seed in the ground.

I shoved on my garden boots, grabbed a flashlight and trotted out into the garden. Perhaps there’s still time! I bent down and grabbed a handful of dirt, made my wish and gently blew the dirt back to the ground. “That should do it.”

I wasted no time falling asleep, because if I wanted to win the contest I’d have to rise early to get carving. Something woke me before the alarm and I rolled over to check the time. “Oh my head. I shouldn’t have had that last scotch.” The glowing green numbers said 6:05. “Damn!”

I flew out of bed, ran to the bathroom and switched on the light. I screamed in horror when the only thing I recognized were my eyes peering out from behind the most perfect pumpkin I had ever seen. 

Shit, why did I wish for the most perfect pumpkin head?   

Deciding not to waste a good thing, I walked into the kitchen, picked up a carving knife and began to gut and carve my perfect pumpkin. 

Word Count: 999 

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