Pumpkin Eater, nonfiction by Kaci Skiles Laws at Spillwords.com
Karolina Grabowska

Pumpkin Eater

Pumpkin Eater

written by: Kaci Skiles Laws


My first Halloween alone, I am certain I might die. I’ve heard of people sacrificing small animals on altars, black cats are to be kept inside the whole month of October and days after to be safe; animal shelters refuse to adopt them out this time of year. Through windows I see their eyes watching, knowing they may not be spared of legends.

This year, I am watching Hocus Pocus and carving a pumpkin, grabbing out seeds and guts while my husband, Bryant, works nights. Our dog, Iris, is six months old, chewing on the stem of our pumpkin as I scrape its insides clean. My skin is itchy with welts, a reaction I don’t understand. Who is allergic to pumpkins of all things? Short answer: The same girl who is certain she will die on Halloween.

I get grand ideas for a face then remember what it’s like trying to draw on a gourd. This year isn’t any different. Triangle eyes. Smaller triangle nose. Mouth with jagged teeth looking more clownish than sinister. Everything is prettier when it glows and, in the darkness, even my stray marks can be a secret.

Our cabin is discreet, tucked thirty minutes outside of town, off a notorious highway that eats small animals, sometimes people, past the cemetery with the glowing tombstone. There are horror stories in the hills east of here, less than ten miles, the killing table under the shade of trees. Gypsies and meth heads roam the creeks and junkyards. Coyotes hunt calves and small prey. I can hear them howling at night, hungry.

Our driveway is long and full of petrified clams. Though the property is gated, there is no way to keep anything that wants in out. Two horses, a mare and a gilding, Sugar and Little Man, live with us; they are the landlords owned by the landlord. Our deal is we exchange cheap rent for being their caretakers. At dusk I feed them their usual oats; Iris helps by sharing a bowl with Little Man. I hurry to get inside before dark.

At dark I am debating on whether or not I should leave the porch light on, not wanting anyone to think it is an open invitation. I don’t know what sort of trick-or-treaters it might attract. I leave it off, and draw the burgundy curtains across the double doors. I go back to my pumpkin as The Sanderson Sisters sing, “…now you’re mine…” Iris goes back to her stem.

Around nine my pumpkin is on the porch glowing, gutted and goofy, full of tea lights, waiting to greet Bryant. I take a bubble bath, like the protagonist does in every horror movie, and light a spicy candle. Iris sleeps next to the claw footed tub. I hear a noise like shuffling. The wind. I hear it again as a new thought creeps in. Afraid there might be a fire, I jump up, dripping water along the carpeted floors to the double doors and peek out. There is fire.

Still inside the pumpkin the flames dance playfully and my pumpkin looks right at me. I move away and let the curtains fall where my face has been. “The wind can’t do that!” I explain to Bryant on the phone. “Call the cops?” I ask for clarification in disbelief as if he’s daring me. “You don’t believe me,” I accuse.

“Do you see anyone?” He asks, and I look out again fully clothed this time. I don’t see anyone, just my pumpkin. It has moved again and the top is gone now. It’s like Dr. Seuss’ book, Wacky Wednesday, two more things are wacky. “Someone is definitely messing with me!”

I flip the porch light on hoping to deter the prankster. Killer. “Probably just kids.” Bryant reassures me. I remember the shotgun but don’t feel much better. I keep checking and rechecking. I sit on the bed listening while Iris never bats an ear. My theory is she is still too young; really, she is just used to familiar noises.

I hear the noise again, shuffling. With the phone pressing into my cheek I can see the intruder clearly as it takes a big bite out of my pumpkin and stands there chewing. The accomplice comes from the darkness and into the light. Gangly and curious the landlords stand, Sugar and Little Man, devouring what is left of Halloween.

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