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Oct 10

Reap What You Sow

Pumpkins in a Garden by frenchtowner

Pumpkins in a Garden by frenchtowner

Brenda checked her watch for the seventeenth time since they arrived at the pumpkin patch.

“Good grief, this kid is taking forever,” she said into the mouthpiece of her cell phone. She watched Dallin pick up a perfectly good pumpkin, wrinkle his nose, and put it back down again as Cami offered her condolences on the other end of the line. Dallin shoved his hands into his pockets and walked back towards her, kicking a pebble on his way.

“Gotta go,” Brenda said. “I think he’s finally had enough of this.”

She snapped the cell phone shut, cutting off Cami’s quick good-bye.

“What do ya say, buddy? Do you want me to help you pick one out?” She eyed a round pumpkin sitting on the pile right next to them.

“No,” he said, his lip jutting in a pout. “I want to choose it myself.”

Brenda took a deep breath and began counting to ten in her mind. Suddenly, Dallin’s eyes lit up and he pushed past her towards the check-out line.

“I want that one,” he said, pointing to a pumpkin sitting next to the cash register.

Really? And it was different from the hundreds of others he had discarded how?

“Fine,” she said. At least he was done.

The old man sitting behind the counter finished ringing up the customer ahead of them. He wore a buck hide vest, his graying dark hair in two braids, and a headband with three feathers sticking up in the back. An Indian dressed up as an Indian. Couldn’t he have been more original?

“How much?” she asked, gesturing to the pumpkin.

“Not for sale,” he said. “Display only.”

She started to say, “Sorry, buddy,” but Dallin’s face was already red and pinched.

“But I want that onnnnnnnnneee,” he said in the pitch that he had perfected, the one that went straight to the nerve in the back of her neck and made her want to pluck her eyes out of her head.

She pulled out a twenty and waved it in front of the cashier. He folded his arms in front of himself. No? She pulled out another twenty, and then finally a third before he nodded. He rung her up, and Dallin took his treasure into his arms. As they left, Brenda looked back and saw the old man choose another pumpkin from a nearby pile to replace his precious display. Why, he was just shaking her down, that old bastard.

Back home, she helped Dallin carve his pumpkin, and then she roasted the seeds. She was wracking up so many mommy points, she’d be off the hook for a month, she thought. And the seeds turned out perfectly, too. Delicious. She let Dallin eat almost half of them before she shooed him away so she could finish the rest.

That night, she tucked him into bed, grateful the hellish day was finally over.

“Mama,” he said. “My tummy hurts.”

Oh, no, not that old ploy. Not tonight. Not after she had just spent hours with the little brat. She pasted on a smile and tried to speak soothingly.

“I’m sure it’s nothing, sweetheart. You just need some sleep, and you’ll be fine in the morning.

Thankfully, he simply nodded and turned towards the wall.

She sent Cami a quick text, telling her she was free at last. Finally, she could do something for herself. She changed into her flannel pajamas and crawled into bed with a good book.

Somewhere around the fifth chapter, she noticed her stomach started to hurt, too. Maybe the kid wasn’t faking this time. As if sensing her thoughts, Dallin appeared in her doorway.

“Mama, it hurts so bad,” he said, his little hand pressed against his tummy. He walked into her room and stopped in front of her bed. Oh, no, he’d better not vomit. She did not want that all over her bedspread.

He didn’t vomit. Instead, he dropped to the ground and began to shriek, a scream unlike any she had ever heard. She dropped her book and jumped out of bed, then knelt beside him.

“Baby, it’s OK. It’s going to be OK.” Appendix? It had to be his appendix. She saw her cell phone on the dresser and tried to get up to reach it, but he grabbed her hand and yanked her back down to him.

She noticed now that his stomach looked distended and was growing. It pushed against his pajama shirt, and then the buttons popped off to expose his purpling flesh. A small gash appeared under his belly button, then grew as a green tendril slithered from the open wound. She screamed and tried to back away from him, but his grip was like iron. A second tendril followed the first, and then a third. They seemed to be reaching for her.

Dallin merely moaned now, and Brenda had the surreal thought that he shouldn’t still be alive, that he’ll probably be gone any minute now. The tendrils waved in front of her, and now she saw black bulbs growing from the tips. One of them exploded, sending gray, sulfurous goo splattering in all directions. Several drops landed on Brenda, on her face and on her skin, and she shrieked as it burned into her flesh. The other bulbs exploded in rapid succession, and Brenda rolled away, Dallin’s grip finally relenting.

Brenda screamed again as the pain in her stomach eclipsed the burning of her flesh. She clutched her middle, knowing now what was in there, what was trying desperately to come out. Her efforts to contain it were useless. Her eyes blurred as she felt her own skin rip apart, felt the arms sliding out of her own body. Then at last, thankfully at last, she lost consciousness.

 

The old man sat at the kitchen table, a large stack of bills, tens, twenties, and fifties, in front of him. His wife smiled wryly as she watched him count.

“Good day today?” she asked.

His eyes crinkled as he smiled.

“Yup. Very good day.”

~ ~ ~

Today’s prompt is from The Midnight Society’s Top Scare Flash Fiction contest for October. This month’s benign noun is pumpkin patch. Now I just need to cut 300 words so it will be short enough to enter. :/

13 comments

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  1. progers39

    That was amazing! Great story!

    1. Shelli Proffitt Howells

      Thanks!

  2. lancequadras

    Whoa!!!
    What a way to weave a story.
    From funny to normal to scary and a gripping ending..
    Loved it.

    1. Shelli Proffitt Howells

      Thank you, Lance! I am glad that you enjoyed it. 🙂

  3. conniecockrell

    OMG! What a bad pumpkin seller.

    1. Shelli Proffitt Howells

      Haha, yes. He really shouldn’t be in that profession if he didn’t like kids!

  4. Eydie Stumpf

    I have questions. Was she Dallin’s real mother? She didn’t behave like she was. What were the condolences for – that she had to spend time with her kid?

    I suppose they both died.

    All I can say is, WOW!

    1. Shelli Proffitt Howells

      Eydie, that is a good question! Either she is one of those moms who really didn’t want to be a mom, or she is one of those evil step-mothers. And thank you!

  5. Louise Dragon

    Well executed!

    1. Shelli Proffitt Howells

      Thank you, Louise! Pun intended? 😉

  6. John Wiswell

    I thought they were being carved from the inside like jack o’lanterns at the appendicitis-like symptoms. I love that you opened on Charlie Brown references!

    1. Shelli Proffitt Howells

      Oh, I like that idea, too! Thanks!

  7. Jon Jefferson

    It’s like watermelons, never swallow the seeds. That’s where babies come from.

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