Will you enjoy Halloween like this family? A short ‘dark’ story – Colin Devonshire
‘It is Halloween. Why did you give the pumpkin a smile?’ said Bert.
His wife turned back to her sculpture, a grinning winter squash with a kitchen knife embedded in its eye. At least it was happy.
‘That eye is smaller than that one,’ said Bert.
‘Yes, dear, but I haven’t finished yet,’ said Dorothy. Her back was to her husband. She dared to look at the ceiling.
‘Hurry up. The children will be here soon. Next year buy at least two pumpkins; then, when you make a mess of one, you can try again.’ He slammed his newspaper against the wall.
Dorothy busied herself, trying to turn a smile into a snarl. She did nothing but make a hole. ‘Oh, dear. What can I do now?’ she asked herself. She poked chopsticks down and up into its lips, appearing to be substantial sharp teeth. ‘That’s better,’ she said.
‘Answer the door, can you? I think they have arrived.’ He turned the tv over to the horse race.
‘Darlings, how are you all? My goodness, you look scary. I almost didn’t recognise you.’
‘Don’t worry, Gran, it’s only us,’ said Jeremy.
‘Where are your mum and dad?’ asked Gran.
‘Dad stayed at home. Mum is in the car,’ said Jenny.
‘Is your mum not coming in?’
Dorothy ran down the drive.
‘Are you not coming in to say hello to your dad?’
‘If I have to. Are you okay, mum?’
‘Yes, don’t worry, I’m fine. How are you, Rita?’
‘We are looking forward to our friends’ celebration. Thanks for looking after the little ones tonight.’
‘Strange day to get married, isn’t it?’
‘Yes, I suppose so. Anyway, we can have a drink or three while staying at the hotel.’
‘Make sure you have a great time, don’t worry about Jeremy and Jenny. They’ll have fun here. I have carved a pumpkin. Do you want to see it?’
‘Is dad there?’
‘Yes, of course.’
‘Maybe next time. I’ve got to dash, bye.’
‘Wave your mum goodbye,’ said Dorothy behind her. They all flapped their hands on the doorstep.
‘Come on, you two. Do you want a drink?’
‘I’d love a Coke, but she isn’t allowed one,’ said big brother Jeremy.
‘I can,’ said Jenny.
‘Stop arguing,’ shouted granddad from the living room.
‘Come into the kitchen. Let’s see what we’ve got.’
The children filed through.
‘Aren’t you going to say hello to granddad?’
‘After I’ve had a Coke. He’ll probably stop me drinking it otherwise,’ said Jeremy.
‘Can I, can I,’ asked Jenny. Like a lost puppy, she was hard to refuse.
‘Your mum’s worried about your teeth. So I’ll find something even better, okay?’
‘But I want Coke.’ She stamped her foot.
‘Okay, but only a small one.’
‘She gets everything she wants. It’s not fair,’ said Jeremy.
Granddad loomed large in the doorway. ‘I said don’t bicker.’
The children ducked their heads under his arm and ran upstairs.
‘Do you have to talk to them like that?’
‘I’ll talk to them how I like. They must learn some manners.’
‘Your daughter won’t come near you, and now you are scaring away our grandchildren. Are you happy now?’
He slapped her face. It was heard upstairs. Jeremy cried. His sister glared at him.
‘What’s for dinner? I expect the children are hungry?’ Bert asked.
Dorothy rubbed her cheek and said, ‘I bought some chops. I know the children love them.’
‘I hope you do better with the meat than you did with that thing.’ He stabbed his finger at the pumpkin.
‘Jeremy and Jenny, do you want to help me decorate this orange monster in the kitchen?
‘Gran has found a horrible creature downstairs,’ said Jenny.
‘Don’t be so stupid. It’s only a vegetable. Like you,’ Jeremy laughed at his poor joke.
Both children skipped downstairs.
Poster paints and brushes were laid out on the counter by Gran. Both snatched a brush, and Jeremy got the bigger one.
‘Haha, too slow,’ he said.
Jenny flicked red paint at her brother. Her granddad crept up behind her and clipped her ear. ‘No, you don’t. You can do whatever you want in your own home. But not in mine.’ He grabbed the brush and threw it in the sink.
Jeremy sneered, and his sister crossed her arms and stared ahead. Jeremy painted the chopstick teeth black.
‘I’ve got peas, cabbage, and mashed potato. Okay, for everyone?’ Called Gran.
‘Why no baked beans?’ asked Jeremy.
‘We’ve got gravy. You can’t have beans with gravy,’ said Dorothy.
‘We do at home.’
‘Well, not in this house,’ said Granddad.
‘Come on, let’s eat, then we can finish the monster,’ said Gran.
‘I hope the meal is hot this time,’ said Bert.
They each carried their plates through. Jenny’s dish was tipping. The peas were spilling, and Gran reached to straighten the plate and then dropped the gravy boat.
‘You stupid, useless excuse of a woman,’ said Bert as he dumped his food and squared up, drawing his hand back. Then he remembered the children were watching. So he relaxed his shoulders, trod his food into the carpet and fetched a beer from the fridge.
Dorothy set to clean up the mess. Jeremy and Jenny played with their chops, not eating.
‘Come on, you two, let’s finish the pumpkin, then we can light the candles inside its face and put it in the garden.’
Gran was busy slicing the top away. She then went in search of some candles.
‘Haha, I’m painting the rest,’ said Jeremy as he painted ears on the sides. Jenny spotted something shiny inside. She stretched in and pulled out Gran’s kitchen knife.
She jumped from the high stool and wandered into the living room.
Grandad’s head was buried in the horse racing section of his daily paper. Jenny hid behind his armchair. She looked around, then at the knife, and tested its sharpness. Then stroked it across her granddad’s throat. He did not make a sound as he bled frothy bubbles. Jenny watched in awe. She grinned until he stopped breathing. Jenny smiled and then called her Gran.
‘Granddad has had an accident.’
‘Oh my God, what has happened,’ she said in a panic, trying to close his gaping windpipe.
Jenny shrugged and wandered back to the kitchen. Her knife stabbed Jeremy’s right kidney from behind, and she thrust it into the other organ as he fell. She had learned from the cartoon book of human anatomy that Gran had given her on her tenth birthday.
‘It’s okay, Gran. It’s just us now for Halloween.’
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