BUMP IN THE NIGHT • by Linda M. Scott

Fall ushered in with a bountiful pumpkin harvest.  I, in particular, was a fine specimen, an orange orb sitting among twisted vines and lopsided pumpkins.  I weighed thirty-pounds, a perfect sphere, with hardly a blemish, which is highly unusual in the pumpkin world.

Lisa, a spunky six-year-old, chose me as her prize.

Her mother placed me on their front porch.  At first I was apprehensive about my fate, being weeks before Halloween, but I couldn’t help but get lost in the excitement.  My special friend took good care of me.  She’d visit me daily, rubbing me like a Buddha’s belly.  Often, she’d hug me, her little outstretched arms barely reaching my sides.  I stood like a watchman at the top of the steep driveway.  A bustling four-lane highway adjoined it.

Lisa showed me off to her friends but they refused to see my beauty and pressured her to carve a monstrous face into my fine curved flesh.  Neither Lisa nor her mother permitted anyone to butcher me.  They protected me as I with them.  Sometimes, they’d sit for hours on the porch just talking, as Lisa rested against me.  Lisa, a mature child for her years, observed her world from another level.  She was fascinated with space and the environment, machinery, and humanity.  She’d present solutions on how she and her mother could make it work financially since her father’s abandonment.  This baffled her mother.  Her suggestions made sense.  Life with Lisa was a series of exploration and resolve.

As nights grew cooler and darkness came early, Lisa and her mother took refuge inside their cozy house.  One particular night, as dusk neared, her mother, with Lisa trailing, opened the front door and said,  “It’s probably a deer out there.”  She flung open the outer storm door for a better look.  The edge of the door pushed against me, dislodging me from my perch, and sent me on a trajectory path bouncing down the steps and rolling along the front yard’s grass deprived incline.  Faster and faster, I rolled, soon reaching a two-foot edge running perpendicular with the driveway.  I bounced over the edge.  My life flashed before me, as I picked up speed, rolling like an unstoppable boulder down the driveway.  “My pumpkin, my pumpkinn…” Lisa screamed as she raced down the hill.  Her mother followed closely.  The highway, with cars whizzing by, was dead ahead.  My world was about to come to a horrifying end.  I envisioned the squeal of automobile tires, the deafening thump, thump, as my guts, a myriad of pulp and seeds, clung to the cruel black rubber, leaving a slimy trail of goo smeared across the highway.  My essence, now reduced to an unrecognizable pile of pumpkin blood, my flesh gashed and chunked, as more car tires dissected me further—the orange wonder, no longer.  Tears streamed down Lisa’s face.  Her mother, now in panic, feared that Lisa would blindly follow me in to the road.  Yet, unexpectedly, I came to a grinding halt on a flat surface at the driveway’s end.  It was simply a miracle.

However, my perfect body was now reduced to a grotesque, bruised ball, with gravel embedded in my flesh.  At first, I smiled as my little friend began to put her arms around me but suddenly she recoiled as the sharp stones bit back at her.  Although pleased to be alive, I was miserable because of the pain I had caused her.  I was a freak.  Maybe everyone would have been better off if I had been smashed to bits.

Inch by inch, they rolled me up the driveway and next to their house.  With night fast approaching and wary not to lose me again, they rolled me to the back door.  The beams from the outside light shone down, displaying my collateral damage.  Lisa dragged her red wagon next to me while her mother retrieved some plywood to make a ramp.  Then the mother wedged the wagon against the side of their house.  The aluminum siding, already dented, took on a few new ones, which didn’t faze her.  Lisa stood on the end of the board, steadying it as her mother attempted to roll me in to the wagon.  After four times, maybe more, they accomplished the mission.  The sides of the metal wagon buckled, as it took on my robust shape, permanently.  Lisa, wearing gloves, steadied me, as her mother pulled the wagon over the same ramp and in to the sun porch and then, inside the kitchen.  It was warm, like the hugs I once received from my dear little friend.  Although I was bruised and battered, with razor-sharp stones lining my flesh, I honorably sat alongside my saviors.

Lisa, with a pitiful look, studied me.  No longer was I a showpiece.  “What can we do with him?” she asked her mother.  They examined me from varying angles and then arrived at an amicable solution.  “Let’s make pumpkin pie!” they said harmoniously.  I didn’t question my destiny.  Lisa with tweezers, and her mother with needle-nosed pliers, removed every stone.

Now I could return the same kindness that Lisa and her mother gave me as my moist pulp mixed with cinnamon and cloves baked in the oven on a crisp autumn night.

Linda M. Scott holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from the University of Pennsylvania. She earned an exclusive selection to the Sundance Studio-based, Andy Wolk Screenwriting-Directing Symposium, for her short story, Widow of Arbor Heights. This story was later expanded into her first novel. She was a semi-finalist for the Eludia Award. Her work has appeared in Every Day Fiction and Connotation Press. She resides on the outskirts of Philadelphia when she’s not on the beach at the southernmost point in New Jersey.

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