by Patricia Averbach
Robert rang the Peterson’s bell then stiffened as his ring was answered by the shrill yips of the Peterson’s Yorkshire Terrier. Pixie Stix weighed all of seven pounds, but he was a huge pain in the butt. It’s a beautiful October afternoon, Robert warned himself. Don’t let the mutt get under your skin and spoil the day. As soon as Joe opened the door, Pixie Stix hurled himself against the glass storm, barking and snarling, apparently ready to kill anyone encroaching on his turf. Robert held his ground, but kept a wary eye on the dog.
Joe scooped up the little terrier and kissed its ratty head as Pixie Stix struggled to get free. “Hey there, what’s up?” Joe tried to sound more congenial than he felt as he stepped outside to join Robert on the porch. There’d been an uneasy truce between the neighbors ever since Pixie Stix had dug up a bed of Robert’s heirloom daylilies.
“I could use some muscle. I just scored the biggest God damn pumpkin you’ve ever seen in your life. It must weigh a hundred pounds and I can’t get it off the truck myself.”
“Sure, just give me a minute to grab a jacket.”
Joe eyed the lopsided squash with skepticism. Robert hadn’t been kidding. The pumpkin was huge, bigger than the 38 inch CRT TV that he’d just paid a fortune to have hauled away. “You’re going to need a chain saw to carve that thing.”
Robert took this as a compliment and beamed. “Yeah, it’s a beauty. It came from a farm stand in Ashtabula County. The farmer didn’t want to sell, but … hey, cut that out.” Pixie Stix was humping his leg. He couldn’t stand the little beast and shook him off with more force than was absolutely necessary. The dog landed on his back a few feet away, but immediately rebounded, yipping and nipping at Roberts trousers.
“No, stop that, bad boy.” Joe might as well have been yelling at the pumpkin. He made a half hearted attempt to grab the little terrier who’d already ripped a hole in Robert’s pants, but the dog evaded him, circling back toward the house. “Sorry, he gets a little crazy when he’s excited,” Joe smiled sheepishly.
It took both men to wrestle the ungainly pumpkin out of the truck and onto Robert’s front porch where it loomed, large and orange at the top of the steps. “The kids will go out of their minds when they see this.” Robert wrapped his arms around himself against the cold and rocked back and forth on his heels admiring his acquisition. “I want to have it carved before they get back from their grandmother’s tomorrow afternoon. Can’t you just see their faces?”
The Petersons didn’t have children and Joe couldn’t imagine how they’d look. Would he have been excited by a large vegetable when he was their age? He didn’t think so, but he didn’t want to ruin Robert’s mood, so he agreed, “Yeah, it’ll be great. They’ll love it.”
Just then Pixie Stix reappeared carrying a small strip of rolled up rawhide that he dropped at Joe’s feet. The small chew toy was a thin cylinder about four inches long.”You want me to throw this for you boy? Do you want me to throw this?” Without waiting for an answer, Joe threw it as far as he could and Pixie Stix took off after it like a real dog.
Robert watched with something like admiration as Pixie Stix tore across the lawn, located his toy then came bounding back in their direction. But about half way to his destination he had another thought, dropped the toy, and squatted in the grass. Robert’s lawn was booby trapped with small Pixie sticks and he turned to stare accusingly at Joe.
“Oops, sorry. I’ll get that.” He took his phone out of his pocket and glanced at the time. “I’ve got to get back home anyway; the game starts in ten minutes. Good luck with the pumpkin.”
Robert assembled a drill, an electric saw, a jig saw and a large kitchen knife on the front porch. He wasn’t a great artist, but he knew his way around tools. In less than an hour the pumpkin had a huge open mouth and a terrifying set of pointy teeth, piggy nostrils and demonic looking eyes. Robert cleaned off his tools and put the pumpkin seeds aside for his kids to toast when they got home, then he went back outside to admire his creation. He found Pixie Stix on his porch growling at the scary face. “Hey, scat, get away from that.” Unperturbed, Pixie Stix lifted his leg and christened the pumpkin with a stream of urine.
As Robert wiped up the puddle, he had to admit that he’d done a great job. That was one creepy pumpkin. He walked back toward the garage to put his tools away when his right foot slid out from under him and he almost lost his balance, “Shit!” He’d walked right into one of Pixie Stix little offerings.
It got dark right after dinner and Robert went outside with a candle and some matches to give the Great Pumpkin a test run. As soon as he lit the candle the jack o’lantern came to life with a fearsome face that flickered ghoulishly in the dark. Fantastic! He’d outdone himself. Robert had to share his triumph with someone, so he walked back to the Peterson’s. “Do you have a minute? There’s something I want to show you.”
A moment later they were heading toward Robert’s house with Pixie Stix in the lead. Robert was explaining how to use a Jigsaw to carve details you could never get with a simple kitchen knife when Joe stopped and looked around. “Hey, where’s Pixie Stix?”
Robert did a quick inventory of the yard, but there was no yappy little dog in sight. They scanned the bushes, clapped and whistled without luck. As they got within sight of the porch Robert froze, paralyzed mid whistle. The pumpkin was smiling, a rolled up piece of rawhide stuck between its lips, looking for all the world, like it was smoking a good cigar.
© Patricia Averbach 2016