Pumpkin by Benson Phillip Lott
Pumpkin by Benson Phillip Lott
Raymond stands in the kitchen, clutching a butcher’s knife. He stares at the pumpkin on a wooden board, across from him.
Had it really spoken? And how did it know his name?
“I know everything, Raymond,” the pumpkin assures him, speaking soft. “I know the argument you had last night with your wife.”
“Yes, Jeanette. What an attractive woman. You know what they say, Raymond. If you want happiness, never marry a pretty girl. And there you are, in deep regret. I can sense the sadness, all around you. I can still hear you, shouting accusations. Your convinced she has relations with that football coach.”
“Mark Keplin.” Raymond mutters.
“Yes, Mark Keplin,” repeats the pumpkin with malicious intent. “He coaches your son, Jesse. What an interesting young man.”
“The hell you mean?”
“Oh, please, Raymond. You know exactly what I’m referring to. If your suspicious about your wife, your ten times worse over your son. Not exactly the most masculine of boys, is he?”
Raymond raises the knife, stepping forward. “That’s bullshit. Shut your mouth! Just who the hell are you, anyway?”
The pumpkin scoffs. “I’m disappointed, Raymond. I thought you’d know me by now. We see each other every day.”
Raymond shifts his weight, trying desperately to maintain composure. “This is ridiculous. What am I doing? I’m losing my fuckin’ mind.”
The pumpkin sits quietly on the counter, waiting.
“Tell me who you are!” Raymond demands, stomping the kitchen tile. His family could walk in, any minute. Jesse’s practice was over fifteen minutes ago. It’s Jeanette turn to pick him up. Her enthusiasm doing so is the source of Raymond’s suspicion.
But “suspicion” isn’t even the right word. He’s merely “aware”. Aware of Jeanette’s desire to speak with Mr. Keplin. And as far as his son goes, even if he is…what the pumpkin insinuates — what he, himself has pondered time to time – so be it. It’s a modern world Raymond realizes this generation is more accepting. If it were true, he could deal with it.
“Don’t fool yourself, Raymond,” the pumpkin cries. “I can read your every thought And I sense your self-deception. You’re right to have your suspicions. And what’s more, your right to be angered by them. Take my word for it, your wife screws around.”
Raymond slaps his hand against the refrigerator. “Fuck you!”
“I can see it! They do it everywhere. Keplin and your wife. They’re like rabbits! They do it right here — in your house — in your bed.”
“Your full of shit!?! I just bought you, thirty minutes ago! Christ! You’re not even real! What’s happening to me? I sound like a god damn lunatic.”
“Calm down and I’ll tell you what’s happening,” the pumpkin demands. “The situation is this: Your wife’s a whore, your son’s a fag. And both of them secretly despise you! Have any idea the kind of friends Jesse sneaks through his window?”
Salty tears form in Raymond’s bloodshot. His entire body shakes, forcing him to set the knife on the counter. “Something’s wrong. I’m not feeling well. I need help”
“You do need help Raymond,” the pumpkin persists. “My help. If I don’t save you, who will? Certainly not them. They’re against you. They want you dead. They plot about all the time, examining your life insurance policy, calculating your worth.”
“No one wants me dead,” Raymond counters, pulling himself together. “My family loves me. We’re having a god damn Halloween party. It’s the whole reason I bought you.”
“Oh please, Raymond. That’s just for show. Of course, they’re gonna pretend. No one lowers their mask ‘til it’s too late. But their contempt is in the air. I can feel the intense vibrations. Jesse despises you. His resentment has built ever since the day you called him ‘sissy’. Forcing him to sign-up for football. And Jeanette sympathizes with his aggression. Afterall, she’s tired of you. Your marriage is stale. It has been for years.”
“She’s never said anything,” Raymond says, staring into a memory.
“She doesn’t have to. It’s in her actions. The space between you grows with your neglect. Besides, she has a new lover. Another one who also wants you gone. I bet they have good mind to poison you. Maybe tonight.”
“I don’t neglect my wife! And I only wanted Jesse to stay active. I didn’t mean what I said. I was teasing!”
“Raymond, it’s too late for explanations. Their hatred has soured too long. You have to fight back. You have to defend yourself. This may be the onlychance.”
Backing out the kitchen, Raymond picks up the knife. “This is ridiculous! I’m not even hearing this. I must be dreaming!”
“Raymond, are you gonna put that knife where it belongs?”
“How ‘bout, I cut you? Lyin’ son of a bitch! How ‘bout I cut you to fucking pieces?”
“That would be pointless.”
“Yeah? Why’s that?”
“Because, Raymond…I’m just a voice. I’m your voice. You really think you’re talking to a pumpkin? Think about it. And hear what I’m telling you. Your family will murder you, unless you stop them. Unless, we stop them.”
Raymond stands in the hall, drained; lost for words. Nothing makes sense, anymore. So much is happening so fast. The world feels like its spinning. The universe feels upside-down. Perhaps his subconscious is talking to him. And maybe, its warnings are genuine.
Staring the knife, shimmering in the light of the sconces, Raymond winces with disdain, already drenched in regret.
“Raymond,” whispers the pumpkin. “You know what must be done…”
Raymond nods, tightening his grip on the handle.
Maybe this is right.
Maybe it’s not a dream.
Pulling into the driveway, Jeanette shuts off the engine. Jesse’s in passenger seat, unbuckling himself. After a moment, both of them exit the car, walking to the door. Laughing carelessly, they argue over football stats. Jesse’s resentment had faded. Practice is more fun than he thought.
It’s true, he’d hoped to get a part in his high school play. But that’s merely because Jenny Crawford is the lead. Secretly, he wanted to be close to her. The rumors about his sexuality are just senior bullshit. The friends he sneaks over, sell him pot. Nothing more.
Raymond watches them through the window in living room. As they reach the door, he moves behind the curtain, holding his breath. A single tear slides from his cheek.
The pumpkin laughs wickedly from the kitchen. Once again, it’s worked its magic. How easy it is, distorting people’s actions. Twisting motives, creating fear.
Never once did Raymond’s family plot against him. Never once did Jeanette cheat with the football coach, but merely made inquiries, concerning her son’s safety. Just an overprotective mother. Nothing more.
If Raymond had known the truth, the pumpkin would’ve had more difficulty, deluding the truth to save its own skin. And not be made a Jack-o-lantern.
Tampering reality takes patience. Momentary insanity must prevail. Lives must be destroyed and the pumpkin must gain control.
A wicked game it never loses.
Copyright Benson Phillip Lott 2020