Hallowe'en in the Desert (flash fiction)
Josh folded his arms and fixed his mother with a glare. “Mom, be honest. Is there really a Great Pumpkin?”
His mom, Alice, finished dumping another bag of Hallowe’en treats in the bowl by the door, her final preparation for the trick-or-treaters who would soon be knocking. She tucked her hair back behind her ears and looked at her six year old son. “Honestly, Josh, no, there isn’t. The Great Pumpkin was invented by a man who wrote cartoons. Why are you asking?”
“Because Lily says she saw him last Hallowe’en.”
“Lily probably saw someone dressed up as the Great Pumpkin.” Just then the doorbell rang. Lily, Josh, and two other neighborhood kids were going out with Lily’s mom, so Alice could hand out the candy.
“Okay, off you go. Have fun, and behave yourself.”
Josh was gone in his Darth Vader suit, and Alice settled down in her lawn chair on the driveway, with their dog, Sarge, the bowl of candy, and a glass of wine. Across the street, Tom and Gina were doing the same, and they could hear the voices of children heading their way. Alice liked Hallowe’en, silly as it was. She waved at the neighbors just as the first children arrived, chauffeured in a golf cart festooned with orange mini-lights.
“Trick or Treat!” the kids yelled. Alice took time to look at their costumes and compliment the kids, while she was dropping candies into their plastic pumpkins or pillow cases. It was a steady stream of witches, zombies, characters from movies, and the odd creative costume, such as a kid in a wheelchair, done up so it looked like he was driving a tractor. The level of candy in the bowl dropped and the kids kept coming.
About eight o’clock, as the crowds were thinning, a blood-curdling screech came from the arroyo behind Alice’s house. The hair on the nape of her neck stood up. She, Tom, and Gina raced from their chairs in the direction of the sound. The few kids around stood frozen.
“What was that?” asked Gina.
“I’ve never heard anything like that before,” said Tom.
Just then they heard a rustling and chomping sound from the arroyo, and a herd of six or so javelinas and their babies, trotted out of the arroyo. All the parents pulled the kids off the street, away from the aggressive animals. But they just kept going, and disappeared into another arroyo a block away.
“Do you think anyone’s back in that arroyo where they came from?” asked Alice.
“I don’t know, but let me get my flashlight and I’m going to find out.” Tom retrieved the flashlight and led the way to the arroyo. People never entered them, for fear of the coyotes, bobcats, and rattlesnakes that lived there. But if another human was there, they needed to help.
Alice, Gina, and Tom pushed aside the mesquite branches and avoided the cholla cacti, alert for danger.
About thirty feet in, Tom announced, “I see something. Oh man, this is weird.”
Gina and Alice came up beside him and gasped.
On the ground was a half-eaten giant pumpkin with a face contorted in pain.
(Photo by Michael O'Connor.)