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Pumpkin and Vine

Something peculiar is growing in Mr. Rey's back yard.
“Oh my God Tommy, pull over, pull over!” Maria Casanova squawked, grabbing her husband’s rock-solid shoulder. He slammed on the brakes, making an abrupt right-hand turn up a shabby, weed-filtered gravel driveway. Tommy parked the car under a soaring, lifeless tree where a rotted out birdhouse dangled from a heavy branch. The dented black mailbox stood with the name Rey finger-painted in bold white letters.

“I gotta have two of those; Zoe and Chloe will go gaga!” boasted Maria, in her mid-thirties, short, curvy, with long black hair and heels so lengthy it would keep her dry in floodwater. She sauntered over to the picket fence surrounding the pumpkin patch like a graceless show horse, a sea of gold jewelry slinking up and down her skinny wrists. The woman’s grating Long Island New York accent, thick and rich, was headache inducing.

Mr. Rey was hunched over working on his tractor in the decaying barn, but stepped outside as he heard the irritating voice. His eyes perked up, yet his cold wrinkle-free face, always without a speck of facial hair, almost doll-like in complexion, remained firm. He was late middle-aged with straight straw-like silver blond hair and wore thick black-rimmed glasses, resembling a fusion of Andy Warhol and Clint Eastwood. The tall man stalked over to the unwanted car, clutching his infamous wrought-iron pitchfork, the two-foot long tines gleaming in the partial, late afternoon sun.

“Get out now,” he said, his voice coming out in a harsh, sandpaper rough tone. “Can’t you read? It says no trespassing!” Maria was thoroughly enthralled by the pumpkin patch, a sweeping field of tangled vines that semi-circled his decrepit two-story farmhouse like barbed wire.

“Huh?” the woman replied, turning her head slightly like a dumb animal. “I couldn’t hear you.” She continued to snap away on her neon pink bubblegum. Maria explored her Samsonite-sized white leather purse and pulled out a pair of crisp twenty-dollar bills.

“Sir, I gotta have two of your gorgeous red pumpkins; they’re for my nephews!” Her husband leaned against his car, arms crossed, bored. The man moved closer to the woman’s ears, which held hula-hoop sized gold earrings.

“Get off my property before I kill you,” rasped Mr. Rey whose garb was a habitual washed out gray with a black and white checkered flannel shirt. The other couple standing behind her milled around next to the picket fence.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” inquired Maria. “My hearing ain’t so good.”

“They’re not for sale, so get off my property before I kill you!”

“Tommy, he says he wants to kill me!” She turned to her husband in mock horror.

“Really? Do us all a favor old man,” replied her husband, smirking with a half-smile. Built like a fire hydrant and from the looks of it, as smart as one, Tommy pulled down his horizontal striped Italian flag sweater to cover his early onslaught of middle-aged gut.

“T-o-m-m-y,” said Maria, drawing out her husband’s name in a torturous inflection. The stout man walked up to the towering Mr. Rey, who was almost a foot taller.

“Did you really threaten my wife?” asked Tommy, who had no problem tapping into his well of Mafioso wrath. “Because if you did, I may need to rectify the situation, you understand me?” The other couple froze their conversation in an instant. They knew Tommy Casanova was a mob pro and had no problem ‘taking care of people.’ Idle threats were not in his vocabulary.

He stepped closer to the tall man until he stood no more than a foot away. “I’m talking to you doll face,” said Casanova, staring directly at Mr. Rey. He could almost see his reflection in the man’s chiseled cheekbones. Tommy was irritated, yet slightly unnerved by the man’s soulless black eyes, only enhanced by the man’s glasses. He then pointed his sausage-thick index finger in Mr. Rey’s face, almost touching his nose. “Well?”

Mr. Rey returned a cold stare, his thin grayish lips barely visible. Tommy’s angered brow formed a wrinkled V-shape. He inched closer. His finger touched the tip of Mr. Rey’s nose.

In a split second, Mr. Rey took his enormous left hand and grabbed Tommy by the throat, lifting him off the ground. Rey’s eyes gleamed in guttural hate.

“Holy shit,” shouted his cousin Mikey, stunned by the man’s strength.

“Oh Tommy!” screamed Maria, hysterically. “It’s just pumpkins you jerk face.”

Mr. Rey tossed Tommy onto the ground. Landing on the trampled grass and leaves, he reached for his knife tucked in his coat pocket, but before he could extend his arm, Mr. Rey knocked it out of his hand with a kick then pointed the pitchfork tines directly at Tommy’s throat. The knife-sharp tips nicked the skin just below his Adam’s apple, drawing a trickle of blood.

“Hey, let’s just remain calm, shall we?” said Mikey as he picked his cousin off the ground and straightened his ruffled sweater. Tommy swatted Mikey’s arms away, boiling over with anger.

Tommy pressed his fingers against his throat. He was infuriated. “I’d killed you mother wacko right here and now, but as a rule, I don’t kill no one with my wife present.”

“Oh that’s so sweet,” said Maria, picking a pair of dead leaves off the back of his sweater, still chomping away on her gum.

“For the last time, get off of my property -- now!” Mr. Rey shouted, with more graveled venom in his voice. Tommy retrieved the weapon before storming back to his ink black Mercedes, a top of the line S600 sedan complete with bullet-proof windows that set him back over a hundred and fifty grand.

“You picked the wrong person to mess with psycho!” bellowed Tommy, as he stepped into his car, bumping his head as he got in. “Ow, piece of shit car.”

“Enough honey, let just get out of here!” said Maria, in her patented Long Island caw.

“What a horrible voice,” said Mr. Rey as he watched a dozen or so vultures settle on tree branches in his yard -- they eyed his unique pumpkins, always. He squinted his eyes, clutching the pitchfork in his right hand, looking like the man in Grant Wood’s 1930 American Gothic painting. He exchanged a dark, hateful stare with the mob man before returning to his tractor.

Tommy floored the gas, leaving a spray of gravel and dust from the weathered driveway. As they sped away, Tommy whispered to his cousin, “We’re coming back here tonight to finish this, you hear me?” Mikey paused then nodded in agreement. The wives chatted amongst themselves, oblivious to their husband’s revengeful intentions.

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Halloween night reached half past eleven, temperatures hovering in the low forties. After a sub-par dinner and tasteless bottle of domestic red wine at the bed and breakfast, both men left their spouses, both in blissful cozy coastal town sleep.

“Is this really necessary?” asked Mikey, a bit drunk from all the wine. “I was gettin’ ready to watch Sports Center.”

“Zip it linguini spine,” answered Tommy. “That freak . . . no one grabs my throat and lives. You should know that by now!”

“Yeah, you’re right Tommy,” replied Mikey, a near physical replica of his cousin, six years older and twenty pounds heavier. “Strong dude, huh?”

Tommy stared straight ahead, “Yeah.”

Mikey glanced over at Tommy and saw concern. He’d never seen his cousin unnerved before, not even before his wedding day or the time he had to whack a backstabbing relative. Tommy turned the lights off as the approached the dilapidated farmhouse, stopping thirty yards short of the uphill driveway. He backed up the car off the street onto the grass before parking under a line of oak trees, standing out like skyscrapers, their leafless branches reaching out like spindly fingers.

“If any birds crap on your car, I’ll torch these trees personally for ya,” bragged Mikey. Tommy knew his cousin was serious. He was nicknamed “The Torch” by his mob buddies and always carried his trusty 14-karat gold lighter and hefty five-gallon metal gasoline can filled to the brim with premium (and only premium) gasoline in the back of his custom painted glittering bronze Cadillac Escalade. Earlier, the two had stopped by an auto parts store to pick up the necessary supplies for the evening then to the local Exxon station for a five-gallon fill-up.

They closed the car doors; Mikey’s a bit too loud – causing Tommy to give him a stare. Tommy closed the drivers’ side door then gave it a gentle bump with his hip.

“You don’t broadcast when you’re about to whack someone, doofus,” scolded Tommy. “That’s why they call me the quiet one. Here, get the gas can in the trunk – you got your lighter, I presume?” asked Tommy.

“You’re asking me if I have a lighter?” replied Mikey, almost insulted that his cousin would second-guess him. Mikey then displayed his thousand dollar custom-made gold lighter in his right hand, in his left, two books of matches just in case. “Don’t leave home without ‘em.”

Tommy smirked. “Always prepared like a good boy scout.”

The two men were clad in the same attire they wore earlier in the day, including their expensive, white Italian dress shoes. They hiked up the leaf-covered incline, both slipping in the damp earth.

“Not exactly the ideal hiking shoes, eh?” joked Mikey, doing his best to lighten the mood. His cousin found nothing funny about ruining three hundred dollar shoes.

The house stood fifty yards away. The front porch light was on, along with a lone room upstairs. More vultures sat perched on the naked trees circling the property, none making a sound. The two men noticed the large barn doors open.

“Maybe he’s in there?” proposed Mikey, itching to warm things up a bit. The moist covered ground squished with every step the two made.

“Ready to jump it?” asked Mikey, as they approached the deteriorating picket fence.

“Hell no,” replied Tommy. He quietly pried the pointed slats from the decrepit fence with his bare hands, creating plenty of space. “After you.”

The two hunched down as they approached the pumpkin patch. The boundless rope of vines encompassed the whole back yard like a bowl of spaghetti. “Maybe we’ll see the Great Pumpkin tonight?”

“The Great Pumpkin? What the hell is that?” inquired Tommy, irked.

“You know the Peanuts cartoon? Linus, Snoopy, and the . . . “

“Oh. Is that the one with that dikey chick, Peppermint Patty?” His cousin could only shake his head.

“Look at these things?” gulped Mikey, staring at the sea of red pumpkins, “I mean; they all look a little too, you know, perfect, don’t they?”

“Like that guy’s face,” answered Tommy, gritting his teeth.

The two followed the trail of vines leaning to the back yard. The far reaches were filled with trees, mostly pines and oaks. As they approached a lone apple tree, the two squashed and slipped on the rotted fruit. Tommy caught himself, but Mikey took a tumble, landing straight on his back. The gasoline can he was carrying nearly fell smack dab on his head.

“What are you, the Three Stooges or something?” said Tommy. “Enough of the slapstick, nipple-head.”

“Sorry, sorry,” replied Mikey, rubbing his lower back. He never liked pissing off his cousin, but for some reason, he had an incredible knack for doing so.

A thick congregation of pumpkin vines seemed to venture out from a solitary location about thirty yards from the back of the house, an area already cluttered by rusted out farm equipment. Both men noticed a rotting smell, like dead animals.

“I know in our line of work we don’t visit pumpkin patches too often, but jeeze, this place smells like . . . where we ‘dump the bodies,’ you know what I mean?” said Mikey, making air quotation marks with his fingers. Tommy hated when he did that, but concurred wholeheartedly.

The two men tiptoed between the foliage. Tommy reached for his pen flashlight and bent down to touch one of the pumpkins. “You know this feels weird,” he said, rubbing his fingertips together, “They’re soft like . . . skin, or something.” His cousin reached down and did the same.

Mikey flicked out a silver six-inch folding knife from his back pocket and placed the blade under a hearty vine, thick and flexible like rope. He struggled. “I can’t cut it.”

“My sentiments exactly,” replied Tommy, getting in a verbal barb at his cousin’s expense. “Gimme that!”

Tommy used his knife and attempted to cut through the pumpkin vine. “See, I told ya,” said Mikey, watching his cousin struggle as well. “I’m tellin ya, this whole thing is getting strange – like Twilight Zone strange. You know tonight’s Halloween?”

“Don’t get stupid,” said Tommy, annoyed. “Maybe we just need to try something different. Here, hold the flashlight.”

“What are you gonna do?” questioned Mikey, feeling anxious.

Tommy bent down on one knee like he was going to propose to the plump, red pumpkin. Studying it for a moment, the mobster clutched the knife in his right hand and poked the tip of the blade into the pumpkin’s smooth surface. A minuscule drop of red fluid leaked out like a teardrop.

“Juicy, ain’t it?” observed Mikey. “Hold on, pumpkins aren’t –“

Tommy placed the blade in the same spot, but this time, plunged the blade straight into the pumpkin’s flesh. Blood squirted from the wound as the impaled vegetable let out a minuscule, high-pitched cry.

“What the hell was that?” yelled Mikey, as he looked over at Tommy, his face now painted with blood. “Oh, this is messed up; let’s get the hell out of here!”

Getting to their feet, Tommy reached into his back pocket for a handkerchief to wipe the red liquid off his face. He then kicked the pumpkin, making a dent, but hurt his foot in the process, his shoes now sponged red. “Let’s torch this place, now!” he growled. Mikey always made sure he had enough gasoline to bring down at least a building or two.

Suddenly, the back screen door creaked opened with Mr. Rey brandishing a double-barrel shotgun. The tall man stared at his field of prized red pumpkins. A pair of vultures took off from a branch just above the two men, now lying flat on their stomachs, hiding. Mr. Rey fired, blowing both birds from the sky. Their remnants rained down on top of the two men. The decapitated head of one of the birds landed a foot from Mikey’s peering eyes, still twitching. He almost barfed on the spot. Mr. Rey, standing as still as one of his ghoulishly posted scarecrows, finally went back inside.

Tommy got to his knees and whispered to his cousin. “Time to barbeque this son of a bitch, and take out the pumpkin patch with it.”

The two men stood up, but Tommy stepped on something solid near the base of the pumpkin vines. He waved his cousin over. The men felt a wood board under their feet, partially covered by leaves and dead grass. Tommy shone his flashlight and noticed a rusted metal handle on the six-by-eight foot wood plank.

“Maybe it’s a trap door that leads to his house,” surmised Mikey. Suddenly, the weight of the two men broke the wood, throwing them down into a deep pit. They found themselves in total darkness.

“Tommy, can you hear me?” Mikey called out. “Oh my God, what the hell is this?” The two men tried to stand up, but the footing was cumbersome – soft in spots, but also hard and uneven. The smell was rancid and overwhelmingly nauseating.

Tommy fumbled for his flashlight, the small beam partially hidden under something moist. He picked it up and pointed it at his cousin. Directly behind him and all around were piles of rotting corpses in various stages of decay. The smell was unbearable, unfathomable. Mikey couldn’t hold in the nausea any longer, vomiting in a corner. Tommy frantically waved the flashlight back and forth. What he saw was impossible.

A forest of thick celery-green roots dropped down like paratroopers from the hole above. Both men flung their arms through the strands of vegetation; it was everywhere. Tommy dragged the flashlight beam from top to bottom. Horrified, he noticed the ends of the roots burrowing into the scattered dead bodies.

“Oh my God,” said Mikey, his mouth agape. Tommy looked closer at the translucent roots, blood now flowing upward into the . . .

“Those pumpkins,” Tommy uttered. “Those freaking pumpkins are living off the blood of people. We gotta get the hell out of here!” Just then, the roots starting swaying back and forth aroused by their voices. They began to wrap around the arms and legs of the two men.

“Aagh!” screamed Mikey. “My knife, where’s my God-damn knife?” One particular root reached into Tommy’s ear, searching for nourishment. He seized it with his bare hands, ripping it out from the damp earth. The torn roots showered blood.

Tommy threw the knife to his cousin. “Got it!” shouted Mikey, snapping the blade out and cutting away at the flesh-eating root system. Blood squirted out like water through a tattered garden hose. Both men continued to fight with the killer roots, pulling at anything hanging. It was then Tommy heard the back door open.

“Quiet, I think he’s coming!” The tall man was outside again, firing at more vultures.

“Over here!” insisted his cousin, pointing to a tunnel that was free of the tentacle-like roots. Tommy handed his cousin the flashlight as he lead the way. The two men crawled on their hands and knees about twenty feet before Mikey noticed an opening.

He dug his pointed shoes into the damp Earth and climbed up, clearing away the final layer of grass and drooping pumpkin roots with his hands. Mikey poked his head out from the hole, but before he could climb out, he was impaled by Mr. Rey’s pitchfork, one of the four tines plunging straight into his neck; two others piercing the shoulder. He gurgled as blood filled up his windpipe. Quivering in pain, he finally slumped over, motionless.

“What the hell is going on?” asked Tommy, panic in his whisper. He tugged on his cousin’s leg, but there was no response. The bloodied flashlight dropped at his feet. Tommy picked it up and flashed it upward, only to see streams of blood cascading down his cousin’s neck and chest. He was shocked. Before he could react, Mr. Rey grabbed his cousin around the collar and pulled him up from the hole.

Tommy slumped to the ground in horror, barely able to move a muscle. From above he heard his cousin groan – he was still alive. With a burst of energy, he wiped the blood off the flashlight and did an about face, crawling back over mud and bones towards the human compost pile. Frantic, he scrambled for the gasoline can, spreading a third of the contents around the killer vegetation and dead bodies before climbing up, using a handful of the thickest roots as rope. He nudged his face out of the hole, peeking just above the pumpkin foliage. He spotted Mr. Rey standing with his back to him.

“The hell you’re feeding my cousin to your freak show pumpkins,” growled Tommy under his breath.

With one hand, he placed the gas can onto the grass and whipped his legs upward. A few stray vines were wrapped around Tommy’s ankles, but he ripped them off with his bare hands with ease. He crawled over and hid behind a tree. All Tommy was thinking about was saving Mikey -- and burning everything down to the ground . . . and below.

Mr. Rey was halfway to the human compost pit when he was startled by more vultures, a hundred of them, the barren trees now looking full with darkened leaves. Tommy reached in his back pocket searching for matches, but came up empty. “Crap,” he said. His cousin – The Torch, he had them.

Tommy crept on his knees, circling around through the sea of red pumpkins and hid behind an old tractor. Somehow, he needed to take out porcelain face, but how? Tommy looked over at the back porch and saw the shotgun there. Good, at least he didn’t have his gun, Tommy thought, but Mr. Rey still had his pitchfork. Tommy circled behind the tall man nearly stepping on a half-rusted shovel. It wasn’t much, but he’d take it as a weapon. There was no way Tommy was going to watch Mr. Freakshow drop his cousin’s body down that death hole. No way.

Part of the shovel blade was broken away, but it had a nice point. If these pumpkins were filled with blood and had feelings – what a bizarre concept that was, Tommy postulated, he could draw Mr. Rey over to him by jabbing at his revolting creations.

Tommy eyed a large, fleshy red pumpkin, big as a beach ball, just in front of him. Still on his knees, Tommy harpooned the object. It made a high-pitched sound as blood gushed out like water from a broken water balloon. Mr. Rey turned, dropping Mikey’s limp body. Tommy stood up and began jabbing at more pumpkins. There were more high-pitched cries, and more blood spilling onto the ground.

“You’re a dead man,” hollered Mr. Rey, in his malicious voice. Tommy kept up the attack, plunging the shovel blade into anything round and red. Mr. Rey stormed over in Tommy’s direction, but the mobster was ready. As the tall man raised his pitchfork, Tommy launched the shovel, hitting Mr. Rey right in the gut. The old man cringed and doubled over in pain, but didn’t scream. Tommy ran to his cousin and found a pack of matches tucked in his back pocket, not wanting to toss Mikey’s prized gold lighter, a Christmas gift from his wife, Ginger.

He scrambled over to the hole, ready to drop a pair of lit matches when Mr. Rey hit him on the back with the sharp edge of the shovel, causing Tommy to recoil in pain. The burly man tumbled over, narrowly missing the body pit. He dodged being speared by the shovel and struggled to his feet. He then noticed his side was bleeding profusely.

As the blood touched the ground, pumpkin vines swirled toward him, like sharks sensing injured prey. Tommy hurtled over, grimacing in pain as he seized Mr. Rey’s pitchfork. He stood up then glanced over to the hole. Tommy began circling the crazed man, hoping to steer him in that direction.

“You’re a freaking wacko, you know that?” yelled Tommy. “Think you can kill people to feed your zombie pumpkins?” Mr. Rey didn’t reply. Blood continued to drip from Tommy’s wound. The tall man was only a few feet from the pit now.

Tommy stood still, staring at the man. Mr. Rey started uttering words under his breath. “I hate people who mumble; speak up you bastard!” screamed Tommy.

“I told you to get off of my property, didn’t I?” said Mr. Rey, “But your yappy wife had to have one of my pumpkins. Now both you and your friend will be dead.”

“I don’t think so old man,” bested Tommy, ready to harpoon the man, but now overcome with excruciating pain and weakness from the loss of blood.

Unsuspecting, a stream of vines curled around Tommy’s bloodstained shoes. As he stepped forward, he stumbled, falling straight down on his face. Turning his head, he witnessed the vines in attack mode, their leaves fluttering up and down in a frenzy. In no time, he was almost completely blanked in pumpkin foliage.

“Now if you don’t mind,” said Mr. Rey, as he reached down and pried the pitchfork from Tommy’s pinned hand.

Mr. Rey raised the pitchfork above his head; ready to plunge the tines straight into Tommy’s chest. “Your wife will be next.”

Tommy eyes nearly popped out with hatred. He mustered every ounce of violent energy in his frame and ripped through the entanglement of vines. He flung the torn vegetation off his body just as Mr. Rey thrust the tines penetrating deep into the ground. Tommy seized the knife from his pocket, flicked the blade open, and lunged at Mr. Rey, stabbing him hard in the thigh. Tommy fell back on his side, feeling lightheaded on the damp ground. Mr. Rey toppled over in pain uttering an indecipherable cry. Before Mr. Rey could remove the weapon from his spindly leg, Tommy stood up, gritted his teeth then launched a patented Mike Tyson-style left hook to the side of Mr. Rey’s pallid face, shattering his left cheek.

“What the fu . . ?”

The rest of Mr. Rey’s broken face fell to the ground, like an antique ceramic doll. Inside, a harsh, narrow dark facade emerged, eyes burning red with anger, teeth small, but sharp like a piranha. Two elongated incisors slowly emerged. Not sure what he was seeing, Tommy threw another thunderous punch, this time in the midsection. Crack. Shattered bits of white material cascaded down Mr. Rey’s pants. Tommy connected again. This time, the rest of Mr. Rey’s body fractured away, pieces falling on top of pieces. Mr. Rey’s attire then dropped to the ground.

It hissed at Tommy. “I told you to get off my property!” The words came out mechanical and wobbly. The thing hoisted its sinewy limbs skyward; displaying four-pronged lengthy fingers like his pitchfork then aimed them at Tommy. The stocky man jumped back, the finger blades narrowly missing him. He reached for the pitchfork on the ground and thrust the tines into the thing’s narrow chest. It staggered backwards and toppled over into the pit. Tommy quickly lit a handful of matches for good measure and tossed them in. The flames soared skyward from the pit.

Tommy picked up the gasoline can and staggered around the pumpkin patch, dousing anything red. He dropped more matches, setting the back and side yard ablaze. Agonizing cries filled the whole back yard, scaring off the hundreds of perched vultures. He picked up his cousin and placed him on the back porch for safety. Tommy stumbled to the barn and poured more gasoline on the decrepit, wood structure. He scanned the hay-filled floor before spotting an oak barrel full of red pumpkin seeds. “Oh shit,” he uttered, as he emptied the remaining contents.

The brawny man reached for a match and dropped it into the wood barrel. The blood filled seeds started exploding like popcorn. He dropped another on the pile of gas-soaked hay. The old structure quickly ignited; smoke billowing out the gaping front entrance. As Tommy ran out, he spotted at a rusted gasoline can sitting next to a tractor. He struggled, but managed to remove the cap, taking a quick sniff. “Smells like gasoline to me.”

As the pumpkins heated up, they began to explode, a sudden burst of red liquid showering the cool ground. With the property almost fully engulfed with flames, Tommy raced to the back of the house to retrieve his cousin’s body. It wasn’t there.

“Mikey!” He scoured the grounds, running over to the human compose, but couldn’t find him. “You shit monster!”

Tommy raced back through the barbequed back yard and tried to open the back door. “Damn it, locked.” He lifted up his stocky leg and busted the door wide open -- no time to be quiet now. He poked his head in. The darkened interior smelled just as bad as the pit. Tommy stumbled across the kitchen, but found a mountain of filthy dishes almost toppling over in the dirty porcelain sink. Still holding the gasoline can, he poured some on the contents into an empty coffee can sitting on top of the mustard yellow countertop.

He searched out each and every room on the first floor, but found nothing. The whole place was nearly void of furniture except for a ratty brown sofa chair, small table with a lamp, and a RCA color television left over from the Carter years. Tommy hustled upstairs, but found the same thing, nothing. He poured the contents on the hallway floor and ventured back downstairs. As he walked towards the kitchen to fill up the container again, he heard a groaning cry from the basement.

Tommy retrieved the pen flashlight from his back pocket and headed to the basement door. He cautiously stepped down on each plank, barely making a sound. Reaching bottom, he followed a strange noise, almost like buzzing flies. Tommy heard his cousin moan again. He walked over to a door sporting a foot-long crack. He pressed his ear against the dingy white paint, paused, then bent down and peered through the slivered opening. Through a low wattage light bulb hanging from the ceiling, Tommy could see the thing about to bite into Mikey’s bloodied neck as he lay motionless on a half-busted folding table.

“Not a good idea prune face!” said Tommy, who kicked the door open in classic mob fury. The creature turned to attack, but Tommy hurled the gasoline straight into its eyes. He reached into his front pocket for the matches, but came up empty.

“Oh crap, where are they?” he screamed. The creature, screeching in agony, shook its head wildly from side to side. Tommy tried to get to his cousin but the creature was too close. He frantically searched for anything to defend himself. In the corner he found a broom . . . and more containers of pumpkin seeds, thousands of them. The thing started to regain its composure.

“What are you gonna do Tommy, brush me aside?” asked the formally Mr. Rey, now sneering, his emaciated charcoal gray body, partially charred like a briquette. Tommy’s eyes darted between the creature and Mikey.

Tommy poked the broom at the thing like a lion tamer, hoping to keep it at bay. Mikey started to regain consciousness; he groaned then slowly placed his fingers in his pocket and pulled out his custom made gold lighter. Tommy jabbed again at the creature again, but it knocked the broom out of his hands.

“I told you to get off my property,” the creature began saying repeatedly, quicker and faster then suddenly like a skipping record. “Get-get-get-get-get-get.”

“Mikey, hurry!”

His cousin reached back and flicked the lighter – the flame shot up two inches high, and tossed it at the creature, setting it afire. Quickly, the room became engulfed in flames. Tommy picked his cousin up by the waist and helped his out from the burning room. He hurried over to the base of the stairs and placed Mikey’s arm over his shoulder. Struggling to reach the top, the two men headed for the back door.

“The gas Tommy, turn on the gas,” gasped Mikey in a whisper, coughing up blood.

“The what?” screamed Tommy.

“Turn on the gas stove and . . .” uttered The Torch. Tommy shook his head, trying to understanding his cousin. He poured a trail of gasoline along the floor and counter top.

And just for good measure Tommy grabbed the gasoline can and headed back to the basement. “We can’t have any of those damn seeds around.”

Tommy opened the door only to be greeted by the smoking creature, still in flames like a Duraflame log. It reached out with its sinewy arms and grabbed Tommy’s sweater, searing the fabric.

“This was a present from my wife you bastard!”

“The voice! She has a horrible voice!” the creature screeched, before being doused by more gasoline. Tommy kicked the burning creature down the stairs where it broke apart like a towering stack of Legos.

“Alright Mikey, let’s get the hell out of here!”

Tommy grasped the gasoline can and finished up a trail ten feet outside the back door. His cousin handed him a half used pack of matches and lit the whole thing. The two started back to the car when the house exploded like a bomb, throwing both men to the ground. Tommy picked his cousin up and helped him into the back seat.

The mob guy got in and simply stared at the burning house, all tangerine orange and cinnamon red. He sat back trying to digest what the hell had just happened. He closed his eyes to rest, only for a moment. Twenty minutes later, he was awakened by the sounds of blaring sirens. He crouched down as a fire engine came barreling down the road. After it passed, he started the car, lights off, and headed in the opposite direction. Mikey was coughing in the back seat, in pain, but still alive.

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Nearly a year later, the two couples decided a coastal New England weekend getaway would be a nice idea. Actually both men were secretly scouting for fresh new places to stash ‘the bodies.’ Mikey suggested he and his cousin write the trip off as a business expense.

“Hope you don’t mind ladies, but I want to stop off somewhere real quick,” said Tommy, driving his new maroon four-door BMW down a familiar countryside road. He pulled up a deserted uphill driveway; the gravel completely blanketed by weeds now, and parked the car.

“Hey, this place kinda looks familiar,” said Maria, sitting in the back seat with Mikey’s wife, Ginger. “Isn’t this where we saw all those gorgeous red pumpkins?” Tommy looked over at his cousin. The wounds to his throat healed, but now Mikey spoke with a tried and true raspy Mafioso voice.

“Yeah.”

All four got out of the car. The house and barn were all gone. The only remnants left from that horrific night was a rusted out tractor way in the back yard. “What happened?” Maria asked.

“Got me by the cannolis,” her husband answered, grinning at Mikey with a wink.

His wife gave him a cool stare. “Tommy?”

“Mikey?” said Ginger, seconding the motion.

“Whadda say we stop off and pick up some fresh made apple cider?” exclaimed Mikey, trying to change the subject in a hurry.

A few miles down the road, Tommy spotted a large pumpkin patch, complete with hayrides and apple cider for sale. There were lots of people milling around, enjoying the fall festivities.

“Hold on,” said Tommy, his little gray cells trying to work in overtime. There, a large, rectangular orange sign, the letters painted in robust Kelly green paint . . .

“That’s so cute,” said Ginger. “Rey’s Pumpkin Patchorama.”

“Rey?” Tommy muttered in horror. He turned to his cousin. The four got out of the car; Tommy sprinted ahead. Mikey followed, albeit a step slower.

“Our boys sure love their pumpkin patches,” boasted Maria. Ginger agreed as she threaded her brunette locks through the back opening of her white Polo brand baseball cap.

“What’s up?” Mikey called out, trying to keep up with his cousin.

“Rey!” blurted Tommy, turning back to his cousin. “For God’s sake, Rey!” Mikey finally got it.

The two men frantically paced the grounds. “There, standing by the tractor,” pointed Tommy.

Both Tommy and Mikey jogged over to the tall man, who from the back resembled . . .

Tommy placed his hand on his shoulder. The man abruptly turned around, sporting an orange sweatshirt with the words Rey’s Pumpkins printed in bold green letters.

“Are you Mr. Rey?” asked Tommy, who had erased most of his protruding gut by cutting back on his mom’s homemade pastries.

Mikey stepped closer and pulled down his turtleneck, revealing a pair of quarter-sized round scar. “Does this ring any bells old man?” The gentleman, early sixties, tall and slender with a graying beard, took off his sunglasses.

“I’m sorry, do I know you two?” he asked, startled by the two beefy men.

“Maybe,” answered Tommy. “How long have you been doing business here?”

“And do you have a brother? About yay tall with smooth skin?” asked Mikey.

“To the first question, all my life, sir. And to the second, no brothers -- just a younger sister. Why do you ask?” he replied. A woman around the same age with curly black peppery hair walked over, her two grandchildren by her side.

“Is everything okay, honey?” she asked.

“It’s all fine, ma’am,” replied Mikey, “Our mistake.” The two started walking away when Tommy noticed something amongst the huge field of pumpkins.

“I see red!” Both men picked up their pace, stalking into the sea of orange and began rummaging through the piles of pumpkins.

“There!” cried Tommy. He reached for his pocketknife, snapped it open and to everyone’s horror, began stabbing it. Mikey spotted another one and repeated the onslaught.

“Where’s the blood?” Mikey asked. A large circle of people convened, observing the inexplicable behavior. The owner and his wife meandered their way through the stirring crowd. Mr. Rey stood behind to the two men, tapping his duck boot. One little boy, baseball cap backwards, videotaped the whole episode on his iPhone.

“And how will you be paying for those,” the man said, sternly.

Both cousins looked at each other, puzzled then a wave of stupidity hit them square in their collective noggins. The wives sauntered over to find out what all the excitement was about only to discover their husbands, sitting together like a pair of preschoolers in time-out, holding switchblades amongst butchered red pumpkins.

Tommy looked up at his wife like a sad puppy. “Sorry, we thought they were something else.”

“Like what?” asked Maria, dressed in a skin-tight cheetah print dress. Both men were pink-faced with embarrassment “Oh, this is so humiliating Tommy.” Her grating voice rang out loud and full of dismay.

The drive home was surprisingly quiet. Maria and Ginger, usually a pair of gold medal yapazoids, were fast asleep in the back seat. Mikey had finally nodded off too, cradling a vibrant orange stuffed animal pumpkin. After the patchorama fiasco and late afternoon lunch, Tommy drove about forty minutes out of town when he was hit with a wave of trepidation.

“I just gotta make sure,” Tommy uttered before turning the car around. He headed down the familiar side road again, pulling into the empty lot. Dusk was settling in as Tommy reached over for the flashlight in the glove compartment.

He stepped out of the car and took a deep breath, absorbing the crisp autumn temperature, with just the right hint of briny ocean air thrown in. Tommy scoured around, then walked over to where the horrifying body pit was, now completely filled in. He strolled a few yards farther back, spotting a lone apple tree. The apples looked deliciously red. He was about to pick one but thought otherwise. “A bit too red,” he thought.

Tommy combed over the grounds back and forth for almost half an hour, finding nothing. Then, hidden behind a couple of recently deposited old tires, he spotted something. He bent down and saw the familiar red shape, small, about the size of a softball. He touched the object then stroked his hand along the vine and leaves. He knew the fragrance, having worked in his dad’s pizza restaurant for years. Still, he wasn’t taking any chances. Tommy took out his handgun and fired repeatedly into the red shape, splattering it all over the place.

After close inspection, Tommy was satisfied. He placed the gun back in his coat pocket and returned to his car where he planted a Frank Sinatra CD right into the CD player then headed home.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.


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