Story: Pumpkin Night
by Gary McMahon
“Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other.”
Sir Francis Bacon, “Of Death” Essays (1625)
The pumpkin, faceless and eyeless, yet nonetheless intimidating, glared up at Baxter as he sat down opposite with the knife.
He had cleared a space on the kitchen table earlier in the day, putting away the old photographs, train tickets, and receipts from restaurants they had dined at over the years. Katy had kept these items in a large cigar box under their bed, and he had always mocked her for the unlikely sentimentality of the act. But now that she was dead, he silently thanked her for having such forethought.
He fingered the creased, leathery surface of the big pumpkin, imagining how it might look when he was done. Every Halloween Katy had insisted upon the ritual, something begun in her family when she was a little girl. A carved pumpkin, the task undertaken by the man of the house; the seeds and pithy insides scooped out into a bowl and used for soup the next day. Katy had always loved Halloween, but not in a pathetic Goth girl kind of way. She always said that it was the only time of the year she felt part of something, and rather than ghosts and goblins she felt the presence of human wrongdoing near at hand.