Oooh spooky… In honor of this mysterious and mildly threatening day–should you remember to be threatened that is, I’m showcasing the spookiest story in my collection–“Into the Burn.”
Ok, it’s not so spooky, but there are Jack-o-Lanterns, a seance, and the spirit of Ernest Hemingway.
Excerpt from “Into the Burn.” (Ernie is a cat.)
At home, the kitchen is full of gutted pumpkins. My mother is carving a jack-o-lantern. They’re all on sale, she says. Let’s carve them all up and put the faces all around the yard. We’ll have a séance and call up the spirits of Hemingway and Hawthorne.
Can Ernie come, I ask. He must, she says.
When it’s dark we set the jack-o-lanterns around the yard. Dozens of them. Their orange faces flickering from within. My mother laughs out loud. This is the greatest thing we’ve ever done, she says. Don’t you think? We spread a blanket down in the midst and lay flat
on our backs. Look around, she says, it’s eerie.
We’re eye to eye with all the grins and grimaces. Any moment I know that something magic will happen. It must. The brown leaves rattle on the trees and there’s
that wind. Rolling over the pumpkin faces, kissing our foreheads, making things new. I reach in my pocket and pull out the paper. I hand it over to her. She unfolds it and holds it out in front her face. We lay there a while. She wads the paper and squeezes it tight in her hand.
Let’s call out the spirits she says and we sit up. She sits beside me and slides the nearest jack-o-lantern onto the blanket in front of us. Put your hands up like this, she says and lifts her arms out in front of her. Like this, I ask and do the same. She clears her throat and lowers her voice. Oh stodgy spirits of language arts class, she says, show us you’re
here. We giggle and she nudges me to play along. I put on my best, fake séance voice. Give us a sign. Will I get an A on my paper? Ernie comes racing around the side of the house and
stops in his tracks. He creeps up on the fat pumpkin under the tree, sticks his nose inside the mouth and jumps back away from the flame. He runs off through the jack-o-lantern maze and disappears under the fence. My mother looks at me. Hemingway, she says and nods knowingly. We giggle and call up the ghosts some more. After a while she opens her hand and holds out the ball of paper.
“Do you know who he is?”
“I thought so.”
She gives the paper to me.
“You can talk to him if you want.”
I nod and fold the paper in a neat square. I reach it out toward the glowing mouth in front of me. I slip the paper into the smile. Smoke lifts from the eyes and the cut around the stem, then drifts off into the breeze. Something new is happening. Something old is
May is short story month and all month long I’m offering an amazing deal on my story collection, Out Across the Nowhere. It’s just $10.00 to your door. (Postage within the US included.) Click the book cover to go to the order page! Thanks for reading! Happy Friday the 13th!