Day 31 of BookDayMay

Guess the implausible ending of these short stories:

Pumpkin (1986) by Bill Pronzini. Harley has a pumpkin patch – a big one. Manuel works for Harley, picking pumpkins. Except for one – he won’t touch it. It’s evil. Amanda, Harley’s wife, agrees. They can feel the depravity radiating from its orange rind. Harley cannot. He’s too practical for such nonsense. But they talk Harley into covering the wicked thing with a tarp, and leaving it the patch to rot. Come Halloween night, Harley is miffed because he didn’t win the “Biggest Pumpkin” award at the Pumpkin Festival. So he goes back to his patch and drinks. Now it’s getting late. Amanda wonders where Harley is. It’s almost midnight. Then Harley bursts through the back door and:

  1. He’s gorged himself on the evil pumpkin. And he has some wicked orange flesh for her as well, whether she’s hungry or not. The bad seeds are now planted.
  2. He’s carved the evil pumpkin into an evil jack-o-lantern, complete with a lit demonic candle. Amanda screams, Harvey drops the wicked thing, and the farmhouse burns down. Manuel watches from a distance, grinning.
  3. Right behind him is Manuel, carrying the evil pumpkin. Manuel says he was just kidding about it being evil, and they all have a good laugh. But then the pumpkin explodes and demons fly out of the flesh.
  4. Amanda chastises him for scaring her. But it’s not Harley – it’s Manuel wearing Harley’s face as a mask. Now he just needs Amanda’s face for the pumpkin, and they can live happily ever after as husband and pumpkin.

The correct answer is one. Harley will sweep the awards at next year’s festival.

* * * * *

Lover in the Wildwood (1986) by Frank Belknap Long. Katherine is age-worn, frail, and faded. She’s also an emotional, needy thing. She rants and raves until Helen, her nurse, relents and pushes Katherine’s wheelchair into the woods so she and her imaginary lover can do the wild thing on Halloween night. She claims he comes for her at the same time and place every Halloween. In the forest clearing, in a blaze of glory, Katherine’s ghostly beau actually shows up. Helen spies on them from the edge of the clearing. He lifts her from her wheelchair, they embrace, and Katherine becomes youthful, strong, and vibrant again. But only for a minute. In another blaze of glory, he flames out, and Katherine is her old self again, collapsed in the wheelchair. And now she’s dead. The next Halloween, Helen:

  1. Wheels another old biddy out to the forest clearing for some supernatural mojo. She likes watching, it’s a fetish.
  2. Disguises herself as Katherine and wheels herself out to the forest clearing. She has a death wish.
  3. Sets up a dummy in a wheelchair in the forest clearing. Then she hides behind a tree with a video camera.
  4. Waits for the ghostly lover in the forest clearing. With Katherine out of the way, he’s sure to give her some of that spooky hanky panky.

The correct answer is four. She’s got a thing for the love ‘em and leave ‘em type.

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