Excerpt from "The Carver", by Erin Farwell:
The hinges on the door to the old barn squealed in protest when Chris shoved his way inside. All season he’d told Drake Logan to fix the damn thing. How was he supposed to create in conditions like this? Flipping the switch, he let his eyes adjust as the overhead lights flickered to life. The large tank still had pumpkins floating on the surface, like a giant’s game of bobbing for apples. Someone had cleaned the work tables, but bits of pumpkin guts and rind still lay on the surface and covered the floor beneath.
Chris sighed. He’d told the minions to give the place a good clean-up. Even though the corn maze would be open for another few weeks, tonight was the culmination of the last month’s efforts. Halloween marked the end of the month long “Pumpkin Walk” at Logan’s Corn Maze Farm, and this barn had been his workshop. With his team of eight minions, they had carved over 2,000 Jack o’ Lanterns that were displayed along the meandering path through the small wooded area near the corn maze. Of course all of the big ones, the great ones, the truly scary ones were created by him.
The problem was that pumpkins would rot. Soaking them in water with a little bleach then spraying them with acrylic kept them looking nice longer, but in the end they turned to mush. Chris took a month away from his graphic design studio each October to work in this fickle and impermanent medium. Every year he created the theme of the walk, carved the primary pumpkins and oversaw the creation of the others. He and the minions checked the display every day, carving new pumpkins to replace the ones that had started to sag. For six years he’d worked for Logan’s Corn Maze and enjoyed the challenges and reaped the rewards and kudos, which were his due. Everything had been perfect, until this year.
He knew he was depressed--his father had died only two months ago, but that was only part of the problem. There was also Patrick, with his tight t-shirts and tighter jeans who caught the attention of too many women. He also wanted to paint the Jack o’ Lanterns, add Spanish moss for hair, hats, stuff like that. But Chris was a purist and there was no place for such fads in his workshop.
Unfortunately, Logan had liked some of Patrick’s designs and had hinted that Chris should do more of that kind of work next year, which was never going to happen. He was a master carver, well respected. Besides, if Logan wanted Chris to play nice, he needed to do the same.
Then there was Amy. Restless and beautiful, his wife flitted from career to career like a butterfly to flowers. She’d never hung around the farm, never cared about what he did here, until this fall.
Maybe he needed to walk away from her, from the farm, even his business. Stupid, he knew, and this wasn’t what he wanted, not really. What he needed to do was take some time off and think things through. As soon as he closed up the Pumpkin Walk, he’d pack a bag and head to the cabin.
Decision made, Chris picked up the jacket he had left there earlier in the day and started for the door. Amy said she was going out tonight, some party or something, but he wanted to be home when she returned. They needed to talk. The minions would finish up tonight and tomorrow they’d do the final clean up, throwing away all of their hard work.
He’d reached for the light switch when he noticed that his tool box was open. One of the minions must have needed something and couldn’t be bothered to close it again. He stomped over to the table and did a quick inventory. Peelers, graters, chisels, awls, small saws, knives, they were all accounted for. No, they weren’t. His best knife, the one that had been forged by a blacksmith, was missing.
The walkie-talkie on his belt crackled to life, followed by an indiscernible string of words.
Snatching the thing from his belt, he pushed the button and said, “This is Chris. What the hell do you want?”
“The light in the big Jack o’ Lantern in the center of the main display is out.”
Chris swore under this breath. “Get one of the minions to fix it.”
More static. “Can’t reach anyone else.”
“I’ll take care of it then.” At least this was a problem he knew how to fix.
The last of the stragglers worked their way into the Pumpkin Walk, some lingering longer than expected, cutting things close. Then the biggest risk of the night, dragging the sawhorse over the path with the closed sign hanging from it, but no one saw.
Slipping through the darkness, avoiding the motion sensors and lights, was easy. The last of the visitors were almost through the display. A minute later the large clearing emptied of the sightseers. The giant Jack o’ Lantern in the center of the display glowed brightly until a wire was cut. Light still shown from the smaller pumpkins, but it didn’t matter. Chris would only have eyes for his creation.
The inside of the pumpkin was slick, but not much movement would be required. Crouching low, surrounded by the smell of rotting pumpkin, the wait was only a minute or two before Chris lumbered down the path.
He walked behind the display and leaned into the back of the Jack o’ Lantern to fix the light. The look of surprise on his face was almost comical.
“Trick or treat.”
The knife slid between his ribs, once, twice. Amazing what you can learn on the Internet.
Chris jerked back, taking the knife with him, stumbling over pumpkins, smashing them underfoot until he finally collapsed. Stepping carefully around the broken bits of pumpkin was difficult, but the goo made it easy to drag Chris’ body into place.
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