Autumnal Promise

Thomas held on to the handle of the trolley as his mother steered it around the supermarket. Ghouls and skeletons hung from the ceiling and plastic spiders were stuck to the shelves.

Their trolley was almost full with the usual groceries, plus packets of brightly coloured sweets and candied fruit. ‘Now?’ he pulled at his mother’s sleeve. She looked down at him and smiled, ‘Come on then’.

They went back to the store entrance, where all the fruit and vegetables were stacked up in multicoloured displays. A man was handing out chunks of toffee apples on a stick and reached out give one to Thomas, but he ignored the offer and carried on.

In front of them was a huge display of pumpkins, banners displaying images of expertly carved faces surrounded the display as it towered above him. As they approached, a father and daughter were picking from a shortlist and Thomas eyed them, quickly comparing them to the ones still unpicked.

Satisfied that they hadn’t selected the largest pumpkin, he went around putting his hands up against each one to judge its size. His mother waited patiently as he compared one after another, before selecting one much larger than his head.

He proudly carried it to the counter and buckled it into the seat next to him on the ride home. Thomas sat squirming with excitement at the kitchen table as his mother put away the groceries. She folded the bags and placed them under the sink, then picked up a large carving knife and sat down next to him.

She placed it on the table and tiled the handle towards him, ‘go on’ she smiled. Thomas beamed so wide  his smile nearly tore the skin around his mouth ‘really?’. She nodded, so he picked up the knife then carefully and tentatively pushed the blade in.

She watched him cut the first slit for an eye, ‘remember, only when I’m here’. Engrossed in this new activity he barely registered her words and didn’t hear the phone ring from the other room. He was halfway through the mouth when she took the knife from his hand and placed it back on the table and left to answer the phone.

Transfixed, he picked up the knife and continued to carve the mouth, pushing down as hard as he could; half the neighbourhood heard the scream.

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