This short story features characters from my novelette The World That Forgot How to Dance.
“Ellsie, will you leave it alone? The pumpkin looks fine.”
Lester’s voice poked a hole in Ellsie’s concentration, so she stopped dancing before she could call the magic into her movements. She gave Lester the stink-eye, which would have been much more effective if he’d been looking at her. Lester, however, was dedicatedly working on carving a jack-o-lantern and couldn’t be bothered.
Sighing, Ellsie frowned at her own pumpkin, which hadn’t even been hollowed out yet. “It’s not fine,” she insisted. “It has this giant lump on it.”
“And it’s a fine lump,” he said. “A glorious lump. The best lump in the whole world.”
“Just be quiet while I’m dancing,” she ordered, and really should have waited for a confirmation of her request, but didn’t. She began the spell-dance again and just as she was about to send the magic into the pumpkin to smooth that unsightly lump away…
“You know, some people incorporate the shape of the pumpkin into the design.”
She groaned and let the magic drop, unused. “Lester, I swear—”
“Maybe you could pretend like it got hit on the head and put a bandage over it,” he said. “It would be funny.”
“I don’t want it to be funny,” Ellsie said, aware of the childish tone in her voice, but unwilling to do anything about it just now. “I want it to be—”
“Yeah,” he said. “So: Perfect.”
“Fine. Yes,” she snapped. “And if you interrupt me again, I’m sending you inside until I’m done.”
“Good.” She started the dance a third time, and finally got all of the magic gathered. Circling closer to the pumpkin on the little table, she reached out to touch the lump and shrink it to size.
Her fingers touched the area next to the lump, so now there was a sizeable valley in her pumpkin as well. But she could correct it! But it was fixable. She just had to use the magic to… No! Now it had three lumps instead of one!
Every attempt to undo the previous attempts resulted in nudging the pumpkin farther and farther from its intended spherical shape. When it had five or six horn-like structures and threatened to tip over with lopsided glory, Ellsie gave up.
Stepping back, fuming, she summarized her efforts. “Well, great. Now it looks like a monster.”
“It does?” Lester stood up from the porch with sudden interest. “Oh, hey, it does! Just a minute.” He bounced over to the table with a black marker in hand and began drawing. “Now, you want to add a big, jagged mouth here… and eyes… six of them…”
“Lester, what are you doing?”
He capped the marker and turned to her with a ‘wait, there’s more!’ twinkle in his eyes. He retrieved his own completed pumpkin from the porch, set it beside hers, and stepped back with a gesture inviting much applause.
His pumpkin had a terrified face and seemed to be fleeing Ellsie’s monster. Part of Ellsie was angry that he knew her well enough to predict that her pumpkin would become a horrific beast because she couldn’t leave it alone. A stronger part of her, though, was already enjoying the fact that their jack-o-lanterns would be cooler than anyone’s this year.
“Well,” she said, trying to hide her smile and failing, “I guess that works.”
This is just a fun, little piece I wrote when I was feeling particularly Halloween-y. If you enjoyed this story, you’d probably have a good time reading their original novelette, The World That Forgot How to Dance. It’s available as an e-book through Amazon, or in print through Etsy.
Any thoughts on perfectionism, pumpkins, dancing, magic, or Halloween are welcome in the comments below!