:: Article


By Randal Eldon Greene.



He sits with the pumpkin between his knees. It’s not a large pumpkin, but it’s orange and ripe. The stem is a dry, dead brown. The kid is wearing blue jeans, green sneakers, and a striped red and navy jacket. There’s a knife in his mouth, and the knife is being plunged into the orange pumpkin. The boy has no arms. He’s sitting on the front steps of a little white house looking out on a yard with a scatter of yellow leaves.  Any observer might ask, What’s he going to do when he cuts the top off? How will he get that pumpkin’s fibrous goop out?  But no one asks him. He keeps sawing away slowly, cutting through the thick shell. An observer might cheer him on or simply say, Why not just give the kid a paintbrush and some paint? Let him grip that in his teeth? Decorate the pumpkin as best he can with a scary face, a black cat, or a ghost? But there’s no one outside with him. He’s all alone with a pumpkin between his knees and a knife in his mouth, armless, bobbing his head up and down.



A young woman holding an empty glass pitcher walks down a hallway with brick walls in an apartment building. She’s holding the pitcher by the handle, and then she takes it and smashes it against the wall. There’s glass everywhere. She’s got this hair that’s cropped all short and she’s wearing a purple scoop-neck tee, pink moccasins, and blue cotton sleep shorts dotted with clouds in mimicry of a happy summer sky. Oh, but look closely. Just above the neckline of her tee shirt is the word irony written in thick black marker. And look at her face. This was not what she meant to do. Look at her looking at her hand and that astonishment. And then watch her run. Observe how she flies away, still holding on to the handle of the broken glass pitcher. It’s like, though, this is what she should have been doing all along, smashing and running.



Drool is flowing down the knife and is pooled around the stem of the pumpkin. He’s still sawing away at it, all alone. The young woman is running down the street. She’s still holding on to the handle of that pitcher.  She looks over at the boy as she’s running. She stops. She watches him. “Hey,” she says. The boy looks up, sees that she’s dressed all wrong for the chilly fall air. She walks into the yard, drops the handle. He notices the word written on her chest but doesn’t know what it means. The boy nods at her. She walks up to him and takes the pumpkin out of his lap. The knife drops from his mouth. Then she hefts the pumpkin up and tosses it onto the sidewalk. There are pieces of pumpkin everywhere. He looks at her in astonishment. Looks at her placid face, those pretty gray eyes, and can’t connect those hands with any of it. She looks back at the boy looking at her and tells him, “This isn’t the first time I’ve done this.” And then she runs away.




Randal Eldon Greene is the author of Descriptions of Heaven (Harvard Square Editions, 2016), a novel. His short fiction has appeared in Unbroken Journal, 34thParallel, NPR online, and elsewhere. Greene is a fiction editor for Heart & Mind Zine. His typos are tweeted @AuthorGreene and his website is found at AuthorGreene.com


Digital maipulation of Théodule Ribot‘s Still Life with Pumpkin, Plums, Cherries, Figs and Jug, oil on canvas (circa 1860).

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, June 13th, 2017.