This month’s #blogbattle prompt is the word ‘hypnotic’ and this is where it led
Pug Contrarian tried to maintain his calm but picking a pumpkin to carve was proving to be something of a splinter as he slid down the bannister of his weekend. ‘Can you just take one, please?’ He knew he sounded peevish but then again his twins Scottie and Bull were pushing him beyond reason. Their prattling arguments reminded him of his last months with their mother. If he could only have been more patient, less inclined to explode.
A sign snagged his attention. Free instructions in calm; control the angry you and impress your family
If only, he thought. Beyond the sign, through the smeary glass he noticed a grizzled old man in a shapeless cardigan. At the moment he spotted the man, he looked across at Pug and nodded once. Embarrassed to be staring, Pug looked away, vaguely aware the the twins had stopped arguing and were focused on the door to the shop.
Pug started. The old man stood just behind him, watching Pug’s children. ‘They’ll want the best pumpkin to carve, won’t they?’
‘I’d be happy is they just chose one. We’ve been here hours.’
The old man seemed not to notice. He waved at the children. ‘Take that one.’
So far as Pug could see the man was pointing at a pumpkin behind a barrel of some kind. Scottie didn’t wait, skipping to it and, to Pug’s surprise lifting it easily. ‘This is so cool, Dad!’ cried the little girl. To Pug’s astonishment Bull followed his sister and took the vegetable from her. ‘Good one, sis!’ he exclaimed.
‘Well blow me, they’ve agreed on something.’ He glanced to where the old man had been but he was gone. ‘What the…?’ He checked the shop window but shutters had been pulled down. In truth it looked like it hadn’t been open in an age. Shaking his head, he led his children to the counter to pay.
The woman serving looked as harassed as he’d felt earlier, though right now he felt as calm as he did after a couple of whiskies. She took the pumpkin, frowned and turned it in her hands. ‘You sure you want this one?’ She hefted it, as if checking its weight. ‘Feels empty. Might be rotten.’
Pug looked at the twins’ imploring faces. ‘We’ll risk it.’
She sniffed. ‘It ain’t got a label. I can’t charge you if it don’t have a label.’
Pug essayed a grin. ‘It must be free then,’ he met her gaze as he spoke.
Her expression clouded. ‘Free? Yes, it must be free,’ she intoned in a flat voice. Then she smiled, an expression that didn’t sit well with the rest of her face. ‘That must be it!’ She handed the pumpkin back to Scottie who whooped and passed it to Bull like it was a ball.
Normally Pug would have admonished them, told them to stop in case they dropped it and it smashed. Instead he just began to follow, feeling oddly good.
‘Hey, mister,’ the cashier called him back
Here we go, he thought. Time to pay.
Instead she held out an envelope. ‘You left this.’
‘I don’t think so.’
‘Are you Pug?’
She held up the envelope. His name was written in neat block capitals on the front.
Pug took the envelope from the woman, wondering what on Earth it could be. It felt like a book, or a pamphlet. It was a mistake. He was about to hand it back, when he realised the woman had gone and the cash desk was unmanned.
‘Come on, dad!’ Bull waved at him. ‘We need to get home and get carving.’
All the way back, Pug wondered what had happened. One minute he was on edge, well capable of losing it. The next it was all zen and smiles. He shook his head in wonder. And the kids. They were teasing each other, but neither was being wound up by it. Miracles
Indoors, the pumpkin sat on the counter while they had a bite to eat.
‘What’s in the envelope, dad?’
He’d forgotten about that. Pulling it from his jacket he ripped the lip and pulled out a thin booklet. On the cover was a pumpkin, much like the one on the counter under the heading
Control of the mind through the eyes of a master.
Bit weird, Pug thought as he opened the cover. He couldn’t help laughing. Exercise one: carve the pumpkin. That was it?
Scottie read over his shoulder. ‘It tells you how, dad. We need a knife.’
‘On it,’ Bull jumped up and pulled open the cutlery drawer. ‘Here.’ He offered Pug a short wooden handled knife Pug had never seen before.
‘Was that in the drawer?’
‘Yeah. On top.’
Pug was about to argue. It must have been at the back, something he’d never noticed after Angela left. But the moment of bubbling irritation died as his attention caught sight of the pumpkin, held by Scottie.
Bull turned the page. ‘Let’s follow the instructions.’ He pointed at the next picture. ‘It looks like that old man’
Pug stared. It did though how you could make a large Orange pumpkin look like a gnarly decrepit old shop keeper was beyond him.
Pug considered himself to be lacking in any artistic skills, but following the instructions proved to be surprisingly easy. In no time they had something that looked unexpectedly similar to the picture.
‘We need a candle,’ Scottie announced.
‘There’s a tea light under the sink,’ Bull announced.
How did he know that, thought Pug. He doubted Bull had ever looked under the kitchen sink. But the boy was right.
As Pug lit the little light and stood back, Scottie moved to turn off the lights. Warm beams poured out of the eye slits and mouth.
For a moment Pug felt a deep warmth begin to fill him, much like the candle filled the centre of the pumpkin. He felt drawn to it, wanted to touch it, sense it…
Then it spoke…