My entry in the latest Angry Hourglass Flash Frenzy contest. The photo below was your inspiration and the word count maximum was 360. I wanted to take a break from my usual stories exploring the dark side of humanity and try something more sentimental and folksy. Hope you enjoy.
He was young and defiant once. She was young and suspicious once. Sixty years ago he first glimpsed her at the pumpkin festival in Louisville. They formed a bond spitting pumpkin seeds and strengthened it later relaxing by the lake talking about everything and nothing. The moon would replace the sun, but they stayed out there, awash in the flame of first love and lost inside the melting of time.
The house was too quiet now. He missed the clinking of her teacup when she gently placed it on the saucer, and the way she fake coughed when she wanted his attention. The creak of the rocking chair when she swayed casually on the front porch. Nowadays, Hal would loudly root through the cooking pans or crank the volume on her favorite gospel channel just to make some noise. Her noise.
She loved pumpkins. The house was littered with them in various forms: Paintings, refrigerator magnets, dish cloths, figurines, place mats, and sweaters. He used to chide her about this perplexing adoration, but whenever he was in town at the flea market, he always searched the booths for a pumpkin knickknack for her. He missed that too, the searching.
Hal stepped outside to inhale some fresh air and check on the crops. His eyes were greeted by a tidal wave of orange. They kept growing bigger and bigger. He allowed himself a tiny grin and marveled at the row after row of enormous pumpkins, orange boulders as mammoth as a two-story home. He wished she could see this, Alice would be aglow with joy, he thought. She’d probably have him hollow one out so she could take a nap inside its comforting walls.
He shuffled between the rows, arms outstretched, and lightly stroked the flesh of his wife’s beloved gourds and, by extension, maybe her own delicate skin too. He had mixed her ashes with the soil when she passed, as she requested.
He was old and compliant now. In the morning, when the sun replaces the moon, he will still be out there with those massive pumpkins, thinking of the girl who had caught his eye long ago.