- Pumpkin Fateby Mastery
This work has reached the exceptional level
Bad things happen to bad people.
Pumpkin Fate by Mastery
    Halloween, Aspirin, and Tattoos Contest Winner 

Artwork by MoonWillow at

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.
Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.

Coley Drummond's favorite watering hole, The Half Moon Tavern, was a cavernous metal building with bad lighting, cheap beer, a jukebox, and a weekend band. Outside it boasted a sprawling gravel parking lot where dusty pickups greatly outnumbered sedans. It was an Ernest Tubb, George Jones country joint, where the locals blew their paychecks and tempers every Friday night.

The regulars were what you'd expect--factory workers looking for a drink before heading home, country boys looking for fun, late-night twenty-somethings and the dance and party crowd there to listen to live music. Some, like Coley, stayed until closing and played Russian Roulette driving home drunk. They could care less about consequences.

An eight-to-four-thirty job at Kramer's Tool and Die bored the hell out of Coley and he constantly sought that winning lottery ticket in life that would somehow alter his dull existence. He was thought to be fairly competent at his job, but possessed the personality of a slug.

Built like a house, he was a scruffy type with red cheeks and the look of a man who enjoyed brawls. His skin was mostly blue with tattoos.

His body had only twitched once or twice since he staggered in the door at four a.m.,throwing off his clothes and crawling into bed, but otherwise he had remained motionless.

Quietly slithering out of bed, his wife Laureen, wrapped a fuzzy pink robe around her body. Looking at herself in the small mirror perched atop the leaning chest of drawers, she held her face at an unusual angle, not only because the battered piece of furniture listed to one side with a broken leg, but also because the mirror was shattered. Meandering lines grew outward on the surface of the glass like the slender branches of a sapling such that if Laureen had looked head-on into the mirror she would have seen not one but three faces in the reflection.

A beautiful woman when she wanted to be, which was not very often, her shapely thin figure was usually camouflaged under a loose cotton drip-dry dress or her bulky work-shirt. With honey-colored hair and pale blue eyes, she still looked somewhat innocent and well scrubbed. She had aged a lot in the past four years however and looked much older than her thirty years.

She pranced quietly to the kitchen, knowing it was best not to wake Coley if possible.

A table knife stuck out from an open jar of peanut butter sitting in the midst of saltine crumbs scattered all over the kitchen counter. Remnants of Coley's craving for munchies. Despite her diligent efforts to keep the place clean, the interior often resembled the trashy exterior due to the laziness of the man sprawled on the bed.

Their home was a forty-foot-long trailer-- ten foot wide, and constructed of aluminum. The walls were covered with cheap paneling that had warped in the tropical humidity; the threadbare carpet the color of liver. There was a tiny kitchen area with a snack bar and three wicker stools. There was bad wiring, a constant drip for a shower, and a decrepit air conditioner that leaked gray fluid year 'round. Security wasn't a problem however: Many of the trailer-park neighbors owned free-running pit bulls that were canine psychopaths no burglar dared to challenge.

Their place was on a gravel road in a forlorn any town neighborhood known as Pine Grove. The tiny front lawn was overgrown with tall weeds and cocklebur and a rusty mailbox was barely visible near the ditch beside the road.

Other trailers were scattered along the unpaved streets. Most of the cars and trucks parked around them were decades old, unpainted and dented. A few homes of the permanent variety, were immobile-anchored on slabs fifty years earlier, but they, too, were aging badly and showed signs of neglect.

It had rained all day Friday, but Saturday was bright and clear. The wind scattered red and yellow leaves along the ground. The oaks along the road were bare and their branches looked skeletal against the bright blue sky. Halloween decorations laced porch railings and hung in windows throughout the neighborhood.

The street sounds of Saturday morning included Kids screaming, dogs barking, revving engines and bad mufflers when sunlight spilled through the windows and Laureen watched Coley stir and crawl to a sitting position on the bed.

"Ahhhh. Give me a coupla' aspirin, Laureen. My fuckin' head is 'bout ready to explode," he groaned.

Coley always spoke as though he was center stage; there wasn't an ounce of decency or consideration evident in his voice. He was so vindictive that if he had a family crest, it would most likely say, "I will cut off my nose to spite my face," and emblazoned on the crest would be the profile of a man without a nose.

The problem with a loser like Coley was, there was no way to deflect him, once he was tanked. Laureen couldn't talk to him because he was nuts besides being cruel. He was abrasive, fearless and downright mean, especially when the booze hit his brain and he was drunk.

"I think we're out, honey--no Tylenol either. I'll run to seven-eleven and get some real quick? Just let me get dressed."

"Ahhhh! I can't believe this shit. Yeah-- do something for Christ sakes." He wagged his head from side to side. "I'm dying here," he said as he flopped back down on the bed.

"What time did you get home?" Laureen asked-- as if she didn't know.

"Shit, I don't know," Coley mumbled. "All I remember is about three o'clock, Tommy brought me home 'cause I was too drunk to drink. My truck's still parked at The Moon."

"Sounds like you should have come home earlier."

"Hey,--don't push it!" Coley glared. His tone was menacing as he pointed an unsteady finger at her.

Yes, Laureen, had become immune to her husband's late hour drunken sprees and abusive mouth. She learned to accept his irrational behavior. She suffered with bruised arms and legs and occasional black eyes inflicted when the mood struck him.
Coley always had a taste for alcohol, just like his father and grandfather. But as his perceived world became gloomier, he drank more, kept even later hours and chased more girls, all in an effort to partake of the good life and escape responsibility.

"Where's the boy?" Coley mumbled.

"In bed; he's sleeping in. It's the weekend you know. Why? Where else would he be?"

"How the hell do I know? The kid spends the night at whats-his-face's place all the time lately. Hey! Get a move on, will ya? I need that friggin aspirin now--not two weeks from now."

"Alright. You want me to make the coffee now, or when I get back."

"I don't care . . . wait , Yeah I do. Go get the aspirin. I'll make the fuckin' coffee."

"Okay, okay. Just leave Josh alone and let him sleep, please. Give the kid a break."

"Yeah, yeah, get going." His nose ran and his eyes were an alarming red as he suddenly jerked forward and coughed, the deep, scratchy hacking action of a chain-smoker. He jumped up next to the bed, his face reddened as he struggled for breath. The coughing grew worse and he spat on the floor. Leaning at the waist with both hands on his hips, he coughed and hacked while shuffling around trying to quit.

"Jesus! You sound terrible," said Laureen. "Maybe you should back off the cigarettes for a while.

"I don't need your shit, Laureen. You're like a damned no-smoking Nazi. I'll quit when I'm damned well ready, okay? Your problem is you think your shit don't stink. Miss perfect who floats above the ground the rest of us have to walk on."

He meandered to the refrigerator and retrieved a can of Coors. "I need some hair from the dog that bit me." After taking a long swig, he closed his eyes rolled the can back and forth on his forehead.

"This all the beer that's left?" he asked.

"I guess so. You're the only one that drinks it, you know."

"No shit! That's a real kick in the crotch,isn't it?" He meandered to the living room and flopped into his recliner.

"Well, pick up a case of beer while you're out. It's Halloween for Christ sakes. Party time."

Laureen knew better than to argue. "Aspirin-- beer, anything else,?"

"Nah. Just hurry up and get your ass back--I'm hurtin and don't worry, your precious baby in the other room can keep sleeping."

Laureen did worry though. Her primary concern was her ten-year-old son, Josh, who was the product of an earlier failed relationship in Tulsa.

Coley thrived on browbeating Josh whenever he had the chance. Laureen did the best she could to prevent it, but when she was at work Josh was on his own and things had gotten worse with each passing day. It was as though Coley figured the taller the boy was--the more he needed to be bullied.

Coley had seemed alright when Laureen first met him. A real nice guy--maybe a little sarcastic when he drank, but nothing more than that. He accepted Josh and never laid a hand on either of them back then. They lived in that apartment in the rear of her mother's house, but had to move when Coley let his alligator mouth overload his hummingbird tail one Sunday afternoon around Easter. From that day forward Laureen's mom wanted nothing more to do with Coley and he decided it was time for them to move.

Laureen's nine-year-old Buick Century sat in their narrow driveway lined with thick, untrimmed hedges. Laureen backed the car out and headed towards town. I should have gotten some money from him. I wonder if he has any left. Oh, well, I don't need his money anyway. I don't know what I'd do without my job. Her mind continued to ramble. I might as well pick up Halloween candy while I'm out. Damn! That's tonight! Josh should be okay 'till I get back. Aspirin? I should tell him they're out. Let the bastard suffer. Headache--too damned bad. Yeah, he really needs the beer, alright. Damn you, Coley Drummond.


By five o'clock that same afternoon, Coley had gone through twelve beers. He sat in his LaZboy watching The Shining. Josh was on the couch, finishing off two hot dog sandwiches and a Pepsi.

"What does "Redrum" mean, Coley?" Josh asked.

Coley chuckled. "Ha! You've seen this before. Don't you remember anything?"

"I know," said Josh. "I just forgot."

Coley grinned and glanced at him. "Redrum is murder spelled backwards, dummy."

"Oh, yeah. Now I remember."

"Of course you do . . . I just told you is why. Damn!"

With a can of Coors in one hand and a cigarette in the other, he paused in mid-puff, then replaced the pack of smokes and slid the lighter back in his pants pocket. Smoke leaked from his mouth and curled upward past his nose and in front of his eyes. He bit the filter and extracted the last mouthful of smoke from the cigarette. before stubbing it out in the ashtray.

He yelled back over his shoulder. "Hey, Laureen, you takin' Jasper here out begging tonight, are ya?" Laureen had been straightening up the bedroom but came out to answer.

"Well, yes, of course. Josh wants to go trick or treating, like all the rest of his friends, Coley."

"Yeah," added Josh. He took a long swig of the Pepsi. "I'm going with Greg and his girlfriend."

"Fine. I suppose I've got to sit here all night and hand out shit to the whole neighborhood--right?"

"Well, yes, Coley. What's the difference. You said you weren't going out tonight anyway. Besides, it can be fun, you know. Just think! You'll have the house all to yourself."

"Awww, bullshit. I only do it because you expect me to sit here like a fuckin' stooge. Bunch of little beggars is all they are. Half of them are too old to be out there asking for shit; they don't even wear costumes for Christ sake."

He toyed with her, like a cat batting around a ball of yarn. He rolled his eyes and snorted. It was always an unfortunate reflex whenever he felt confronted by responsibility. He crumpled an empty can of Coors and lobbed it grenade-style into the trash can, then looked at Josh and grinned.

Laureen could tell, he was already drunk. His mean spirit was coiled like a rattler--ready to strike any moment. When she looked at the seriousness and ego-centered determination in his face, she saw a moth about to fly into a flame.

"What're both of you studs doing the same girl?" He laughed as he stood with his hands on his hips.

"Coley! Knock it off!" said Laureen. "What a thing to say to that boy!" The sweat broke out on her forehead. Her face shrunk with embarrassment.

Coley waved his hand shaking her off dismissively. Josh glared at him--his blue eyes innocent with ambitions of a long life ahead still forming within their simple depths.

They were all silent for a bit.

"Just kidding," Coley hissed. He took one step back and punched Laureen in the stomach, doubling her over. "Your problem is you've got a case of 12-step PMS today, you know, piss, moan, and snivel," he growled. ""Cut down on your Vitamin Bitch Pills, woman."

Laureen staggered back into the wall, choking and trying to regain her breath. Josh jumped to his feet-his hands clenched. "Leave her alone!"

He had an instant flashback to the time Coley had really hurt his mother. Her lip was busted and there was blood everywhere. Coley had thrown her outside, completely naked, and dragged her into the street where, of course, the neighbors were watching. She had tried to run, but he caught her and tore her pants off. God, he hit her so hard. Then he laughed and left her lying there. Josh never wanted to witness anything like that again.

"Keep your hands off my Mom, you bastard!"

Coley back-slapped him without a thought. "Who do you think you're talking to, punk? You ain't gonna start talking to me like that. I'll kick your little baggy-panced ass. Got it?"

Josh rubbed his cheek. "I wouldn't say anything if you didn't hurt Mom."

"Yeah, and if there was no gravity, baboon shit wouldn't fall out of trees, either. You heard me. Don't you ever talk to me like that again."

Josh cried. "But you can't hit . . ."

Laureen got between them. "Alright, everybody cool down. Josh, go to your room."

"But he was . . ."

"I know, son. Please . . . just go to your room." She followed him to his room.

"He didn't hurt me, son. Hey, cheer up, we're going trick or treating-right? Let's try to have some fun. I'm going to light the pumpkins right now, before we go. You go get your mask and jacket., and don't forget your candy sack."

Coley growled. "You'd best teach that boy to keep his mouth off of me, Laureen. And you know I mean it."


The sun went down early now. The October evening crept toward night, and it was cold. Through the back screen door, Laureen saw black storm clouds, like thick curds of smoke, twisting from the earth's rim against the molten red ball of setting sun.

She re-checked the huge bowl of candy sitting on the stand by the door and lit the candles in the two pumpkins she had put in the windows.

She felt compelled to say something to Coley before they left or it would be harder on them when they got back. He would have something to bitch about, that was for sure.

"I'm sorry, honey, Okay? We're leaving now. The candy is in that big bowl right there by the door. The kids will start coming pretty soon. You should be okay. I bought plenty."

"Yeah, I heard ya'. If I run out--I run out. I'll turn off the fuckin' lights and go to bed. Screw it all."

"Okay. See you after awhile. I'm going to take Josh and drive over to the North Acres subdivision. There won't be as much walking for him and more candy from those rich people that live over there. Bye, see you in a little bit."

Josh grabbed a handful of Tootsie Roll minis on the way out. He crammed them into his coat pocket, then fumbled to open one as they left.

As soon as they were gone, Coley went in the bedroom and retrieved the bottle of Jim Beam he had squirreled away in the closet. He grinned at his brilliant fore-thought.

He set up in the living room across from the front door. Perched on the edge of his chair, he took a big swig of whiskey and chased it with a long slug of beer.

"Aaaah!" he said to himself. The night is young and I got it all to myself." He turned off the living room light and sat back with his cigarettes, beer and whiskey. The flickering flames in the pumpkins made unique dancing shadows on the trailer's ceiling. They were somewhat mesmerizing and it wasn't long before Coley's eyelids grew heavy and he nearly dozed off.

The rap, rap, rapping on the door jarred him to his feet. Trick-or-treaters were out in force and he made up his mind to deal with them, at least for a little while. Paying little attention to the costumes, Coley doled out the candy. Despite repeated swigs of Jim Beam with beer chasers, he managed to answer the door again and again. At first he only allowed a few pieces to each visitor, but then, as the drinking and evening wore on, Coley tossed handfuls of Tootsie Rolls in sacks and bags until at last, the candy was gone.

Very drunk and fed up with all of it, Coley slammed the front door, grabbed what was left of his Jim Beam and staggered to the bedroom. He flopped face down, the bottle of Beam dangled from his fingertips.

He wouldn't realize that the slamming of the door sent vibrations through the entire front wall of the trailer, causing several of Laureen's knick-knacks to topple to the carpet below. Nor would he suspect that his temper had jarred one of the lighted pumpkins. It tumbled to the floor, and the flickering candle bounced out near the floor-length curtains.


Flames slowly picked up in momentum and raged through the trailer. Red and yellow flames and black smoke rolled through the rooms. The matchbox construction of the walls and floors was nothing more than kindling for the fire.

Neighbors ran around, none of them quite knowing what to do. The fire grew and a crowd with it. Windows popped in the trailer. The domino effect. More screams as more windows popped. Sirens and red lights.

By the time Harold Busby, the neighbor next door, could punch 911, the Drummond trailer was engulfed and beyond help.

Harold hung up the phone and went to find his garden hose. His wife and kids were running wild, trying to dress and get out of their trailer. Screams and shouts echoed on the street as the neighbors ran to the fire in an amazing array of pajamas and robes. Dozens of them watched the fire as garden hoses came from all directions and water was applied to the trailers on either side of Coley's place.

The crowd moved back as the firemen arrived, strung hoses and pumped water. The other trailers were saved but the Drummond place was fast becoming rubble. The roof and most of the floor were already gone. The rear wall stood with a solitary window still intact.

More people arrived as the firemen continued to spray the ruins. They pressed forward and bunched together like children at a parade.

The Drummond's car was gone and not a single person thought to check and see if anyone was inside the trailer.
Halloween, Aspirin, and Tattoos
Contest Winner


Author Notes
About nine years ago, this contest called for us to incorporate three words..."aspirin, tattoo and Halloween in a short story. Thanks, Wolf for your picture.


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