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Pink and Purple Pumpkin Eaters

Posted Jan 13 2007 12:00am

As promised, here is a piece of my writing. I don't normally like to share what I write for fun, but I wrote this in college, and thought this would be a good first piece to share "with the world". Enjoy!

***

"Mommy!"

It was such a soft voice during the day. But at night, somehow, it managed to sound so much louder. It screamed again. This time in a much higher pitch.

Tina rolled over and pulled the pillow around her head tightly, somehow hoping it would drown out the voice of the little girl down the hall. Another scream pierced the air. No such luck.

"Michael?" Tina moaned, turning to more desperate measures. She rolled onto one elbow and leaned over her husband.

He did not hesitate in forming his response. "No way."

"Come on, Babe. Please. Just this once."

"I did just this once last night. I'm not doing it twice."

Tina rolled back over, opening her eyes and staring up at the black ceiling. "Come on. Help me out here."

"No. She's calling your name."

"But I have to get up an hour earlier than you do."

"So?"

"So go see what she wants for me."

"But she's calling your name. She doesn't want me."

"She doesn't know what she wants."

Another scream of her mother's name pierced the air. Michael sleepishly shrugged. "Sure sounds like she does."

Tina sat up despite the fact that it was the last thing she felt like doing. She flipped on the wrought iron lamp on the nightstand next to the latest issue of Reader's Digest. Michael moaned and rolled over, telling her to turn it off and pulling a pillow atop his own head. Tina stood up and left it on. "Serves him right," she mumbled to herself as she headed down the hall.

"Mommy!"

"Mommy's coming, Melanie."

"Please hurry."

"I'm going as fast I can," Tina called out, her socks sliding along the wooden floor and her hands feeling across the white paneled walls in the darkness. She should have turned on the hall light, but she always managed to remember that after passing the switch. She was too tired to backtrack and was almost there now anyway.

"There's a man under my bed. He's big and ugly and has a beard," Melanie whispered as her mother pushed the half-open door fully ajar and flipped on the light. Tina shook her head and gave her daughter a frustrated look. "I mean it Mommy. I saw him. I saw him crawl under there." She was pointing at the floor.

"Melanie, there is no one under your bed."

"There is too."

"Daddy just checked last night."

"But he didn't check tonight."

So why didn't you call Daddy's name? Tina thought to herself. She sleepily made her way through the maze of little girls' toys -- a Barbie city complete with mall, house, and park; three stuffed animals; two baby dolls; and sixteen books. She reached the twin bed in the corner after nearly tripping over a swimming pool in which Ken was relaxing on a raft and sat down atop the pink comforter, silently praying she could make this as quick as possible.

Melanie had the blanket pulled up under her chin, and her big blue eyes were filled with tears. Sweat droplets lined her forehead, and Tina instinctively wiped them away with the tips of her fingers. Her daughter's thick brown hair was flipped over the pillow, and her little hands clung to an enormous Winnie the Pool stuffed animal -- a present from her Daddy on her first birthday. The doll was nearly bigger than she was, but Melanie still managed to lug it everywhere.

"Need to get the Pooh a car seat," Michael would mumble nearly every time they loaded up the car.

"He's under there," Melanie whimpered, pointing to the space between her bed and the floor. Tina had hidden under there once during a game of "Hide and Seek," and she remembered that it had been an extremely tight squeeze. Even if Melanie really had seen a man, the chances of him fitting under the bed were not good. Her daughter blinked, fighting back more tears -- the fear sounding so real in her voice. "I know he's under there. I know it."

"There's no one under the bed, Mel." Tina rubbed the side of her daughter's arm as she spoke.

"Yes, there is."

"I promise there isn't."

"Could you check?"

"Come on, honey. Not again."

"Please."

A slight pause followed. "This is the last time."

Melanie nodded, and Tina slide down off the side of the bed and onto the soft off-white carpet. She caught sight of a few stains -- coke, fruit punch, and what looked like mud, on her way to the floor. Maybe some popcorn too. She asked herself once again why she had not listened to Michael and gotten the tan instead. Off-white in a seven-year-old's bedroom? He had told her that children will ruin off-white carpet, and it had come true in the case of their child. Three months later and it looked like it was a dozen years old.

She sank to her knees and flipped up the pink ruffle. Two cookies, a few mismatched shoes, a Tupperware box filled with leggos, and the rest of Barbie's extended family were all there to greet her, but definitely no ugly man with a beard. Not that Tina was surprised. She checked for the same man a few times each week and had yet to find him.

"Well?" Melanie asked, as if she actually thought her mother would return with the man in tow.

"Not a thing." Tina sat back down next to her daughter. "But I found your missing Sunday shoe." She held up a shiny white sandal and flashed a smile at Melanie.

Melanie smiled sightly and loosened her grip on Pooh's neck. "He was there."

"He wasn't there."

"He was. I saw him."

"Saw him? Under the bed? Did you get out of bed and look?" Tina pushed her own brown hair back behind one of her ears.

"No."

"Then how did you know?"

"He came in through my door."

"And slid under your bed?"

"Yep."

Tina shook her head. "Then, where'd he go?"

Melanie paused as if not wanting to answer but then mumbled, "I don't know."

"Think maybe you had another bad dream?"

"No."

"Are you sure?"

Melanie bit the bottom of her lip and shrugged. "It seemed real."

"Dreams usually do."

The petite first grader scratched her cute little pudgy nose, letting go of her stuffed animal for only a second before returning her death squeeze upon the bear's neck. She paused and gave her Mom a coy grin. "Could I come sleep with you?"

Tina had known since she crawled out of bed nearly five minutes prior that the question was coming, and she had been ready with her reply. She shook her head and mouthed the word, "No."

"Please."

"No. We said you weren't going to do that anymore."

"Just once more."

Tina shook her head and leaned down, planting a kiss on Melanie's forehead. Not only did she not want her daughter to get into the habit of sleeping in their bedroom, but her back was still paying the price from her previous night's visit. One too many kicks had solidified her decision. Besides, she needed a good night's rest, and with Melanie in the bed, the chances were next to none.

"If you hear or see anything, just think about the pink and purple pumpkin eaters guarding your room."

Melanie rolled her eyes. "I don't believe in them anymore."

"You did last week."

"I was six last week. I'm seven now. I don't believe in pink and purple pumpkin eaters anymore."

"But they're cute and furry and funny, and they are so fat that no one can get through your door without bouncing off of them."

"Really funny, Mommy. Like I believe that anymore."

Tina shrugged and stood up, silently wishing her only child would stop growing up so fast. She blew her a kiss, made her way back through Barbie's Kitchen, bedroom, and backyard, and then turned off the light. She cracked the door just like Melanie liked it before stumbling back down the hall to her own bed.

The light was still on, but it did not seem to be bothering Michael much. He was on his left side, pillow covering his head, and snoring as usual. Tina slide underneath the sheet and blanket and immediately pushed her husband lightly onto his stomach in order to stop the snoring before it got any worse. This woke him up. He lifted the pillow off his head and squinted in the light.

"She okay?" He asked, even though he knew the answer.

"Yeah."

"What was it this time?"

"Same as last night. Man under the bed."

"There's no man." He grinned slightly, his eyes full of sleep. "I checked last night."

"I checked too."

"Did you see the cookies?"

"Saw the cookies. Remind me to clean them up tomorrow sometime." She reached over and turned off the lamp, sliding farther down underneath the cool sheets. She rolled over and placed her head on her husband's chest. "I thought they were supposed to start sleeping through the night more as they got older," she whispered, already starting to feel sleepy again. Michael lifted his hand and slightly squeezed the back of his wife's neck.

"We thought a lot of things about kids before we had one."

"True." Tina glanced at the clock. It was 2:08 a.m.

***

"Daddy!"

Tina opened her eyes. She hadn't remembered closing them. She lifted her head from Michael's chest and looked at the clock. 3:45. She waited to hear the voice again before waking her snoring husband.

"Michael." She shook him gently.

"Hmmm?"

"It's Melanie."

"Again?"

"Yeah. But this time, her voice is beautiful."

"Beautiful?"

"Yeah. She's calling your name."

"Are you sure?

"Oh yeah. I'm sure."

He moaned slightly as Tina rolled back over onto her side of the bed. He waited for a moment to actually hear what his wife was claiming before pulling back his half of the comforter. He stood up and then turned on his own lamp and winked at his wife when she started to protest. "You started it." She sighed slightly as headed down the hallway in his boxer shorts and white t-shirt.

Tina lay in their queen bed, staring at the ceiling, not having the energy to move to Michael's side and turn off the light and not seeing the purpose either. It was no use going back to sleep anyway. He would most likely wake her when he returned in a few minutes. After nine years of marriage, he still had not come close to mastering the art of climbing into bed quietly when she went to sleep first. Tina had long given up on explaining to him how it was done.

Tina thought about the fact that she only had three more hours of sleep before she had to get Melanie up and to school. She thought of work that day. She had six meetings and two interviews and lunch with her boss. She thought about Michael and what a good father he was. She could picture him talking to Melanie as they sat together on her pink bed. He was telling her about the pink and purple pumpkin eaters. She should have warned him that the story would no longer work. Melanie was seven now.

Tina rolled onto her side, facing the door that led down the hallway to her daughter's room. She could picture the whole conversation even though she couldn't hear a word. Melanie was asking if she could come sleep with them tonight. Tina rolled her eyes, not even thinking about whether or not her husband would oblige. Melanie was a Daddy's girl all the way. He tried to be firm, but that little girl made up his whole world. She could picture Melanie ask if she could bring Pool and heard Michael tell her no because Pool took up too much room. Then Michael would ask her if she wanted a piggy-back ride.

A few seconds later, in they came, and Tina could not help but crack a smile as she noted that Melanie was on her father's back. They scooted into the room and into bed beside her.

"Sucker," she whispered and felt Melanie's foot connect with her back.

"What?" Michael asked.

"We said she was going to have start sleeping in her own bed from now on."

"Michael ran his fingers through his thick hair and turned off his light. "She said just this once."

"And you believed her?"

Melanie giggled, and Tina could her lean up and plant a kiss on her Daddy's cheek. "Now, how am I going to resist that?" Michael mumbled.

"Did Dad tell you about the pink and purple pumpkin eaters?" Tina asked. She was now laying on her back, talking to the ceiling.

"Tried to," Melanie laughed.

"She told me that's she seven now," Michael replied.

"I forgot to mention that she outgrew that one. She informed me of that fact earlier this morning."

Tina looked at the clock again. 4:04 a.m.

***

At 5:37 Tina was awoke again by her daughter's screaming voice. This time Melanie was sitting straight up in the bed. Tina reached underneath the sheet, grabbed Melanie's bare foot and pulled her back down to a reclining position.

"For crying out loud, Melanie. You have school tomorrow. Go to sleep already. I am not playing around anymore."

"The man, Mommy. He's in your room!"

"He's not in the room. There is not a man. I want you to go to sleep and not wake me up again!" She heard Michael stirring on the other side, rolling over, and beginning to wake up.

Tina's voice was not loud, but she knew Melanie could tell by the firmness that she meant business. She remained confident that her statement would end the episode and so she closed her eyes yet again. Melanie was mischievous and curious and that often got her into trouble, but she was very rarely blatantly disobedient. She had humored her daughter enough for one night. She needed some sleep if she was going to be able to face her busy day, and Melanie needed some as well if she was not going to fall asleep in the middle of reading groups again.

"But Mommy --"

Tina raised her voice. "Melanie! What did I say?"

"Daddy!" The little girl yelled, giving up on her mother's sympathy. She was sitting up again, clinging to the sheets that canopied over her between her mother and her father. "Daddy! Wake up!"

"I'm awake," he mumbled. He reached for his daughter and drew her close to his side. She remained in the an upright position although she did move a little closer to the comfort his arms offered her.

"Melanie, I told you to be quiet!" Tina said even louder.

"It's okay Tina."

"No. It's not. She needs to go to sleep. That's three times in one night we had to listen to her talk about some imaginary man in her dreams. I'm tired."

"Go back to sleep, Hon. I'll deal with it."

Tina knew she would not fall asleep, but rolled over onto her side and closed her eyes anyway, allowing Michael to handle their hysterical child.

"Daddy," she cried. "Daddy." Her tears were making her voice sound week and exhausted.

"What is it now, Mel?"

"Daddy, the man! He's back."

"Go to sleep. I'll watch out for him. There is no man. I promise." He tried to get her to lie back down, but she refused.

"I saw him."

"It's pitch black."

"He had a flashlight."

"A flashlight?" Tina asked. So much for letting Michael handle it. She could not possibly go to sleep until her daughter did anyway. "Why would he turn a flashlight on in the middle of the bedroom so that everyone could see him?"

"I don't know, Mommy, but it was a flashlight. He had it on. That's how I could see him and his beard!"

"Mel, please go to sleep," her father coaxed.

"It was the same man. Ugly and the beard. Same man as all the other times, "Melanie said even though neither of them had asked.

Tina could tell that Michael was getting frustrated as well. It had been a long night, and neither of them were in the mood to deal with this anymore. It used to be that if they wanted to comfort their daughter, all they had to do was tell her about the pink and purple pumpkin eaters, and she would giggle and feel better and go back to sleep. Used to be that she believed in Santa Claus too. But that was not going to work anymore. Tina tried to think of something else, but if sleeping between her parents did not help, what would?"

"Don't you hear him?" Their daughter asked.

"Hear what?"

"His breathing?"

The room grew quiet. There was an unusual sound coming from the side of the room. "Listen," Melanie whispered.

Michael got quiet. So did Tina. Michael reached over and flipped on the light. It took a second for their eyes to adjust, but when they did, Melanie began to scream again. Tina started screaming too. Even louder than her daughter. Michael sat frozen, knowing he should do something but unsure as to what that would be.

At the foot of the bed stood an extremely ugly man with a beard. And he was holding Melanie's Pooh Bear.

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