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Pumpkin Pie

Death of a Princess

By Barbara Steinhauser Published 3 months ago 4 min read
Pumpkin Pie
Photo by Matthew Bornhorst on Unsplash

Once upon a time in a faraway northern land, there lived a college freshman about to celebrate her first birthday away from home. Every birthday for as long as she could remember, her Dad had made her a unique birthday cake: a black poodle, or a log cabin or a shiny glazed car.

“No one can say I didn’t give you a car for your 16th birthday,” he’d said, grinning with characteristic dazzle.

This year Gram, who lived across the wheat fields next to her dorm, offered to bake Acorn and select friends a few pumpkin pies.

Gram’s pie was the most delicious she’d ever tasted, its delicate, crisp crust filled with just the right amount of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice. And that creamy though grainy texture… How did Gram do it? Acorn had tried and failed to reproduce the crust or its filling.

Topped with homemade whipped cream, well, the thought of Gram’s piece de resistance made her salivate as she texted her new friends, inviting only enough to consume two pies.

“What a sweet grandmother,” her roomie said.

Acorn considered. She’d never thought of Gram as sweet. More like particular. “I am looking forward to knowing her better. A perk of living close.”

Juice’s eyes were so blue they were nearly reflective, like silver. “Like much about her besides her pies?”

Oh yeah. Gram’s life read like a fairytale. “She eloped for love and lost all her inheritance. Quite a fortune she gave up.”

Considering this, Acorn could understand the grumpiness. “I am looking forward to knowing her better. A perk of attending college here.”

Juice sighed. “It’s so Romantic! How’d they meet?”

“Grampa was painting her parent’s mansion. He made her feel ‘like a Princess in a locked tower,’ she said. Gram was a sort of ugly duckling—in her mind, anyway. Grampa thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world, with her dark, smouldering eyes. I am not sure he ever saw beyond those eyes to her scrawny frame and useless hair.”

Juice stared dreamily out the window at the blowing snow. Seemed to Acorn it always snowed in North Dakota. “Will we meet him, too?”

“No. He died,” Acorn said.

After a pause, she added, “Of a heart attack. She never got over it. She lived crankily ever after. But you will meet Luke. He lives with Gram.”

“How modern of them.” Juice giggled. “How old are they?”

Acorn made a face. “Her brother. Late sixties, I think. I call him Luke Skywalker. It was a thrill as a kid to watch Star Wars with Great Uncle Luke. I’m a cheap date. Speaking of cheap dates…”

“Hey, it’s frigid outside!” Acorn texted a group chat to the birthday crew. “Remember Five Little Pumpkins? The fifth one said, ‘I’m ready for some fun!”

Garrett raced down the hall and together, they set up a group board on Pinterest they called Piece Out.

“Best post wins the biggest piece of pie,” Juice suggested.

“I’m in,” shouted Garrett. He was Mr Enthusiasm. And hot.

Countdown to pumpkin pie became a bit. Soon, everyone was one upping the last contribution with a better cartoon of Cinderella riding a pumpkin, Charlie Brown singing raunch pumpkin lyrics, spewing punny original lines, and even comparing family pie recipes.

“What’s cookin, gourd-looking,” Garrett posted, launching a series of gourd jokes. The board became an hysterical battle of smashing pumpkin heads.

Acorn was in the middle of illustrating a Neil Gaiman quote, “Sometimes I think that ideas float through the atmosphere like huge squishy pumpkins waiting for heads to drop on,” when she received a disturbing text from Dad.

“Gram was out to dinner with Luke and his friend Walter. She choked on a piece of steak and is in hospital. Will call soon.”

Acorn gasped, hand to her mouth, heart in her throat. Her brain felt numb.

Juice, sprawled on her extra long twin bed, scowled. “What? Did Paul one up you again?”

“No, it’s just… it’s just…” she couldn’t speak. She leaned across the expanse between the beds and pointed to Dad’s text.

“She’s in hospital. She will be fine.” Juice’s voice sounded calm, deliberate. As if she were babysitting Acorn. “People don’t die from choking on steak.”

Acorn’s chest felt flat, pressed, as if glued tight.

“Acorn! She wouldn’t die before your party! That’s plain mean!”

“This isn’t…” Acorn was gasping, grasping Juice’s outstretched hand like a boogie board in an avalanche. “You… don’t understand. She did this before. After Grampa… Last time, she needed surgery. Like, they stuck a balloon down her throat or something. It was so awful, she said she would die before she’d do that surgery again.”

Her cell phone rang. Acorn yanked it to her ear, choked a hello.

“She’s gone,” Daddy’s voice. Thick as pie dough. “She… didn’t survive the surgery. She died of fright, Acorn.”

The swish of Juice, sitting upright, staring.

Daddy’s voice, cracked with grief. “I’m sorry about your party… the pie.”

The party. Piece Out.

Young AdultShort StoryLovefamily

About the Creator

Barbara Steinhauser

Thank you for taking time to read my stuff. I love writing almost as much as I love my people. I went back to college and earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults and often run on that storytelling track. Enjoy!

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Comments (2)

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  • Naveed 3 months ago

    Great job! Keep up the fantastic work

  • Catherine Dorian3 months ago

    Your work reads like its inspired by fairy tales. Have you read anything by Elisabeth Sharp Mcketta, by chance? You might like her. I loved this.

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