It Was All Pumpkin’s Fault: Chapter 9

Prologue
Chapter 1: Cookie of Consolation
Chapter 2: Sam
Chapter 3: Who Stole the Cookie?
Chapter 4: Tradam’s Warning
Chapter 5: The Yellow House Again
Chapter 6: Treffellem Tagge
Chapter 7: Ambushed
Chapter 8: The EPA Chase

“Pumpkin, what are you doing on that side of AV’s ghastly establishment?” hissed Johnnie, sticking her face inside the cat hole. 

“My good fortune was on a two-month vacation,” explained Pumpkin patiently, lifting the latch from the window and putting his head out in reply. 

“So, your point is…?” said Sam, resting his hands on the sill and pushing Pumpkin’s face slowly back in with his hand. 

“So I came back to clean AV’s windows. I’ll send him a handsome bill for it when I’m done here. Earn me some money. Hey, why do you two look like you saw a ghost and couldn’t catch him?” 

Johnnie looked aggrieved. “Pumpkin, I wish you wouldn’t say such things,” she said, getting up on her feet and bounding in all at once through the window he was cleaning. 

“Johnnie! AV didn’t say you could come in,” protested Pumpkin, frowning at her and closing the window on top of Sam. “But I guess he’d be okay with it, as long as he never figured it out,” he added with sudden thoughtfulness 

“What about Sam?” asked Johnnie, peering down at said individual, who was now in the act of pounding at the window and gesticulating violently towards them. He looked a little threatening, too. 

“Well I’m sure AV wouldn’t want him inside, anyhow,” said Pumpkin, maliciously sticking his tongue out at Sam from a safe distance. 

“Well, that’s possible,” replied Johnnie, reluctantly. “He’s a horrible hand for breaking things – I don’t know what he’d do in a house like this… Sorry Sam,” she mouthed, shrugging her shoulders and pointing at Pumpkin while he was looking the other way. 

Presently, and forgetting Sam, they walked down the corridor together, and turned into the living room – carefully, because of the ax. 

“Say,” said Johnnie, turning suddenly on Pumpkin, “where’s Rosy? I don’t see her anywhere. We’re going to be in big trouble with Sam once he gets past that window if we don’t find her…” 

“View all, Johnnie,” began Pumpkin, pouring himself a cup of coffee. “She went to the WAS with AV and Daniella.”

“My torture! Daniella works at the WAS?” said Johnnie in disbelief. “How is that possible? You mean all these years, I could have…”

Pumpkin held up a finger and swallowed the rest of his coffee in a gulp. “No, sorry, Daniella went to take her biology test. I know that actually, because she hates school and it took AV and Rosy more than five minutes to convince her to go.”

“How did you figure all this out?” asked Johnnie, letting the cat inside and patting its cozy fur. She saw Sam’s eye glaring furiously beyond it, and closed the flap quickly.

Pumpkin pointed out the back window with his finger while simultaneously peeling-and-eating a banana whole. “Rosy snuck out into the garden to talk with me while AV was finishing his coffee and Daniella was watching Spiderman,” he replied, once the banana had slipped sufficiently down his throat to allow him to talk. 

“At this hour of the morning?” asked Johnnie, quite aghast. “Spiderman’s gross anytime, but I didn’t know anyone could stomach him that early. What else did she tell you, Pumpkin?”

So Pumpkin repeated the substance of what had gone before, only mixing up about every third detail and a half, and successful in nothing (mostly) except managing to impress a vague idea upon Johnnie of the general culpability of the WAS in the abduction of Semmes. 

“Well,” breathed Johnnie, when Pumpkin had finished up with a written declaration of his innocence of any dearth of veracity in the previous, “this seems to leave us no option but to work on a practical joke for AV until he gets back and then pipe out some information from him. I think he knows rather more than he is letting on to,” ruminated Johnnie. 

“Certainly,” asserted Pumpkin, looking inside the microwave suspiciously. 

“Find anything?” asked Johnnie, stroking the cat silently. 

“Yes,” began Pumpkin slowly, pulling something out. “A half eaten onion.”

“That’s impossible,” scoffed Johnnie, looking towards the kitchen again. “You can’t microwave an onion.”

“AV did,” replied Pumpkin gravely. “That’s what he’s been hiding all this time. I bet a thousand pounds it’s actionable in law courts.” He looked at the onion in deep melancholy. “I’m sorry little onion,” he whispered, kissing it and putting it back. “You’re doomed now.” He turned the microwave on for sixty seconds. 

“Pumpkin, what are you doing?” exclaimed Johnnie. 

Pumpkin turned around innocently. “What? Me? Nothing, I’m not doing anything, Johnnie, why… Did you see something?” he asked, suspiciously.

“Way to make me look like the bad guy!” retorted Johnnie. “You know what, I’m letting Sam in. You kids are way too out of control without a dad around to put you under.”

“Put us under?” repeated Pumpkin, aghast. 

Johnnie ignored him with a shake of herself and went to open the door. “Come on in Sam, and give Pumpkin a smack on the pate for me please. He has but finished microwaving an onion,” she added, with ineffable scorn as Sam came tumbling down the door onto the rug. 

“This has an ill appearance, I’ll admit, Pumpkin,” remarked Sam, getting up and brushing his knees. “But I believe you.”

“Thank you,” said Pumpkin, offering him a piece of the onion. 

“It’s quite tasty,” said Sam, taking the offered piece, smiling. 

Johnnie flashed him a glare. “How would you know?” she demanded. 

“Oh, no,” began Sam, hastily correcting himself, and trying to avoid her eyes with his sunglasses. “I meant… it smells quite… tasty.”

Johnnie grunted. “Well,  what are you going to do about AV?” She asked, crossing her arms and glaring at them steadily. 

They looked at each other. 

“We will…” began Sam, nodding at Pumpkin suggestively. 

“We’ll…” Pumpkin paused. “Decorate his house for him?” he suggested, with a grin as he lifted his onion to them. 

“It was almost Christmas,” pointed out Sam, laughing nervously. 

“When?” asked Johnnie, in confusion. 

“Sometime,” replied Pumpkin cautiously. “Anyway, that’s a mute point. The speaking point is that AV will be fury roaring mad and murious if we string his house up in lights and trees and all the furry green red things.”

“Valid point,” said Sam, discreetly tossing his onion out the window, where the cat found it and ate it. (After throwing it up.) 

So he went to buy the decorations, and Johnnie and Pumpkin flipped the house.

By the time the three were done with it it would look like a walking rainbow. 

“First, let’s get the tree,” said Johnnie, opening the garden gate. “This one is perfect,” she added, pointing out a nice little Christmas tree in the corner of AV’s yard. “Here, Pumpkin,” she said, handing him a very small spade, “you dig it up, since it was your idea.”

Pumpkin grunted and looked at the spade. “I get the cookies,” he said, and went to work. 

By the time they had got the tree inside Sam was back with lights, wreaths, pumpkins, cookies, and a star. 

“What’s the pumpkin for?” asked its namesake. 

“Oh, did I get a…?” Sam looked at the pumpkin suspiciously. “What are we celebrating again?”

“Christmas, Sam,” said Johnnie, rolling her eyes. “Not Halloween. That would be really heretical. Okay, come on, you and I will take the stairs and living room, Pumpkin you take the rest. We’ll do the tree last.”

“Shouldn’t the milk and cookies be last?” asked Pumpkin, pulling out a never-ending strand of green and red holly.

“They ought to last,” began Sam, meditatively, “but…”

“I said, ‘Be last,’” corrected Pumpkin, quickly. “But on second thought, shouldn’t they be first? Santa Claus got so many things wrong.” 

“He did,” agreed Johnnie, “but we’re not here to fix them. Okay, we got to be done soon because AV never does much work at the office.”

“Rosy will slow him down though,” remarked Sam cheerfully.

“I don’t think he’ll come home in the best of moods then,” remarked Pumpkin with a heavy sigh. “We’d better make it good enough that he laughs and tells us what we need to know.” 

“Viewing all, let’s hope so,” said Johnnie, slapping her thighs. “All right, get to work!” 

They spewed them off to get things done, and by the time the last cookie had disappeared, the doorbell was sounding and there was a general shout of, “It’s AV, don’t make any noise!” while they rushed to their places. 

Pumpkin’s place was in the trash bin, for (as he correctly remarked to Johnnie, when that damsel chid him for his choice of hiding place,) if he was found at any rate, all that AV could say was that he was where he belonged, and that, you know, would be a soothing reflection to anyone (even an AV). 

Sam’s place was a very clever one. You see he had noticed early on that the angular position of the ax hanging over the door frame left a perfect ledge for spying from, that was screened by a black velvet hanging; so he took up his position there, and smiled superiorly down upon Pumpkin’s trash bin. 

Johnnie scorned disguise, so she took up her position behind the refrigerator, with a pair of pistols and a strange Egyptian cutlass for protection. “Just in case,” she said grimly, when Pumpkin looked at her reprovingly. 

“I won’t be murdered like a chicken in a trash-bin, anyway,” she added bitingly. 

“Nor will I,” reflected Sam comfortingly. 

“Of course you won’t, monster,” retorted Johnnie. “Now be quiet, he’s coming!” 

“I will warn you my dander is up!” shouted AV, as if on cue, tumbling through the doorway with Rosy on his shoulders. Upon arriving above his feet again, he strode to the counter, set her down on it, and shook himself like a dog. “My dander is up,” he repeated, loudly, “and it’s your fault, Rosy, ma’am.” 

Rosy giggled. “I didn’t mean to,” she said in a little, laugh-strangled voice.

“Didn’t mean to?” he roared. “Didn’t mean to WHAT?” 

Rosy looked serious, and held up her fingers to count all of the things she hadn’t meant to do. “Well. I didn’t mean to make you late by getting me hot ice cream,” she began, shivering. “That was a nightmare.” 

“Grrrhhh. I should think it was,” grunted AV, with a bark like a dog. 

“And I didn’t mean to make you trip over the neighbor’s chimnebley,” she added, undisturbed, ticking off another finger, “or button up the orphan’s jackets, or give the secretary a birthday hug, or call your mom, or sweep your office floor, or hang up a picture of your wife with your tears on it – but those were nice – I like them,” said Rosy, breaking off for a second and taking a finger down. “They were sort of purply and ghostly too,” she added in a whisper. “I got the shivers just watching them fall! Anyway, I sure didn’t mean to make you late for your appointment with the Mr. Trade Them dude, and I didn’t mean to decorate your house for Christmas,” wound up Rosy, all her fingers used up at last, a couple times over. 

AV blinked. “You didn’t – what was that last one?” 

Something laughed from the trash can, but they both ignored it; AV, because he was looking back from the decorated alpine tree to the hanging mistletoe over the chimney place, and Rosy, because she was suddenly frightened. 

“You minx, you little vagabond, you little monstrous wretch!” cried AV, turning on her suddenly. “How did you do this??” 

Rosy panted in agony. “AV,” she cried. 

AV stopped in surprise. “What’s the matter Rosy?” he asked with anxiety laden in his voice. “What have I done? What’s happened? What did I do?” 

Rosy shook like a spasmodic leaf again. “There’s something in your trash can,” she whispered, her teeth chattering in her head, as if they were talking to each other. 

AV sighed in relief. “I’m sure it’s nothing,” he said, walking over to the trash can and opening it. He looked down at it in surprise. 

“What is it, AV?” asked Rosy eagerly, her relief evinced at his strengthening presence of mind. 

AV shook his head with his lips in the negative. “Just a… really, big, pumpkin,” he finished, closing the drawer again and turning around with a smile as he slammed it back in with his body as though to keep whatever was inside from getting out. “Nothing to worry about.”

Rosy smiled. “I was scared for a second,” she mentioned casually, sniffing for the last time. 

“What IS to worry about,” continued AV, “Is this place.” He looked around in dissatisfaction at the betrimmed room, and the sparkling Christmas lights that made it hard to look anywhere. “Where did you get all this?”

“You had a lot of old boxes with Christmas decorations,” said the voice from the trash can. “And we found some money in the money box?” added the voice askance. 

“It’s Pumpkin!” cried Rosy, jumping down from the counter and running to open the trash bin. 

“I told you it was,” said AV sourly. “Now the question is how it got in my house.” 

“Don’t you think why would be a better question?” suggested Pumpkin, tumbling out of the trash can at last. “Thank you for letting me out, Rosy,” he remarked condescendingly, patting her head. 

“Eww, don’t touch me,” said Rosy, pushing his hand away. “You’re really gross, trash person.” 

AV grinned. “You are pretty gross, old Pumpkin,” he commented jocularly. “Now would you come and tell me why you single-handedly decorated my house for Christmas in the middle of whatever month it is?” 

“Well, I would,” replied Pumpkin cautiously, “Except that I don’t know what month it is either.” 

Here Sam tumbled down, very violently, from his hiding place, bouncing from the ax to the ceiling light, and swinging down from the chandelier onto the kitchen sink and from thence to the wooden floor. “Hello AV,” he said, when he had arrived at the bottom. 

“Hello, Sam,” said AV dryly. “Come in.” 

Sam tried not to smile, but he did it anyway. 

“So,” began AV, raising his hands hopelessly, “I guess the only question left for me to ask is, where’s Johnnie?”

“How does he know our names so pat?” whispered Rosy to Pumpkin. 

Pumpkin looked at her dryly. “I bet you know.” 

Do you know, she did.

To be continued…

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