Editor’s Note: This is just one of the items in the Diabolical Pots special issue.
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Content note (click for details)Content note: loss of loved one, implied abuse, trauma, child abandonment
After the sky got sick, I made a new Mommy from the vegetables in our fridge. Now, the sky’s always yellow like dried mustard stains, whenever I wipe dust away from our downstairs windows and look outside. I used to see people out there, everyone shaking and shaking.
Vegetable Mommy had tomato cheeks. Big and red, like the ones we were supposed to have on our pizza. A crawling thing from the walls bit Vegetable Mommy’s tomato cheeks. Yellow seeds slid down her lumpy, white cauliflower face.
I look in the bathroom mirror. It’s what I do when I need someone to talk to. I tell myself I heard those seeds falling into the bathtub water. Plip. Plip. Plip. Like Disney princess tears. Vegetable Mommy’s shriveled black olive eyes are behind me, always watching from the bathtub where I made her. The water kept her fresh for a while.
“Stay here. Don’t go outside. Don’t open the door.”
That was the last thing my real Mommy said, before leaving. No one came, though. Phone and computer don’t work. There’s just me.
Though one time I did dream about Daddy’s face hanging above me like he was the Man in the Moon. His breath still smelled sour and rotten.
Mommy promised we’d never see him again. I don’t want to call her a liar. But…
Vegetable Mommy doesn’t say anything to me.
The corn silks of her dress peel back, showing shriveled-up kernels like the mummy’s skin in that movie I snuck out of bed to watch with Mommy.
“Close your eyes and sleep, baby boy.”
She never knew I opened my eyes a teeny-tiny bit and saw everything.
I used to put on my bathing suit, even when my legs got too skinny and I couldn’t pull the drawstring tight enough to hold it up, and get in the tub with Vegetable Mommy. The water comes up to my tummy and reminds me of how I’d stick my fingers in soup Mommy made to see if it was ready to eat. She’d put ice cubes in to cool it down. In the tub with Vegetable Mommy, I’d bring Mommy’s pink and purple razor to shave white growths from her sweet potato arms and legs.
Until I pulled too hard and cut into my thumb. The split skin hurt real bad, like it’d never heal. I rubbed blood across Vegetable Mommy’s face, trying to make it look the way Mommy’s lips did when she smiled at me.
Black spots cover Vegetable Mommy’s smile now and I don’t have any way to fix her. The vegetable drawer’s been empty since I made her. All the snacks we got from the grocer, chip bags, cookie sleeves, any cans I could break open, everything’s gone. Lights and machines don’t work anymore. So, the fridge food’s bad. Makes me sick to even smell it.
The creeping and crawling things inside the walls took everything else.
Vegetable Mommy’s lettuce hair droops down. No longer green, but a mud brown. Still, there’s enough crunch when I take a bite. Not slimy, not like how I thought she’d be.
Mommy was right. I do like these vegetables once I finally try them.
I go slow, hoping I remember to say good-bye this time.
Baby carrot fingers pat my cheeks and I wonder if my real Mommy’s still out there. I wonder if she tried to make another me. What did she use? And how long did she wait before she gobbled me up?
© 2022 by Patrick Barb
Author’s Note: This story was originally written for a weekly writing assignment in Richard Thomas’s Contemporary Dark Fiction class, where the prompt required creating a story intended to make the reader cry. Things…got a little weird along the way.
Patrick Barb is a freelance writer from the southern United States, currently living (and trying not to freeze to death) in Saint Paul, Minnesota. His short fiction appears in Humans are the Problem, the Tales to Terrify podcast, and Boneyard Soup Magazine, among other publications. In addition, he is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.