The Love Story of Henry Van Pennyshaw

Jamie’s father positioned himself beneath her.  He looked blindly into the dark sky.  Then he shielded himself with his arms and retreated.

Hazel Grim hit the pavement with a thick crack.  Her rind split.  Fragments scattered from the point of impact and Jamie’s father took off after the silhouettes.  They were already out of sight.  He stopped at the end of the street.

Ivy and Jamie rounded the corner.


*     *     *


Ivy’s shoulders heaved as fresh sobs racked her.


There were tear tracks in her clown make-up.  Her glittery wig and plastic knife lay on the kitchen table.  She hugged Henry Van Pennyshaw protectively.  Mama rubbed her shoulders.

Jamie sat glumly at the kitchen table, counting Mr. Goodbars and watching Daddy as he tried to repair Hazel Grim with wads of plumber’s epoxy.

“I don’t care that much,” Jamie muttered.  “I don’t want it anymore.  You don’t have to keep trying to fix it.”

“Yes he does!” Ivy cried.

“Shush,” Mama said, running a hand over Ivy’s sweaty hair.

“It’s not a big deal,” Jamie said.

“It is!” Ivy cried.  “They were in love!  Henry Van Pennyshaw was in love with her!”

“That’s not real,” Jamie said.  “That’s just–”

“Jamie,” Mama said, “maybe it’s time you got on home, honey.  It’s getting late.”

After Jamie had gone, Ivy took his place at the table.  She sat, head cradled in her hands, watching Daddy work.

“People are cruel,” Ivy said.  “People deserve to be killed.”

“Ivy!” Mama said sharply.

“You know, honey,” Daddy said, “I don’t think the people who did this did it to be cruel.  I really don’t.  I think they were just thoughtless.  They didn’t think about the boy who spent a long time making this pumpkin–”

“She’s a jack-o-lantern!  She’s a jack-o-lantern, and her name is Hazel Grim.”

“They didn’t consider the boy who spent a long time carving this jack-o-lantern,” Daddy said gently.  “And they didn’t stop and think about how much a special little girl might love it.”

“Love her,” Ivy said.

“Love her,” Daddy repeated.

*     *     *


Ivy made a place for Hazel Grim on Henry Van Pennyshaw’s bench and sat with them both a long while, even as the moon rose, the temperature plummeted, and Ivy sagged with exhaustion.

When it was very late, Daddy came outside and lifted her from the bench where she was dozing.  She struggled feebly.

“Shhh,” he soothed her.  “Time for bed.”

“Will they be safe?” she whispered.

“Sure, they’ll be safe.”

“Will you guard them?”

“I’ll guard them.”

They went inside.

Hazel Grim was laced with fissures where the epoxy held her together.  Henry Van Pennyshaw searched her twisted features, her sneering face, for the Hazel Grim he’d come to love.  She looked the same, except for the cracks.  But Hazel Grim–whatever made her who she was–was gone, and her empty shell was little comfort.

Henry Van Pennyshaw wanted to scowl.  He wanted to fume and rage.  He wanted revenge–the desire flowed through him like poison.

He envisioned vines sprouting from his rind and twisting, snaking into a ropy body.  He pictured himself stalking through the night, armed with a sharp steel analog of the knife Ivy had used for her costume.  He imagined what he would do to Hazel Grim’s murderers when he caught them.  He planned the new faces he’d carve them.

If this night belonged to him and his kind, as he knew it surely did, his wish–and he wished it hard–would be granted.

But he remained on the bench–immobile, impotent, seething–as the October night became a November morning.

*     *     *


Henry Van Pennyshaw shriveled and withered.  He watched as others like him were transferred from porches and windowsills to black plastic bags on the curb.

Still, Ivy kissed him on her way to Daddy’s car in the morning; still, she stopped to sit on the bench at the end of the day.

Then one afternoon, she bounced up the porch steps, took her usual place beside Henry Van Pennyshaw, and said, “You will not believe what happened to me today.”

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