Madam’s fiendish melon is worthy of Edgar Allan Poe Madam’s fiendish melon is worthy of Edgar Al

I BLAME Madam. OK, let s have a Halloween pumpkin, like always. But did the face she carved in it have to be quite so hideously fiendish? Given my own inexpert hands, I d no room to be critical. Yet her past efforts had turned out jovial, chummy charac

I BLAME Madam. OK, let's have a Halloween pumpkin, like always.

But did the face she carved in it have to be quite so hideously fiendish?

Given my own inexpert hands, I'd no room to be critical. Yet her past efforts had turned out jovial, chummy characters to whom you automatically smiled back.

This one, done while I was out, extracted from me an entirely unconsidered "Jesus Christ!" as, coming in through the backdoor, I ran straight into it, glaring malevolently at face-level from the top of the fridge.

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A lurking Madam appeared, gleefully enquiring: "Did he frighten you?"

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To which, eyes still locked apprehensively on the grinning devil-mask, I bleated: "You shouldn't half-scare me to death like that."

Not until later when I was handed a bowl of melon did I twig that the pumpkin was, in fact, a melon.

A very nice one, too, requiring not even a dusting of sugar. I said as much, loudly, but melon's grim visage stayed just as menacing.

When, in all innocence, I mooted whether melons rate equal to pumpkins as recognised All-Souls' night accessories, its expression did seem to alter, hardening into a leer which plainly said: "I'll be coming to get you for that."

Melon, I suggested to Madam, must be more workable than pumpkin. Had she, as usually, inked the outline of the face on it before starting to carve?

"No, not this time. I did his nose first, and the rest just sort of followed. Messed his mouth up a bit though," she said.

If she'd claimed to have had one of the farm dogs modelling for her with a lip-curling, fang-showing snarl, I'd have well believed it.

For the rest of the afternoon, melon and me avoided each other, until it got dark. Then I was summoned to "bring your camcorder".

Crouched on the table in an unlit kitchen, with the candle flickering inside creating spooky shadows, melon looked like something out of Edgar Allan Poe.

I don't mind admitting I darn near dropped the camera as, doing a full-zoom close-up of the ghastly grimace, I saw melon indisputably turn slightly to focus its stare on me.

As with all perceived sinister manifestations, there was a prosaic, relieving explanation.

Madam's small hand, unseen through my lens, had done the turning so, she said, melon was shot face on. It was that, all right.

Once my pulse stopped racing, I advised keeping it hidden from any trick-or-treat nippers, or we'd have the Fuzz round talking about threatening behaviour.

One or two of the grown-ups who came to our little Halloween do that evening were, I thought, subdued for a bit after meeting melon.

Mervyn arrived with a book of Victorian ghost stories.

He has the same kind of sepulchral voice with which Valentine Dyall, the Man in Black, used to scare the pants off us in Appointment with Fear on the wireless years ago.

By candlelight through melon's eyes, nose and mis-shapen mouth, Merr did a great job giving us goose-pimples with his creepy reading as the witching hour approached.

At the finish, there were some hasty look rounds making sure the door was firmly shut.

Eleanor made no bones about demanding an escort 20 yards back home when we called it a day.

First job I had in the morning was getting shot of melon.

"He's beginning to smell beery," declared Madam.

I took a quick look to see how vindictively melon reacted to that.

In the bright morning light it was just an old hollowed-out melon, I thought.

Because when I chucked it over the fence for the cows, melon inexplicably landed bolt upright to evil-eye back at me.

For several disconcerting mornings it remained thus, patently triumphant, sneering every time I looked.

Then our sleep was broken by a violent storm, and in the morning melon had vanished. Relief was but momentary.

The cattle had not been left out overnight.

So where had melon gone? It remains a nagging, mystery.

I know one thing.

Next time it will be pumpkin. If melon hasn't got me first!

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