Cabbage Freer ©
By Irene Ferraro-Sives
They came when the pumpkins were big enough to carve, and the weather cooled. They came around the end of October. It was on Halloween, usually.
So the moon was crowing for little Trudy as she lay in her bed. The lunar bird flapped its white wings as it flew across the black night. It flitted across her bed in bands of silvery beams. Her window showed the truth about the moon bird. Sometimes, it hid behind the darkness. When it hid, it mooed like a cow or a mourning dove. By the time it was lit like half of a sugar cookie, it cooed like a happy pigeon waiting for popcorn after the circus. Now, it was at its fullest and spread its feathers with pride. Trudy was so glad to see it, again.
For Trudy knew, when the round moon was filled with light and her bed was filled with moon-glow, that the vegetable people would rise up and strut across the garden paths, and through some houses.
Trudy called them vegetable people because she did not know what else to call them. No one had ever named them for her. Her parents looked worried all the time and pretended that everything was normal. They sent her to school like they always had. But Trudy knew when the moon completed its cycle that the vegetable people would be back, again. She did not know if she ought to be afraid of them or not. She had seen them pushing out of the earth through her bedroom window.
This is how it happened. There would be a flicker of moonlight along the ground like someone had lit a match then blew it out. The air would hum a lazy melody and the dirt would form a quick mound. Then, something that looked like a cabbage would roll out from under the ground. It would sit in the moonlight, shaking and waiting. Then it would start to unfold, arms and legs and head flopping outward from the crimpled, green torso. It would lay there and sigh, as though it were taking a deep breath. Then, it would stand, eyes blinking with new sight over a nose and mouth that glistened with two rows of sharp, gnash-worthy teeth.
Once, one of the cabbage people had bit Trudy as she stood looking at the curiosity through her open window. Her father had pushed the creature away and slammed the window shut. Outside, the vegetable person had screamed the scream of the endlessly wanting and never satisfied. Trudy could hear it wail through the glass, but it did not try to come in. Tiny specks of Trudy’s blood had dotted its razor-like teeth. Her father had carried her to the bathroom and cleaned and bandaged her wound. Her mother had stood in the overhead light of the hallway in her nightshirt. There were creases on her mother’s forehead that never went away.
Trudy had been fine after that. Now, the vegetable people were coming again. The earth molded itself into little hills and the cabbages popped out. They spun a few inches from the holes they left behind and sprouted the rest of their being. Trudy watched them through her locked and barred window. Her father and mother came into the room and watched with her.
The vegetable people ambled slowly across the backyard. A group of them caught a nocturnal animal with glinting eyes. The vegetable people’s shrill cries of victory drowned out the cries of the raccoon they were tearing apart. A swift cat raced up a tree and watched from a safe limb as the vegetable people filled the grassy lawns and empty porches searching for flesh and blood.
This is how it would be all night until the morning. At the first sign of sun reaching over the horizon, the vegetable people would shrivel. Their dried remains would be burned in bonfires of celebration.
How long had this been going on, Trudy thought to herself. She could not remember a time when it had not been this way.