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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Evil Eye

Category: Issue 3, Short Story Winners

It was on a Monday morning that the potato came to me.  I had just stepped outside to get the daily paper.

Why does this sort of thing always have to happen to me on Mondays?  What is it about that particular day of the week that acts as a magnet for the excessively unlucky?  Karma?  An ancient mystical prophecy?  What with it already being the start of yet another long work week, it’s not like Monday needs any additional help to be unwelcome.

If I ever become Emperor of the World, my first act will be to abolish all Mondays.  Six days a week is more than sufficient for any reasonable person.

Anyway, since it was a Monday morning, I should have known that there would be something rotten about it.  Not that the potato looked rotten, mind you.  A little shriveled and old, perhaps, but not actually decayed.

My first thought upon seeing it sitting on my doorstep was something along the line of, “Oh, a potato is on my doorstep”.  Cut me some slack; it was a Monday morning, after all.  And it was only a potato, not something truly unusual and mind-shattering like the Mongol Horde stopping by to ask for directions to Damascus.  Few things in our lives are as plain, dull, and down-to-earth as a spud.  Thus my first reaction to it was suitably plain, dull, and down-to-earth.

Of course, even on a Monday morning I know that my front doorstep is not the usual place for potatoes to roost.  It obviously hadn’t grown there.  Nobody I knew would be likely to leave a little shriveled potato on my front step without at least a note of explanation.  Could some animal have dragged it there for some obscure reason?  It didn’t look like it had been chewed on.

I gave it a little nudge with my toe, sending it rolling and spinning a couple of inches across the concrete.  When it came wobbling to a halt, one of its eyes was pointing up at me.

Now, I’m no stranger to potato eyes.  I’ve made my fair share of mashed potatoes in my lifetime, and I’ve seen plenty of eyes.  Large ones, little ones, ones that have great big sprouts growing up out of them, ones so well hidden that you can only infer their existence.  This one, however, stopped me in my tracks.

A sort of creeping, pulsing malevolence seemed to radiate from it.  It was dark, cold, unnatural.  It stared up at me with a will to commit the ultimate in unspeakable atrocities.  I stood there, frozen, eye to eye with the demon tuber.

The eye winked at me.  Then the potato hopped onto the lawn and burrowed out of sight.  A bolt of lightning crashed down out of the cloudy sky, incinerating my newspaper where it lay at the edge of the road.

As the ashes settled slowly onto the sidewalk, I knew then that this Monday was going to be a bad one.

I went back into my house, locking both locks on the door behind me.  Then I fastened the security chain.  Then I propped a chair against the door.  Then I sat in the chair and looked puzzled.  What was going on around here?

I’m no great agricultural expert, but I know there are some things that potatoes are supposed to do, and that there are other things that they are not.  Sprout into a potato plant, yes.  Turn all mouldy and mushy, yes.  Be made into chips, sure.  Wink at you and crawl away, no.  There was something fundamentally wrong about that potato.  And that eye!  Pure evil.

An eye that was evil.

An Evil Eye.

Sure, I’ve heard the expression.  Who hasn’t?  But I’d always associated it with vampires and old gypsy women.  Not vegetables.  Could a potato really put a curse on somebody?  And besides, what made me so sure that the thing was out to get me?  Yeah, so the newspaper was currently a cloud of charred molecules drifting away on the morning breeze.  That didn’t necessarily have to be connected with the appearance of the spud.  After all, nothing else had happened, right?

The chair broke apart and collapsed beneath me.  I fell down and back, smashing my skull a good solid jarring blow against the heavy oak door.  I sat sprawled for a moment in the debris, rubbing the various sore spots of my anatomy.  Okay, well, two misfortunes do not a curse make.

The front door fell off its hinges and shattered to splinters in the front yard.

Well then, three misfortunes do not a-

A meteorite came careening through the empty doorway and reduced my heirloom Amish rug to a fiber-filled crater, just before the poisonous sea snakes started slithering up out of my kitchen sink.

Maybe I did have a problem after all.

I called up the office and told them I was sick today, hanging up just before the telephone suffered a severe episode of spontaneous combustion.  Things were getting a bit out of hand.  It was definitely time to strike back.

As I passed my bedroom, I didn’t even spare a second glance at the dandelions sprouting out of my bed or the leeches crawling out of my sock drawer.  I headed towards the basement to get a shovel, but reconsidered when I heard the strange moaning and scraping noises coming from behind the closed cellar door.  I changed course and veered off into the kitchen, nimbly sidestepping the angry sea snakes thrashing around on the floor (the World of Science may be interested to know that sea snakes show an intense dislike for linoleum floors.  On the other hand, the World of Science may not care at all).  Seizing a large metal serving spoon, I boldly made my way through the chaos and emerged onto my front lawn.

There had been no sign of my tuberous visitor since it had jumped off my front step and burrowed away into the dirt.  That it was orchestrating this whole curse I had no doubt, though.  Therefore, it stood to reason that the curse would be lifted if I could rid my life of the Hell Spud.

I found the spot where I thought the potato had disappeared and began digging.  It soon became apparent that serving spoons were not the best earthmoving tools in the world.  The handle had an annoying tendency to bend in odd places, and I could only scrape up a little bit of the hard-baked dirt at a time.  If the demon spud had dug down very far, this was going to be a long job.

“Looking for pirate treasure?” asked a voice.

For one confused instant I thought that the potato was talking to me, but even as the notion skittered its crazed path across my mind I recognized the voice.  I looked behind me and there, sure enough, was Trish.  She and I had been dating for the better part of two months, and had reached the point where we could drop by each other’s house at any time unannounced without awkwardness.  Trish was. . .well, let it suffice to say that I’d choose her presence instead of a potato’s any time.

“Demon potato,” I replied.  “Got to end its curse.”

“Oh.”  She considered this for a moment.  “Got anything to drink around here?”

“Some sodas in the fridge.  Get me one while you’re at it, if you would.”

“Sure thing.”

She went into the house while I went back to my excavations.  A few moments later she was beside me again, handing me a cold drink.

“You know you’ve got sea snakes all over your kitchen, dandelions in your bed, and your front door is gone?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

“And there’s some sort of troll in your bathroom, flushing rolls of toilet paper down your commode,” she added.

“Mmm, I missed that guy.”

“Must really be some curse.”

“Yeah.”

I laboured on in silence for a few more moments as she sipped her drink and regarded the splintered door.

“Demon potato, you said?”

“Yup.”

“Well, how ‘bout that.”

She dusted off and sat on the front step, which was rather distracting since she was wearing one of those skirts that even at its fullest extent never makes so much as a passing acquaintanceship with the knee.  It was currently nowhere near its fullest extent.  I continued gamely on with my digging, though.

By now I had a hole big enough to hide a good sized television in.  I was beginning to wonder if I would have to go get that shovel out of the basement, ghouls or no ghouls, when the debris at the bottom of the hole stirred slightly.  The potato came squirming out of the soil and sat glaring at me with its Evil Eye.  I scooped the tuber out of the excavation with the remains of my spoon and flung it onto the front walk.

“That’s your potato, then?”  asked Trish.

“Yeah,” I replied.

“Mmm.  Ugly.”

“Yup.”

“Now what?”

I thought for a moment.  Well, if I didn’t want snakes in my kitchen and dandelions in my bed, I’d have to destroy the potato somehow.

Taking a deep breath, I swung my spoon at the spud.  There was a clang that made my eardrums meet in the middle of my skull, and the spoon vibrated until my arm felt like a hyperactive hornet.  The potato glared mockingly at me some more, completely unscathed, and then began edging towards the margin of the concrete.

“No you don’t!”  I cried, stomping down on it with my heavy boot.  Then I cried some other loud and heart-felt things while hopping around on one leg like an overcaffeinated flamingo, clutching my injured foot in both hands.

The potato wasn’t even scratched.

“Since it’s a demon potato, maybe you need something like holy water or a crucifix,” Trish suggested.

“You got anything like that, or a magic sword, or a silver bullet?” I asked.

“Mm, no.  Wait, hold on!”  She reached behind her head and pulled something out of her hair.  “Here.  Silver hair pin.”

I took it and considered.  It was about five inches long and sharply pointed at the end.  It was worth a try.  Dandelions would probably be rather itchy to sleep on, after all, and who knew what that troll would flush down the toilet next.

I kicked the potato back from the edge of the walk, where it was about to jump down into the grass and burrow out of sight again.  Crouching down, I advanced on it with the hair pin held out in front of me like a sword.  The potato retreated, its Evil Eye fixed unwaveringly on me.

Suddenly it lunged, leaping up at me like a hideous lumpy malicious cannonball.  I flung my arms up in front of my face and fell over backwards in a wonderful display of uncoordination.  The hair pin was knocked from my hand.

Rolling over onto my hands and knees, I scrabbled around frantically for the pin while looking to see where the potato had gone.  I spotted the spud laying in the grass, twitching slightly.  It seemed to have shrunk, deflating in on itself.  As I cautiously crept up on it, I saw the silver hair pin.  It had skewered the potato right through its Evil Eye, the point coming out through the tuber’s scabrous back.

With one last twitch, the demon veggie shriveled up completely and flaked away into dust.  Retrieving the hair pin, I sat down next to Trish on the front step and returned it to her.

“So it’s dead?” she asked.

“Yup.”

“Great.”

The faint slithering sounds from the kitchen had stopped, as had the maniacal flushing of the toilet.  No more lightning bolts descended from the heavens.  A dandelion seed drifted out the front doorway, hovered fleetingly between the two of us, then floated away on a breeze.  With the passing of the demon potato and its Evil Eye, the curse had been lifted.

“Now what are you going to do?”  she asked.

“Dunno,” I replied.  “I’ve taken the day off work.  Guess I’ll clean up the house.”

“Really?”  She leaned casually on my shoulder.  “Y’know, I’ve taken the day off, too.  In case you were interested in knowing.”

“You have?”  I glanced up at the morning sky, which had cleared up and was now a cheery blue.  I put an arm around Trish’s waist, and she leaned closer against me.  “Mmm, you wouldn’t happen to be allergic to dandelions by any chance, would you?” I asked.

Maybe this Monday wasn’t going to be so bad after all.

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Old Comments

  • “The eye winked at me” - was my favorite line when I read it.  I wanted to see tension build in the narrator and that line suggested it was about to.  I mean, up to that point, everything was perfectly normal.  But the tension didn’t really build - the narrator took the animation of the potatoe in stride.

    I also liked the line about the newspaper being a cloud of molecules drifting away.  I’m pretty fond of the clash between science and imagination - especially in fiction - again because of the tension.  I like the happy ending and the cheery attitude throughout, and also the idea that things will work out if you just make a decent effort.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/15  at  01:27 PM
  • I would have liked to see the narrator and his guest show a little more suprise in the animation of the potato as well, however, I feel it still worked the way it was. The lack of suprise made the story unusual and kind of fun.

    A lot of you know by now that I absolutely love stories where things are anthropomorph"ized”. This one made me chuckle, especially at the end and all in all, I enjoyed it a great deal.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/07  at  06:06 PM
  • Page 1 of 1 pages

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