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Song of the Turkey Vulture
by GE Tallant

Listen to GE Tallant read this story:
 

Winner : 2011 Fiction Contest
Selected by Andrew Wingfield
 

October
 

Cara knew the secrets: a certain tilt to the vine, distance from the mother plant, an early need for phosphorus. She hand-pollinated in May; her fruit was set by June. Now it was October and two dozen giant pumpkins waited in her fields, as surprising and tympanic as pregnant bellies. Two dozen was record and most of them were sold. Designers drove all the way from Atlanta to buy her pumpkins. She’d had one on the gold-domed capitol’s steps, another on the lawn of the governor’s mansion.

Giant pumpkins weren’t the only type she grew. She had rows of little Sugar Pies for baking and rows of sturdy Connecticut Fields for carving. She had Blue Lakotas as bright as the sky and Tigers striped like the cat. These pumpkins were for the families who came with plans—a scary jack-o-lantern, a pumpkin pie. Children yelped when they discovered the prickly vines. They strained to lift fruit that outweighed them.

On the dirt road where Cara lived and worked there were two farms, hers and her neighbors’, Tom and Martha. Tom and Martha had quit growing anything other than their kitchen garden, though there had been a time when they too were a pick-your-own. On clear October days they sat on Cara’s back porch. Martha manned the scales and collected payments. She shoved the crumpled bills, the rolls of quarters, the fistfuls of dimes into gallon Ziploc bags. Tom leaned back in a rocking chair with carrot fronds spilling from his pockets. When children gathered at the porch steps, he led them across the field to the fence line where his donkey waited. Tom snapped the carrots into chunks and lifted the children one by one, reminding them to hold their palms flat. To Cara he said, “You keep selling pumpkins, I’m gonna have to get that donkey a gym membership. He’s getting fat.”

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GE Tallant lives in Decatur, Georgia with her husband and son. She recently completed a collection of short stories and is at work on a novel. This is her first publication.
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