Had a lot of fun writing this bit of flash fiction over the weekend at The Angry Hourglass. The prompt was an image of a pumpkin and there was a 360 word limit.
There were grey feathers at the base of the pumpkin and it was still warm to Tessa’s touch. The farmer didn't see Mildred around, but she knew this pumpkin had been selected for the year. Tessa fetched the stakes and rope and went about cordoning off the pumpkin for whenever Mildred chose to return.
The farmer had dozens of seasonal workers that she could have delegated this task to every year, but Tessa felt obligated to do this herself. Mildred was a vestige of her ill-conceived attempt to section off part of her pumpkin patch for raising ostriches. With no family of her own to shape her priorities, Tessa had taken to these wild hairs. She’d picked Mildred up as a chick as a trial run more or less. She wanted to see what it took to keep her and feed her as a yearling before committing to a flock.
Somewhere in that first year, she lost the heart to harvest the bird. The only revenue she’d ever made from Mildred was in selling her eggs to curious visitors at the farm stand on the front of her property. It was an impulse purchase from out-of-towners and she never had repeat customers. It was barely worth the money and not worth the maudlin behavior of the bird hunting for her eggs in the weeks after Tessa had removed them.
One morning, weeks before the seasonal help came on to help operate the patch, Tessa found Mildred alone in the field. Sitting. The farmer approached, yet kept a safe distance. The bird pecked and preened at the bed skirt of feathers beneath it and Tessa caught a glimpse of the pumpkin she was incubating.
Tessa sectioned off the pumpkin. In restricting the Mildred’s nest, it inadvertently became the main attraction of her patch. In the crisp air that swept in the autumn year after year, Tessa always considered the bird and its nest. After the gourd rotted away and the ground froze, the bird never hunted for her lost chick. The farmer continued to question what the two of them were trying to harvest.