Weekend Shorts — Do Not Enter, featuring Resa McConaghy

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Hello, everyone.  I’m back with more Weekend Shorts.  Also, I brought along the Pumpkin Hat Girls again.  They were up for some more Twilight Zone-ish fun.

Back when I asked photographers and artists to send me three images that were “generally related” one another (unlike the randomness of the reader things I need for serials), multi-talented Resa McConaghy responded with several from her neck of the woods — specifically, Sunnyside Beach in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Resa is a multi-talented designer, artist, and finder of fabulous murals.  She shares some of her lovely things at Graffiti Lux Art & More

Do Not Enter

The Pumpkin Hat Girls #3

Lake Ontario Beach
Photo by Resa McConaghy

Tires hummed along the road.  Colorful trees slid past the car windows.  Red taillights of a vehicle in the distance ahead of us came and went as Penny negotiated bends in the road.

The milky sun of early morning was low enough on the horizon to create a glare on the road.  Penny pulled the visor of her pumpkin-colored baseball cap lower.

Ursula reached into her bag for her orange bucket style hat.  She arranged it so the brim was low to shield her eyes.  Concern painted her wrinkled face as she turned back to look at the dwindling sight of Bakersville.

“Penny, are you speeding?” the elder woman chided as her gaze returned to the road ahead.  “That other car is much closer now.”

“Are you worried about Maudie?” Penny asked from the driver’s seat, knowing that Ursula wasn’t usually a backseat driver.  “She’ll be fine.  The trouble is, now our group has even fewer of the letters to spell Pumpkin.  We need more Pumpkin Hat Girls,” our group’s founder added lightly.

“Ursula, you said Maudie knew how to take care of herself,” I complained, because if Ursula was worried, then I should be too.

Photo by Resa McConaghy
Photo by Resa McConaghy

“Oh, Pepper…” Ursula said to me, her Scandinavian accent slipping out.  “That was true.  But she doesn’t always know how to take care of her heart.”

“Off on an adventure?” Penny started.  “And with a handsome younger man?  I’m not worried — I’m envious.  If anybody knows how to not take life and relationships seriously, then it’s Maudie.  She’s just having a fling.  I wish I were able to think that way… but I’m not.”

From the backseat, I made a wry face and nodded at Penny in commiseration.  Then I made the same kind of nod to Ursula — Penny did tend to have a “lead foot” on the accelerator, especially if something was on her mind.  The views on the roadside were a blur.

I caught glimpses of a long white building between thick foliage.  Aloud, I wondered what it was.

Abruptly, Penny hit the brakes.  The little car ahead of us swerved and lost control.  A deer bounded across the road to the left and the car ran off the shoulder to the right.

Photo by Resa McConaghy
Photo by Resa McConaghy

I grabbed Penny’s shopping bag, which was in the seat beside me.  As it slid, orange items fell onto the seat and floorboard.  She had found a woman selling knitted caps, and bought all the “pumpkin” colored ones.  She planned to give one to every new member of the Pumpkin Hat Girls, assuming we actually got new members.

As I stretched to see out the windshield, I saw the small car in front of us.  It careened into a large road sign, stopping against one leg of the sign, which crunched at the impact.  With a slow creak of metal, the sign bent forward until it finally hit the top of the car.  My brain absently noted that the sign said something about “Do Not Enter, Military Testing.”  However, I was so concerned about the accident I had just witnessed, that I didn’t process what I read.

Penny pulled our car off the road a short distance behind the wreck.  As I got out of the backseat, I tried to see if anyone was moving inside the damaged vehicle.  Beneath the big road sign their car had a deep dent in the top.  I saw movement, some kind of struggle.  Then the passenger door flew open from a forceful kick.

A leg, clad in printed fabric that looked rather like blue and grayish tiger stripes, showed briefly before a woman got out by the passenger door.  She bent to help another woman exit the same door.  I guessed that the damage to the car prevented the driver’s door from opening.

Momentarily confused, I stared at a woman with platinum blonde hair and very brown skin.  Her face was heart-shaped, with thin lips and large eyes.  It felt like the past ten seconds did a rewind, because another woman, with the same impossible combination of hair and complexion, and moving in exactly the same way, followed her from the vehicle.

To my surprise, the two women were identical.  I understood that their matching clothes were actually military fatigues.  The print was somewhere between camouflage and tiger stripes.  Another glance at the rumpled sign showed me “AFB,” so I gathered they were in Air Force uniforms.

“I didn’t think there was an Air Force base out here,” I murmured, since that was usually what the acronym AFB meant.

Fountain at Lake Ontario Beach, Resa McConaghy
Fountain at Lake Ontario Beach, Resa McConaghy

As we got closer to their vehicle, I finally understood that the women were quite small.  With them standing next to their compact car, I had not realized how petite they truly were.

Both twins assured us that they were uninjured.  Their car was tiny, but its airbags had protected them.  They introduced themselves as Miley and Kylie.

While the twins inspected the damage to their car, Ursula muttered something about Providence.  Although she was expressing gratitude for whatever divine intervention kept the women from being hurt, it occurred to me that she was also talking about their names.

“They could help us be closer to spelling Pumpkin,” Penny whispered.  “Although if they’re military they probably couldn’t go on many daytrips.  But we should at least help them.  I’m sure it’s safe, them being in the service and all.  It’s not like picking up a hitchhiker.”

“Just because they’re wearing fatigues?  That doesn’t really mean anything,” Ursula cautioned.

“We can always telephone to get them help,” Penny replied.  “We won’t give them a lift unless all of us agree.  I don’t want anyone to have any misgivings.”

“All of you have orange hats!” they exclaimed in unison when they suddenly noticed our hats.

Penny explained about the Pumpkin Hat Girls, and our autumn outings.  She introduced herself, Ursula, and me.

“Your M is missing,” Miley remarked.

“So are K, I, and N,” put in Kylie.

Photo by Resa McConaghy
Photo by Resa McConaghy

The three of us exchanged looks regarding our conversation about giving the women a lift.  Finally, Ursula nodded.  Penny turned to the twins, asking where they had been headed, and offered to help.

“If you could drive us to the base gate, then we would be most grateful,” Kylie said in a relieved voice.

“If we are late again, then we will be in trouble,” Miley added, looking from her twin to Penny.

I noticed there was something odd about their manner of speaking.  That combined with their diminutive stature and unlikely coloring made me wonder if they came from another country.

“Kylie, is that not a side entrance to the AFB, right there behind the sign?” Miley asked and started pushing underbrush aside from a tall fence.

Curious, Penny and I moved to help.  A moment later our efforts revealed a gate made into the fence.  In dented and faded letters, the sign read, “Do Not Enter.  Military Testing.”

We drew back.  Ursula came forward with Kylie.  Our eldest member had been absorbed in conversation with the stranger who was even more petite than she.  When Ursula read the old sign, she went silent.

“Oh!” the twins exclaimed together, seeing our reactions.

“Do not worry,” Miley began.

“We have already had our tests,” Kylie finished.

Photo by Resa McConaghy
Photo by Resa McConaghy

“You mean they aren’t testing weapons?  There isn’t a minefield or anything like that?” I asked uneasily.

“Oh, no!” they cried.  “That would take all the fun out of it.”

My mouth moved to begin forming the word “What?” but I didn’t ask.  Instead, I gave my head a bewildered shake and looked at Penny and Ursula.  My friends shrugged.

The overgrown gate was held shut by a large but rusted padlock.  Standing so close together that their shoulders touched, the twins murmured to one another.  I couldn’t tell which was Miley and which was Kylie, but one of them grasped the padlock and tugged.  They looked at each other, and whomever gave the lock another sharp pull.  It came open.

“It was very rusty,” they explained in unison as they pushed the gate open, and a pile of dead leaves along with it.

In the distance I saw more of the long white building I had glimpsed from the road.  It looked like a disused pavilion of some sort.  The architecture, with an arched entrance, put me in mind of the 1920s.

The twins hesitated.  They looked from me to Ursula to Penny with sadness in their large eyes.  It made me feel blue and disconcerted.

“Is anything wrong, dear?” Ursula asked kindly.

“We were not able to obtain everything on our list,” replied one of them.

I gathered they had not finished whatever errand or task they had been doing when they ran off the road.  Impulsively, Penny reached into her bag.  The look on her face suggested that she wanted to make the twins feel better.  They looked like disappointed children.

“Here.  We name you honorary Pumpkin Hat Girls,” Penny told them and handed each woman one of the orange knit hats she had just bought.  “Your first initials would be part of the spelling of Pumpkin,” she explained.

Photo by Resa McConaghy
Photo by Resa McConaghy

The twins chattered in delight.  I couldn’t understand much of it, but I heard the words thank you several times.  I also thought I heard “win” and “hunt.”  The latter made me listen harder.  However, they were obviously happy.

“Please come in.  We will give you a tour,” said either Miley or Kylie, and they motioned for us to come with them.

With more curiosity than good sense, the three of us cautiously stepped inside the gate.

They led us to a wooden boardwalk that was in good repair.  It extended all the way to the pavilion.

“Kylie, do you think any teams have returned from their hunt?” Miley asked her twin and I stumbled.

“What kind of hunt?” I wanted to know.

Neither twin answered because at that moment a male voice called out to them.

“Team Sjau!  You are barely in time.  All the others have returned from the hunt, except Team Ein,” said a very thin, exceptionally tall man who approached us.

The man’s appearance was exaggerated.  He looked… attenuated.  His height, build, and careful movements reminded me of a praying mantis.  The words “preying” and “hunt” collided in my brain.  Involuntarily, I took a step backward and bumped into Penny.

Ticket Booth Photo by Resa McConaghy
Ticket Booth Photo by Resa McConaghy

“What hunt?” I hissed to Penny who suddenly caught my increasing unease.  “What’s going on here.  This stuff isn’t normal.  What kind of teams does he mean?  I don’t understand half the words.”

“He called the twins team sjau, that’s seven,” Ursula answered, moving between Penny and me and speaking softly.  “He’s using Old Norse words for numbers.  The other one, Team Ein — ein is the number one.  Although neither he nor the twins really look Nordic to me.”

“Team Sjau, did you obtain all the items on your list?  I see you both acquired military uniforms.  That was a high-point value item,” the man asked in an indifferent tone.  “I take it that you were not completely successful,” he added when the twins bowed their platinum heads, but then his interest turned to us.

“Who are these people?  Are they on the list?” the man demanded curtly.

“These women are called The Pumpkin Hat Girls,” Miley answered, and the man asked her to elaborate.

“We are a society of friends.  We exchange ideas and explore nearby communities,” Ursula tried to explain.

“We hang out, sample good food, and shop,” Penny added.

“A society.  Yes, that is exact,” Miley and Kylie said to one another, with inspiration in their eyes.

“They have made us honorary Pumpkin Hat Girls,” the twins told the attenuated man and put on their orange hats as proof.

“And you have brought these people here as verification?” he asked.

The twins nodded enthusiastically.  Penny and I looked at Ursula.  I knew we were both wondering how we could make a run for it with the elderly woman.

“All this ‘hunt’ talk is making me nervous,” Ursula whispered.  “You two get ready to run, and I’ll distract them.  Don’t let me hold you back.  I’m too old for them to want to hunt me anyway.  There wouldn’t be any sport in it.”

Photo by Resa McConaghy
Photo by Resa McConaghy

We hissed back that we would not leave her behind.  Our hushed but animated conversation caught the attention of the strange man.  However, he only spared us a glance before turning back to Miley and Kylie.

“Team Sjau, you have hunted and captured the ultimate item on the list — a treaty with an alien race,” the man cried.  “You win the Alien Fellowship Base annual scavenger hunt.”

“Treaty?” I repeated the word numbly.

Scavenger hunt?” Ursula and Penny asked.

It may sound like we had a paranoid reaction to the word “hunt.”  However, after our past two stops — first the evil carnival and then the hoard of tiny vampires in Bakersville, can you blame us?

I sank weak-kneed to sit on the boardwalk.  Penny and Ursula pulled me to my feet.  We babbled regrets and cheerful goodbyes as more members of the Alien Fellowship started coming out of the pavilion to see what was happening.

“The sign said AFB…  It’s not an Air Force base.  It’s an Alien Fellowship Base,” I muttered.

Ursula, Penny, and I walked gingerly back to the gate.  As we walked, we urged one another quietly.

“Don’t run.”

“Don’t look back.”

“Have you got the car keys?”

Penny hesitated.  Then a jingle came from her pocket as she patted her jacket.

We breathed a collective sigh of relief.

“You know,” Ursula began as I made sure she got into the car safely.  “They actually seemed friendly enough.  We should have at least let the twins give us a tour.”

Penny started choking.  I reached across and attached Ursula’s seatbelt and then practically dove into the backseat.  Penny started the car, wheels spinning on the dead leaves.

She pulled out onto the road.  Fortunately, that time she didn’t have to back out of a parking space, because she likely would have left the car in reverse again.

“I’ll keep an eye out in the rearview mirror to see if they follow us,” Penny stated as she drove.  “Under the circumstances, Pepper, you’d better keep an eye on the sky.”

As I leaned to stare out the window at the sky, movement caught my eye.  A thin purple streak of light shot out from behind a cloud.  It moved lower as it came closer to the “AFB.”

“Team Ein, I presume,” I muttered, thankful that the small spacecraft didn’t head toward us.

Pumpkin Hat Girls by Teagan R Geneviene
Pumpkin Hat Girls by Teagan R Geneviene

The end.

♣ ♣ ♣

A Peril in Ectoplasm

Cover A Peril in Ectoplasm by Teagan Riordain Geneviene

“A Peril in Ectoplasm: Just Once More” is now available.

Universal Purchase Links:

Kindle: relinks.me/B0BJ9N1GBX

Paperback:  relinks.me/B0BJBXGJ7L

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Wishing you a happy November and a wonderful weekend.  I love to hear from you, so friendly comments are encouraged. Hugs on the wing!

♣ ♣ ♣

This is a work of fiction.  Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2022 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved. 

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or used with permission, or from free sources.

66 thoughts on “Weekend Shorts — Do Not Enter, featuring Resa McConaghy

  1. You never cease to amaze, you are extraordinary! ! And, I see by all the comments, that I am not the only one to enjoy your originality! ! Keep up the good stories, thank you for all the time you dedicate to invent stories for us to enjoy. Thank you sincerely! We are into winder, enjoy the COLD weather! !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Ms. Frances, your comments make all the effort worthwhile. 🙂
      I’m afraid that it doesn’t look like I’ll write a new story for this weekend. But I’ll be back with one the next weekend.
      Ah, winter… it comes late to southern New Mexico, and doesn’t last long — plus the snow melts very fast. Having lived most of my life in the southeast and Washington DC, I’m shocked to hear myself say it, but now that I’m in New Mexico, winter is my favorite season. Stay safe and warm. Hugs on the wing.


  2. The Pumpkin Hat Girls are getting around, and seemingly growing.
    It’s a fun story, Teagan!
    Too bad it’s not the Prumpkin or the Pumpkrin Hat Girls, then I could squeeze into the group. 🙄
    Of course there’s no such colour as Prumpkin or Pumpkrin. 😵‍💫
    Loved seeing my pics here with your story. Thank you!
    I do believe we’ll be seeing more of The Pumpkin Hat Girls.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Resa, your photos are a huge hit. Thanks again for letting me use them. Initially I imagined a glamorous 1920s story. However, since I just published A Peril in Ectoplasm, I didn’t want to use that era. That doesn’t mean I won’t do it eventually though! Wonderful setting.
      The Pumpkin Hat Girls are getting into more stories than I expected, so you’re probably right. Also, I think the girls would let you use “M” for McConaghy. 😀
      Hugs winging back to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It was great seeing the Pumpkin Hat girls make a reappearance. I just love your imagination, Teagan. This is a wild ride. And great photos from Resa. I love the architecture and the glimpse of blue sky was the best! Thanks for the fun post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy November, Robbie. Thanks so much. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to keep using these characters, and I have not deliberately set out to give them more. However, they have three shorts now. Your Shakespeare Farm photos might give them another outing. I hope Michael is improving. Hugs on the wing.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Liz, I was captivated by Resa’s photos of Sunnyside. They inspired all sorts of potential stories.
      It’s funny you should say that about androids. That was actually my first thought for the twins. However, it would have been a different turn in the tale, and not one I could close quickly. I couldn’t see the path clearly either. So aliens. Thanks for reading and commenting. Hugs on the wing. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent addition to the series, Teagan. These girls are certainly on an adventure. Do the letters count? It seems unlikely Miley and Kylie will be back. Then again, this is Teagan’s world. Never mind. I hope you have a great weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

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