Tale of the Dreaded Can of Apricots

Need a scary story to tell around the campfire?

Here’s one:

In the long history of dessert, there has never been a menace as sinister as The Dreaded Can of Apricots. This foul fiend was created by a parental rule that reeks of pure evil: Every other night in our domicile is Fruit Night. This dark ordinance cruelly limits the metric tonnage of refined sugar products the Rolfe children consume each week.

One fateful Fruit Night came to a screaming halt after 5-year-old Jesse went to the cupboard and pulled out a can of Big Top unpeeled apricot halves in light syrup. Mom dished them out before Beaster and Amber realized the terror that had been unleashed. The kids ate the slimy orange things as if they were the vilest swill, and the unfinished can was buried deep in the cold, cold refrigerator.

The next Fruit Night, the children wanted applesauce, but the diabolical rulers of the house announced that the apricots

should be finished first, lest perfectly good food be conveniently forgotten and allowed to decay and go to waste. This declaration was met by anguished cries of “Ewww! I hate apricots!

So the wily, recalcitrant Rolfe children skipped dessert that night and every Fruit Night for a week. Jesse was even deliberately naughty, a bald attempt to get his dessert privileges revoke just in case he might be forced to face the orange menace again.

The Dreaded Can of Apricots lurked in the fridge, waiting, waiting, waiting, as Jesse became a pariah to his siblings.

Finally, Amber steeled herself and fetched the can. “Eww!” she gasped. Squishy apricots were oozing around the edges of the lid, which had fallen inside.

“They’re trying to escape!” dad cried. “They’ll come in the night and eat you if you don’t eat them first!”

Beaster snapped, unable to take it anymore. “You chose them, Jesse, you have to eat them!”

“No!” Jesse yelled. “YOU have to eat them!!”

“You all have to eat them!” dad chuckled ghoulishly.

“There are starving children who would be horrified to hear you refusing apricots,” added mom.

“Can’t we just send them the apricots?” asked Beaster.

“Come on, they taste like peaches!” said dad.

“They taste like liver and lard!” howled Beaster.

“They do not. Here. I’ll try one,” said dad.

“Try two,” said Jesse.

“Try them all,” said Amber, holding a spoonful in front of her wrinkled nose.

The Great Pyramids were built in less time than it took her to eat that apricot. A pile of bits formed under her chair and she slyly shoveled more under her placemat.

Oh, the piteous cries for mercy! The suffering had become unbearable when the day was saved by Jesse, the family garbage disposal who eats the icky stuff like mushrooms, spinach, and tofu that others cannot stand. He spared his siblings by bravely downing seven apricots, leaving Beaster and Amber to choke down two apiece.

The Dreaded Can of Apricots lay vanquished at last.

A mighty cheer went up.

“You’d better treat Jesse nice,” dad warned. “He got you two off the hook!”

Said Amber, leaving the table, “Our long nightmare is over.”

This column originally appeared in The Poughkeepsie Journal and is included in my book, “The Goose in the Bathroom: Stirring Tales of Family Life.” To obtain a copy, visit Amazon or Barnesandnoble.com.

Care to peruse another sample? Here’s “Government’s Greasy Fingerprints”