” If you were really brave, ” Finella’s mother scolded her from across the kitchen, ” you
would at least taste it. ”
Finella shook her head, ” It looks like something crawled into that crust and died- ”
” It most certainly does not. ”
” of a terrible and horrible disease. Rabies. I’ll bet it died of rabies. ”
Neilina reached for one of the wooden spoons on her countertop and she waved it at her daughter. ” That’s a terrible thing to say. I slaved and slaved over that dish. It’s not like homecooking just crawls out of the fileds and washes and slices and dices seasons and the sautees or bakes itself!”
Finella’s mother took a deep breath, and even though her Mother’s face turned red and then purple Finella wasn’t worried. It meant her Mother wasn’t done talking which of course meant Finella wasn’t going to have to take a bite off of her plate anytime soon.
” I worked to make this meal. I worked at it because I care. If I didn’t care I’d just turn you loose to scrounge up whatever you could find. Is that what you want? Is that really what you want? ”
” More then anything. ” Finella said.
Neilina had a terrible headache now. ” Fine. Fine. Go dig yourself up something. I don’t care.”
Finella scooted her chair back, but before she did she did pick up her fork and she did take a little taste. ” Hey Mom, you know this isn’t really bad. Maybe I can have it later, okay? ”
” Of course. ” Neilina followed her daughter out of the kitchen and down the hall to the front door. ” Don’t stay out too late. It’s cold. ” She opened up the closet door and handed her daughter her jacket and then she reached in and brought out a shovel.
” At least promise me you’ll stay away from the Maltby Cemetery, the people out there are pumped full of preservatives”
Outside the town of Dewhurst is a little Country Cottage House standing all by itself up off of a long dusty road. There’s a rusty mailbox out front leaning over a ditch and a low stone fence that runs for miles along the Cottage’s property line.
Within the borders of the stone fence the small white cottage has potted plants on it’s porch and at each of it’s lace covered windows there are flower boxes full of purple and white and yellow Pansies.
That’s where Mrs. Beenettle lives.
People who drive by Mrs. Beenettle’ s House always comment on the old fashioned looking elderly lady with the straw hat and the basket of flowers on her arm.
” I wonder how old Mrs. Beenettle is, ” they’ll say ” she’s been out working on that garden of hers since I was a kid and that was over 20 years ago. ”
Then they forget all about her until the next time they drive by.
You see, Dewhurst is an up and coming town with streets full of houses called ” Mini-Mansions ” and roads with names like ” Glen ” this and ” View Ridge” that and the people who live in those developments aren’t the sort of people who slow down their cars or themselves for anything.
That includes sweet old ladies who tend Old English Cottage Gardens in the suburbs of Seattle.
Last spring, after years and years of waving to people somebody actually took the time to stop and drive up to Mrs. Beenettle’ s Cottage.
That somebody was named Betsy Ware.
Betsy Ware swears too much and drives to fast and when her kids moved out and left Betsy and her husband with an empty nest Betsy filled their old bedrooms with boxes full of their books and old furniture and outdated clothes and broken toys.
” If they want to move back in they’re going to have to haul all this crap away. ”
A fool is a woman who doesn’t know her own children and Betsy knew her kids would rather live in a dumpster then to be responsible for their own messes so they never did come back-not even for visits.
Betsy was either one step ahead of you or maybe a half a step behind. But she was never far off the mark. That’s what made Betsy such a hard person to mess with.
It was a gift she guessed.
One day Betsy just got it into her head to make the drive up to Mrs. Beenettle’s. She wasn’t sure where the idea came from; it just seemed like the right thing to do on that nice cool Spring morning.
She got out of her jeep wearing a faded black t-shirt and her hair tied back in a braid and Mrs. Beenettle came from the side of her house with her basket full of flowers.
Mrs. Beenettle smiled her roadside smile. ” Well Good Morning!” she said bright as a daisy.
Betsy stood there and smiled back and the thought came from nowhere and locked Betsy’s smile into place…” I have no idea why I’m here…no idea at all.”
Mrs. Beenettle was pleasant enough, she knew all about plants.
What she said was not exactly what you would read in The Lady Gardener’s Companion Books.
” Flowers are just cool and cunning as any gambler or card shark” Mrs. Beenettle said in her soft warm voice. ” They will wine and dine and seduce anything they have to in order to get what they want.”
” What is it they want Mrs. Beenettle ” Betsy asked because Betsy had the feeling this was going to be a whopper.
” Why, they want to take over dear- simple it truly is as simple as that. I mean, if you think about it the only thing that consumes and reproduces with such blind determination are humans. We’re are a lot alike, plants and humans.”
And Betsy found she couldn’t really disagree with that.
They chatted about plants that ate bugs and flowers that smelled like cigarette smoke and Betsy asked, ” are there really such things as plants that eat people?”
Mrs. Beenettle laughed and so did Betsy and at that moment they both knew what the answer was-which only made them both laugh more.
The sun was starting to set and it was getting cooler when Mrs. Beenettle said, ” All kidding aside Betsy- if you’re interested in Man Eating plants this may tickle your funny bone-follow me.”
Behind Mrs. Beenettle’ s Cottage there was a grove of Hazel Nut trees. The trees had long thin spidery limbs and they were covered with moss and the bark on the trees was leather like and dark brown.
That surprised Betsy, she thought it would be more fitting if they were bone white, but she was far to interested in what was growing beneath the little trees to wonder why the bark was the color it was.
Under each tree was a large flower.
The petals were black and purple and red and the flowers themselves were as large as the trees themselves.
And they smelled bad; they smelled very, very bad.
” Whoa ” Betsy said.
The sound of awe in Bety’s voice seemed to please Mrs. Beenettle a lot. In fact Mrs Beenettle smiled wider then ever and then she put a Motherly arm around Betsy’s shoulders.
” I am curious about the smell Mrs. Beenettle.”
” These beauties are called Corpse Flowers Betsy. In order to thrive they attract blow-flies, and in order to attract Blow-Flies they have to give the flies what they desire which of course is the scent of death.”
” Is that all they attract Mrs. Beenettle? The Blow- Flies?
Mrs. Beenettle held her arm out and Betsy took it. ” Plants always seem to find the perfect environment to survive in- they’re very cunning in that respect.”
Towards Sunset Betsy left Mrs. Beenettle’s Garden.
Tucked into the back of Betsy’s Jeep was a flat box filled with tiny compartments. In each little square were tiny shoots that were coiled and spiraled upwards and each little shoot was tinted black and red purple at their edges.
Next to the flat, wrapped in oiled paper were Betsy’s shotguns and in a little plastic envelope under the guns were tags from sweaters and jackets and shirts.
Like Mrs. Beenettle said, plants always seem to find the best environment to survive in- they’re very cunning in that respect.