“We have to cross here. We can’t walk by pansy house.”
I looked at Marlene. “Pansy house?”
“It’s a bungalow down the block. There’s a bunch of pansies in the front yard that Scruffy’s deathly afraid of. He barks at them. Tries to dig ‘em up.”
I looked at Scruffy, her little terrier, happily trotting between us.
“Are you afraid of pansies?” I asked, reaching down to pat his head. He licked my hand.
“I don’t blame him,” added Marlene. “Pansies are weird. Have you ever really looked at them?”
I thought for a second. “Not really.”
“They have these scrunched up little faces. Two eyes and a mouth. That’s probably what scares him. He thinks they’re alive and gonna attack him.”
I laughed. “That could be a cute kid’s book: The Pooch Who Feared Flowers.”
“I’d love to illustrate that. There are so many types of pansies.”
She stopped and pointed across the street. “There it is. There’s pansy house.”
A small bungalow stood on a corner lot. In the front yard grew dozens of pansies in a large, rectangular flower bed. Red, purple, white, yellow. Vibrant and healthy.
“I’ll have to check out their mean little faces on my way back,” I said, smiling.
“Don’t get too close. They might bite.”
“Glad they’re not snapdragons.”
We walked on and when we reached the main drag, Marlene and Scruffy turned towards the mall. I made my way back to pansy house, but as I got closer, it wasn’t the flowers that held my attention - it was the house itself.
It was painted grey with black trim around the windows. The front door was white, but scuffed up with smudges and dirty handprints. A broken light dangled above.
I knelt down and looked at the pansies. Their little faces stared up at me like tiny dolls.
I could see why they spooked Scruffy. This was a type of pansy I had never seen. Their eyes were pinched and pained-looking, their mouths slashed into scowls.
Then I got the feeling of being watched. Funny how we pick up on that. Some ancient instinct, I guess. A built-in warning system. Gentle, yet persistent.
I glanced up to see a figure standing in the window. I waved, but they stood motionless.
A breeze picked up. The pansies moved slightly on the rectangular bed. I stood and watched them sway.
That’s odd, I thought. This flower bed has the exact dimensions of a… grave.
I looked at the window again. The figure was still there, watching me. I turned and walked down the block to the streetcar.
You’re right, Scruffy. Stay the hell away from pansy house - and for god's sake, don’t dig up that flower bed!