Knock on Ginger
The doorbell chimed, its ring bouncing merrily off the walls.
The old woman pulled herself from her chair with difficulty, pulling her walker to her to use for support. In the slow shuffle-walk of the infirm, she carefully placed the walker ahead then shuffled three little steps. Thump shuffle shuffle shuffle, pause. Thump shuffle shuffle shuffle, pause.
When the old woman at last pulled the door open with shaky arthritis knobbed fingers and looked outside, no one was there. She looked up and down the street in confusion, rheumy eyes squinting to see.
From behind a bush around the corner of the old woman’s little house came the sound of giggles and snickers of children.
Her eyes blazed with anger and her face turned red. Feebly, the old woman raised one gnarled hand, trying unsuccessfully to make it into a fist to shake. She shook it anyway, the loose skin of her arm flapping below the bicep.
“You kids leave me alone,” the old woman yelled in her croaky old crone’s voice, spittle flying with the anger of her words. “Leave off my bell!” She shambled backwards with some difficulty and slammed the door closed, muttering and shaking her head angrily as she did so.
Great guffaws of laughter burst from the bush and kids rolled out from behind it, holding their stomachs as they rolled, so hard were they laughing. One, two, three, four kids; three boys and one girl.
One boy got to his feet, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes.
“That was great,” he exclaimed.
“Did you see her face Billy?” another boy grinned eagerly as he joined the first boy. Billy just nodded enthusiastically.
The girl, Samantha, Sam for short, joined the boys with a sheepish grin on her face. She did not feel right about doing this to the old woman, but that old woman always yelled at the kids when they played in front of her house. Besides, it was fun!
The third boy, Justin, finally stopped rolling on the ground and joined the other kids.
“Billy, Evan, Sam… that was great!” he exclaimed. “Did you see? I swear she was gonna have a stroke, the old lady looked so mad!” He looked at the other kids, eyes blazing with excitement.”
They all stood around grinning at each other.
“So, who’re we going to knock-on-ginger next?” Justin asked.
Just then, Sam’s mom came walking down the sidewalk towards them. The kids all froze, staring at each other nervously. Had she heard? Did she see what game they had been playing? They were all in trouble now, they thought.
“Hi, kids,” Sam’s mom said as she paused on her way past the kids. She looked at them, then at the old lady’s house, then back to the kids with a strange knowing smile hovering on her lips.
“Kind of weird, isn’t it kids,” she said, looking at each child in turn.
The four kids just blinked at her, fidgeting with nervousness.
“Yes,” Sam’s mom said, answering their unasked question, “old Mrs. Wierdar has been part of this neighborhood forever.” She looked at the house with a strange look, almost as though a vague sense of unease filled her. “The house seems so… empty… since they took her away.”
“Um, took her away,” the kids asked in unison, staring at Sam’s mom with very strange looks on their faces.
“Yes,” Sam’s mom said, “didn’t you know? She was taken away yesterday. Her home care worker found her…” She swallowed, a little uncertain now if she should be telling the kids this story. “They think she might have been dead for two days before her home care worker found her … possibly a stroke.” She reddened, embarrassed by the looks on the kids faces. “Um, I have to go now,” and she hurried off down the street.
The four kids just stared at each other, their faces white and eyes filled with fear.