Black-eyed Susans

By: Gywneth Bessey '22

The dirt reminded everyone of coffee grounds. Fine, loose, spacious. Perennials once grew there. The bed has since been laid-waste by time and inattention. One might compare it to Vivienne, her skin dark as the bitter coffee-colored ground, her personality not too different. She moved to the house on the dump of a yard, and no one paid her much attention. She was aloof and melancholy, perpetually upset with the world. So she was ignored. The town continued with their lives, paying her no mind as their town began to resemble the depressing state of Vivienne’s house. But one day, on a hot summer evening, Vivienne decided that she needed to do something with herself. She was getting old, and she wouldn’t die in such a sad excuse of a home. She hobbled off to the closest nursery, getting all the fertilizer, seeds, and gardening tools she could find. She didn’t know what, exactly, she was looking for or what, exactly, she was going to do with it, but she was determined. Vivienne was worried about her plants when winter came, but by that next spring every single bulb was in full bloom. The grass was greener than it had ever been, and the exotic assortment of flowers provided color so bright no one in the town even knew it was possible. Although she remained cold and distant from everyone else, they couldn’t stop themselves from taking the long way home to drive by her house, to admire her handiwork.


Then a year passed since Vivienne had first decided to tend to her home, and she noticed something strange. At the very edge of her yard, near to the crumbling sidewalk, was a single Black-eyed Susan. Its petals brushed the edge of the grass, the stem droopy from being uprooted and moved, now sitting in a pile of dirt. Vivienne was surprised it was upright at all. But how did it get here? She had no Black-eyed Susans in her garden, and no one else in the town had any garden to speak of. But then she saw it. The fading blue house at the end of the street, now periwinkle, with Black-eyed Susans galore lining the edge of the house. A young boy was in the yard, braiding together stems of the flowers as a dog rushed after a ball in the still-yellowing grass. Vivienne looked down the rest of the street, noticing new bags of mulch and fertilizer, spades and shovels, watering cans and hoses littering her neighbor’s yards rather than trash and rotting furniture.


Every day there was a new flower in her yard. Every day another house had finally tended to their garden or fixed up their house. The young boy from the periwinkle house went to Vivienne’s yard again to plant another Black-eyed Susan from his mother’s garden, but he noticed a bad smell. He looked the house up and down, and when he decided Vivienne wouldn’t be coming out anytime soon to shoo him off her yard, he walked up the gravel drive to investigate. He walked around the house thrice, then he determined that the smell was coming from Vivienne’s garden. At this point the whole town had come to see the boy who dared invade Vivienne’s prized lawn. After a few minutes of searching, the boy turned, faced the town. Tears were streaming down his cheeks, so many the town was surprised that a boy so small could cry so much. He pointed at the lilies, his dog rummaging through the dirt, seemingly distressed.


And there lay Vivienne, an opened seed packet still resting in her limp hand. Her eyes were half closed, making her look simply sleepy rather than dead. And the town cried with the boy, tears shedding for the woman who inspired them from afar. The woman who encouraged them to strive for a greatness they never knew they could possess. The woman who gave them the hope that things could get better, even though she didn’t know it. She didn’t know how much she meant to them. The town had never thanked her. And now it was too late.

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