Written by Vonnie Winslow Crist / Artwork by Marge Simon
The Garden Shop





























Katy sang ballads to her children as she watered and groomed their small, green bodies. Her strong hands scooped
up Snakeplant and rocked the
sansaveria while she crooned an alto rendition of Barb'ra Allen. Then, she tucked its
roots into a new pot and covered their paleness with soil. Finally, she placed a freshly potted, watered, and fed
Snakeplant back on its perch.

"Who be next?" A smile crinkled the shopkeeper's eyes as she scanned the rows of potting tables and plant
shelves. "Katy's a-asking, who be next?"

Shamrock bent in the shopkeep's direction. Its many-leafed faces curved towards Katy's freckled arm. She clapped
her hands, clucked at the boldness of her wine-flecked charge.

"So be it, child." Katy tenderly removed the pale hairs and dried wads of spent leaves from where they hung on the
side of Shamrock's clay container. After a drink, a meal, and a bittersweet version of
Greensleeves, Katy moved to
the next pot.

"You just fine," she whispered to Aloe. Katy grasped a fleshy blade near the center of one of Aloe's stars between
her fingertips and stroked the plant from root to blade-tip several times. Aloe shuddered. Then, the plant caressed
the shopkeep's fingers with its prickly flesh. "Katy tend to you on the morrow," she promised the affectionate plant
and shuffled on.

Rootlets of Spiderplant's babies snagged her hair as she passed beneath them. Katy tossed her head back,
laughed. "Who be this tugging on Katy's hair?"

Spiderplant's pot was well above her head, so Katy pulled a footstool out from under a planting bench and climbed
onto it. She tested the soil for moisture with her fingertips. "Why it be Spiderplant and her younguns a-needing
Katy." She hoisted a generous drink to Spiderplant and family.

Crash!

"Pain.  We're in pain," tiny viridian voices screamed.
      
Katy turned. Lines marred her brow. Her mouth corners tugged down. "Who be trespassing in this shop?"

In the distance, Katy spotted someone dressed in dark clothing. She set down her watering can and stomped
towards the rear of her shop where it was attached to the greenhouses. She was so furious, she barely noticed the
scuffing of her sandals as she bore down on the intruder.

And as the shopkeeper neared the location of the assault on her children, she observed the attacker was dressed
in a navy sweatsuit and dirty running shoes. Katy shook her head. With no regard for the wounded plant at his
feet, the man was fiddling with the shop's cash register.

"Come on," the man said. "Open, or I'll shoot you open.”  But bound by a locking spell, the cash register refused to
open its drawer.

As the would-be thief pulled a gun from his waist, he finally noticed Katy thundering towards him. "Hold it right
there, lady, or I'll blow you away," he sneered, semi-automatic in hand.

Katy halted about five yards from the intruder. She looked at Umbrella Plant sprawled, wounded, at the thief's feet
then glared at him. Seeing the direction of her gaze, the man shrugged and kicked the
schefflera.

"Hey, no big deal. You must have a thousand other plants in this frigging greenhouse. Now, how do I get the
money out of here?” He indicated the cash register with his gun's barrel. “Listen, lady, I'd just as soon shoot you
as not. I've killed before, and I'll do it again if need be, so give me your cash."

Katy had heard of a number of robberies in the area. Mr. Chin, the kindly old gentleman who owned a tailoring shop
down the block had been killed last month by an unidentified thug. Without a doubt, she knew the man before her
was the murderer. And without a doubt, she also knew justice in this town took years, if it was given at all.

But Katy was not from this town. In fact, Katy was not a woman at all. She pointed towards the thief and
commanded, "Ivies! Pothos!"

Leafy tendrils shot from dozens of plants, twined about the man's arms, legs, torso. A thick vine looped around his
neck and tightened. His eyes bulged as the neck vine tightened.

"Help me…" the thief-murderer managed to choke out.

Katy petted the heart-shaped leaves of Philodendron as she watched the man thrash about. The vine had heeded
her cry and coiled around the thief-murderer's wrist like a forest bracelet.

Her face remained expressionless as the man's fat tongue protruded from bluing lips and his struggling diminished.
"Don't cry to
me for help,” the shopkeep snapped. “Faeries care for growing things, not for men of violence."  

The creases between Katy's eyebrows deepened. She continued to study the intruder. When his breathing halted
and his body hung limp, she nodded.

"Leave him." She pursed her lips, observed the body crumpling to the floor from beneath half-lowered eyelids.

Katy rescued Umbrella Plant and bedded its broken body in a new pot. She praised and tended the ivies, pothos,
and other vines that had assisted in eliminating the intruder. After crooning a soulful version of
Sweet is the
Budding Spring of Love
, she whispered, “And eternal frost is your future, fool,” over the prone form of the thief-
murderer.  

Katy smiled. Mr. Chin and the others, both plant and human, who'd been wronged had been avenged. She tilted
her head and watched the rapid decomposition of the body at her feet. It'd taken a little magic to speed the
process along, but the shop was due to open in a few minutes, and she didn't want a corpse to upset her
customers.

She bent over, picked up the running shoes and sweatsuit, tossed them into a refuse bin. Satisfied all was back to
normal, Katy kissed Geranium, grabbed a broom and dustpan, and promised, "Dust to dust, children. Now, you're
going to have fresh bone-meal, fresh blood-meal. Yes, babies, fresh food."



Previously published in “The Greener Forest,” Cold Moon Books - 2011
THE LORELEI SIGNAL