Geraniums

Mayella Ewell was known in her parts for three reasons. The least important reason was the row of geraniums around the Ewell yard. The second reason was that she was a Ewell, and the most important reason everyone knew her was that she was responsible for the arrest, imprisonment and eventual death of an innocent man.

Mayella was most proud of the geraniums. She'd been given the seeds by a passing tradesman when she was fifteen. He'd taken pity on her pathetic attempt to grow weeds in ancient slop jars, and handed her a paper bag of seeds. He'd even told her the best way to cultivate them. Mayella's mother, who'd died the previous winter, had liked flowers, even if she had no knowledge or inclination to grow them. Mayella sometimes liked to think that planting the seeds allowed her spirit to live on somehow.

Every year since, a collection of flowers could be seen growing in the Ewell yard. The first attempt, of the four seeds she planted, three geraniums grew to flower. By the time the third year ended, she had half a dozen. During summer Mayella would fill a scavenged watering can and water the plants around midmorning every day after Pa had left and the children had disappeared into the swamp. During winter, they would be sheltered under the roof or brought inside. A few seeds were always kept back in the paper bag, just in case.

Sometimes the weather wasn't the most dangerous thing the flowers could encounter. Soon after they had arrived home from the Robinson trial, three pots hit Mayella in the head in quick succession while Papa screamed the place down about how stupid she'd made him look. For the first time in her life, she found herself screaming back – he'd done far worse than assault her with flowers, after all.

She earned another geranium to the head for her troubles and spent the rest of the night mopping up blood and earth alternatively. There were still two jars left, and Mayella wasn't letting any harm come to them if she could help it. She went so far as to threaten Burris with school when he picked up one jar a few days later, hoping to command the same respect Papa could.

Somewhat ironically, Mayella felt, she was tending to the geraniums when Mr. Heck Tate arrived on the first morning of November and told her Papa had fallen on his knife. It had been so warm that October that Mayella was loathe to bring them in yet. Mr. Tate found her leaning over the geraniums, deadheading, and when he told her about Papa she damn near took the entire flower off one.

She and Mr. Tate lined up the children, with a few of them spitting at Mr. Tate for his part in the trial, and Mayella tried not to sound too pleased as she delivered the news. They would go to school now, she explained, and before doing so would get rid of the cooties.

In the spring of the following year, a pot of geraniums appeared on the Finch and Radley porches respectively. They were in brand-new pots and were the brightest red yet.


I've had this virtually finished for a year - I got the idea for it when I was studying the novel in English - and I wanted to finally get it out there. Reviews, as always, are appreciated!