The doorbell chimes, its ring bouncing merrily off the walls.
The old woman pulls 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 places the walker ahead then shuffles three little steps. Thump shuffle shuffle shuffle, pause. Thump shuffle shuffle shuffle, pause.
When the old woman at last pulls the door open with shaky arthritis knobbed fingers and looks outside, no one is there. She looks 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 comes the sound of giggles and snickers of children.
Her eyes blaze with anger and her face turns red. Feebly, the old woman raises one gnarled hand, trying unsuccessfully to make it into a fist to shake.
She shakes it anyway, the loose skin of her arm flapping below the bicep.
“You kids leave me alone,” the old woman yells in her croaky old crone’s voice, spittle flying with the anger of her words. “Leave off my bell!”
She shambles backwards with some difficulty and slams the door closed, muttering and shaking her head angrily as she does so.
Great guffaws of laughter burst from the bush and kids roll out from behind it, holding their stomachs as they roll, so hard are they laughing. One, two, three, four kids; three boys and one girl.
One boy gets to his feet, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes. “That was great,” he exclaims.
“Did you see her face Billy?” another boy grins eagerly as he joins the first boy. Billy just nods enthusiastically.
The girl, Samantha, Sam for short, joins the boys with a sheepish grin on her face. She doesn’t feel right about doing this to the old woman, but that old woman always yells at the kids when they play in front of her house. Besides, it was fun!
The third boy, Justin, finally stops rolling on the ground and joins the other kids.
“Billy, Evan, Sam… that was great!” he exclaims. “Did you see? I swear she was gonna have a stroke, the old lady looked so mad!” He looks at the other kids, eyes blazing with excitement.”
They all stand around grinning at each other.
“So, who’re we going to knock-on-ginger next?” Justin asks.
Just then, Sam’s mom comes walking down the sidewalk towards them. The kids all freeze, staring at each other nervously. Did she hear? Did she see what game they were playing? They are all in trouble now, they think.
“Hi, kids,” Sam’s mom says as she pauses on her way past the kids. She looks 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 says, looking at each child in turn.
The four kids just blinked at her, fidgeting with nervousness.
“Yes,” Sam’s mom says, answering their unasked question, “old Mrs. Wierdar has been part of this neighborhood forever.”
She looks at the house with a strange look, almost as though a vague sense of unease fills her. “The house seems so… empty… since they took her away.”
“Um, took her away,” the kids ask in unison, staring at Sam’s mom with very strange looks on their faces.
“Yes,” Sam’s mom says, “didn’t you know? She was taken away yesterday. Her home care worker found her…” She swallows, 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 reddens, embarrassed by the looks on the kids faces. “Um, I have to go now,” and she hurries off down the street.
The four kids just stare at each other, their faces white and eyes filled with fear.