“Flower Garden” by Shirley Jackson
Card picked: Eight of Hearts
From: The Lottery, and Other Stories
Mrs. Winnings lives in Winning house at the top of the hill with her husband and two children and her in-laws. She always dreamed of living in the little cottage on the way down the hill, but she is, after all, a Winnings. When Mrs. MacLean moves in to the cottage, Mrs. Winnings thinks that it will be the next best thing: she can be friends with the new resident and often visit the cozy little cottage. Mrs. MacLean, from New York City, is a widower with a son the same age as Mrs. Winnings’ oldest boy. She paints the little cottage in bright colors (so much different than dark, drafty Winnings house) and plants a large, elaborate flower garden.
All is well until the middle of the summer when the garden becomes too much work for Mrs. MacLean. She hires Mr. Jones to help her. Mrs. Winnings tries to tell Mrs. MacLean: Mr. Jones, a black man, was involved with a white woman and they had three children before the woman left. But Mrs. MacLean just doesn’t pick up on the subtleties of the situation. Mrs. Winnings severs her friendship with Mrs. MacLean, almost too late to protect her own reputation.
As the summer grows hotter and longer, Mrs. MacLean’s garden withers and no one is friendly to her anymore. She wonder’s out-loud to Mrs. Winnings about what might have changed.
“Are you sure it isn’t because of Mr. Jones working here?”
…and Mrs. Winnings went down the hill thinking, The nerve of her, trying to blame the colored folks.
So, there you go: story about race relations with old New England Shirley Jackson flair.