Mrs. Branbury's house is far too neat. Daniel's job is far too... unusual. And those queer pointed shoots sticking up in the garden... what's up with those? Something feels quite wrong.

"Uh-huh- uh-huh- are you sure you want this one?" she asked anxiously, wriggling her wretched porcine nose. "It's so... disorganized!"

"I'm disorganized," I shrugged, surveying the dingy bedroom with approval. "I like it. I'll be comfortable here, I think. Not to worry."

"Alright, then..."

She took my pink, freshly-scrubbed hand in her rough grubby one and guided me downstairs (as if I needed guiding) to continue our tour. I disliked this house, this not-so-humble abode I was being sentenced to work in for the next couple of months. Well, I told myself, at least I get an indoor job. It gets really hot outside these days.

"Now, here's the kitchen," Mrs. Branbury was saying, jolting me from my musings. "It's very nice, don't you agree, Daniel?"

I looked around.

It was like the rest of the mansion, except for my sleeping quarters. There was a shining porcelain sink with pale orange and red flowers painted along the sides. The refrigerator, freezer and various cabinets were all cream or white or a varnished wooden brown, shut firmly and primly. A fluffy white carpet reposed sleepily in front of the sink. Everything glinted, glittered and shined. Struggling wisps of sunlight, trying vainly to find their way in through the tiny yet copious windows, added to the effect. I imagined, with disgust, what I would find if I were to open anything. Jars of spices arranged in rows, each the same distance apart? Bags of chips, unwrinkled, sorted by color? Juices alphabetically ordered? It was too creepy. I couldn't imagine how these people lived here without ever once disrupting a thing. God forbid a dirty sock should peep about from beneath the bedclothes...

"Now, you're probably wondering why I keep everything so neat," interrupted Mrs. Branbury, in the utterly confident tones of someone who feels they're the world's superior. My eyes fluttered a little out of shock.

"It's true," I said.

"Well, I don't have time to tell you just now," my employer informed me airily. "I have to go dust my daughter's grand piano. Meanwhile you can take a walk around if you like. Just wash your hands again before you touch anything."

"Why don't you wash yours? They're filthy!"

The childish words took flight from my mouth before I could stop them. Nothing unusual for me, really.

Mrs. Branbury blinked once. She narrowed her eyes and cocked her head. She decided I wasn't worth it after all, kept her ugly mouth glued shut, and stalked off.

I figured I may as well walk around some more as suggested. There really wasn't anything else to do.

That's how I found the shoots.


The End

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