The Purple Rose

The image of this purple rose filled me with a feeling I can’t quite describe. I wanted to possess it in some way. Anyway, that was the impetus for this story I managed to wring from Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction this week. Let me know what you think.

Clive almost ran the two miles across town to give Britney the purple rose he’d rescued from the trash where it had been tossed by his mother moments before. It had been the only purple rose in the bouquet of roses she’d bought herself earlier that afternoon—her first Valentine’s Day as a Divorced Woman. Eyes bright and sipping a glass of wine too quickly she’d arranged the flowers, telling him how lucky she’d been to find that purple beauty, her favorite color. But then two glasses of wine later, she was still arranging the flowers, mainly moving the purple rose from one position to another amongst all the pinks and reds.

“Did you know that a purple rose stands for enchantment?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “Yes, indeed, when you give the object of your affection a purple rose you’re letting them know that you fell in love with them at first sight and that it’s forever.” She took another sip of wine and was silent for a moment staring at the rose, and then said in a whisper. “I wonder how many purple roses he’s been giving out lately.” And then she was crying, muttering how she’d been such a fool, still hopelessly caught in the enchantment of that first purple rose. That’s when she’d tossed the entire bunch into the trash can.

Before he knew it, Clive had rescued the rose, plump and full and breathtaking beautiful, drops of water still glistening on its petals like diamonds. He couldn’t help himself. His heart swelled with a feeling that something wonderful was about to happen. Britney. He had to tell her he loved her. He would ignore the fact that she’d always given him ‘what is your problem’ looks whenever he stared at her adoringly. The purple rose would change everything.

Trying not to strangle the stem of the rose and panting with the exertion of his run, he turned onto Stargaze Drive, two blocks away from Britney’s house and stopped in front of a small tract house not unlike the one he lived in. Lizzie Morecambe: the class brain, his partner in lab; they used to exchange the lunches their mothers made for them in grade school. And then he was walking up to the door, his heart feeling as if it would burst. He had to give the rose to Lizzie.

The Road Not Taken

In checking out an email notification that I had a new follower on Twitter–Ellen Wade Beals–I came across this Robert Frost poem on her website Solace in a Book. I don’t ever remember finding such depth of meaning in these words of Frost’s, which I had read before–hadn’t I?–so much so that when I read it through for the second time hours later, examining each word with a critical eye, I found no mention of redemption, purpose and soul. Perhaps, like that very first time I read the poem all those years ago, I was reading it with my mind again, and not my heart.


The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.


Robert Frost

Don’t Pet The Sweaty Things

I want to thank Don Williams of New Millennium Writings for giving me the idea to add to and expand upon his list of what I’ll call “suggestions of how to be a better human being.” Here are a few of mine.

Think with your mind and your heart.

Keep an open mind and when it slams shut, and plays a tape from your upbringing, your fear, your prejudices, your religion, your education, your philosophy, pry it open even if your fingers bleed and you lose your fingernails.

Think “us,” there is no “them.”

Interact with respect and compassion with all kingdoms in nature.

Wake each day and let your first thought be gratitude. Just because.

Meditate—it isn’t just about lowering your blood pressure, or emptying your mind; it isn’t in opposition to praying; it isn’t some exotic eastern discipline or “devil” tool. It’s about being open and receptive to that life that is so much greater than you, and that any philosophy or religion is able to fully define.

Love wastefully.

And . . .

Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things—George Carlin.

Lion’s Roar

Okay, another writing prompt, this one from a fellow African, “The Gypsy Mama.”  Write for five minutes on the word “Roar.”

I’m lying on a narrow bunk–in that tight “V” in the front of the boat my just-married son’s South African in-laws commissioned for the entire family for the honeymoon–alongside is my husband on another bunk.  Separated by the walkway, our feet almost touch at the tip of the “V”.  I can’t sleep.  It’s only the third day of our week-long trip on Lake Kariba, Zambia, where I’d spent many a holiday back when the country was still called Northern Rhodesia, when I lived in Nkana as a kid and then when I was married to my sons’ father.

Now, I’m an American citizen, living in the States with another husband, an American, who’s freaking out.  Mr. Amiable is not admitting this.  Instead, he seems to have shut down, barely functioning, shunning me.  This is the first time I’ve seen this side of him. At least to this extent.

He spent the entire day on the top deck, sitting uncovered in a chair under a punishing African sun nursing a single beer, despite my pleadings, my two sons’ at first jokey jabs– that’s how he’s always communicated with them; they know him as Mr. Sardonic Wit, with a disarming self-effacing side–and then hey, Mom, what’s up with him?

I will realize years later when he starts disappearing for weeks at a time without explanation after twenty-five years of marriage, before bailing altogether, that this along with a lot of other things weren’t my fault, that his attacks (oh so witty, yet oh so punishing) were defense mechanisms, a way to distance people, until he couldn’t keep up the facade anymore.  But I hadn’t caught on yet.  I was still throwing pieces of myself out of the basket beneath the hot air balloon that was our marriage to keep it afloat.

I toss and turn on the hard bunk, wanting to reach out to him, to comfort him.  Off in the distance, a lion roars, a sound unlike that you’ll find up close on a safari or in a zoo; this sound is deeper, like it’s coming from the soul of the animal, mournful and true in the night air.

I lie there succumbing to the sound and remembering those days when me, my mom and dad and little brother lived on Kantanta Street, when it didn’t go all the way down to the pump station and the Kafue river, when I could hear lions roaring  in the bush at night as I lay on my bed wishing I was someone else.  And then all those trips with my parents up to East Africa along dust ruts that passed for roads hearing the lions’s soft grunts as they padded around our rondavels at night.

I relax, comforted by the sound of the lion’s roar, feeling a deep kinship that brings tears to my eyes, that makes my heart soar and I am comforted.