Wilted Roses

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Wilted Roses is about a young boy named John Stone whose life is brought to a sudden and painful end during a fine summer's day. He manages to squeak out of the land of the living happily, however, and the end of the story is not depressing.
Let me know what you think, good or bad.

Submitted: July 17, 2007

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 17, 2007





John Micheal Stone died pretty young.  It wasn't his fault, he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  
It all started on the morning of June 3rd, 1916.  John was out in the west field of his father's farm, picking all the cukes he could find.  If he did this for his father, he was going to earn a dime.  He was bent over, the hot North Carolina sun beating down on his back and neck, and he found himself wondering if the work was worth the reward.  In the end he decided that it was, because he could go buy himself a pop and some candy down at Marshall's five-and-ten with the dime.  
The sun beat down on John, and he decided that he could stand up for a moment and stretch his back.  It wasn't good for a person to be bent over that way for very long, you could hurt your back something awful.  So, he stood up to his impressive height of five and a half feet and pressed his hands against the small of his back.  He leaned backwards and grinned at the machine gun pops his back made.
After a moment more of popping his back, he went back to work, telling himself that the pop and the candy would be well worth the trade.  When he looked up again, he had made his way down four rows of cucumbers, and he only had one row left.  He looked up at the sun and judged it to be just past noon.  He had the entire day splayed out in front of him.  And he was only eleven years old, what more could an eleven year-old want?
When he finally finished his work, it was just after 1:30 in the afternoon.  He grabbed his three sacks of cucumbers and gathered the ends of them up in one hand.  He then slung the three sacks over his shoulder and started to make his way back to the farmhouse.  
His mother was inside cooking a pie that John could smell before he could see.  His father was around back, probably tending to the cows.  So, he said hello to his mother and then walked around the back of the farmhouse.  His father was indeed bent over one of the cows, but what he was seeing to was far out of the ordinary.  Well, at least it was for John.  One of their cows was giving birth.  At first John thought that he would want to watch it, then he actually got a good look at it and had to try very hard not to vomit.  It was a battle that he hardly won.  
"Uh, Pa?"  John asked, a bit hesitant to actually ask for his reward.  He was always that way when it came to asking for a reward or a favor.  To him, it just didn't seem right that he was getting the reward or favor.  That is not to say that he didn't want it, just that he felt kind of bad about taking it.  Kind of.
"Yes, son?"
"I finished with them cukes, Pa.  I was wonderin' if I could, uh, you know . . . ."
"Oh!  You want your money!  Sounds fair to me.  After all, nothin's free.  Right?  Right.  You run along and enjoy yourself.  Hell, you got the rest of your life to work, why waste your time now," David Stone said and laughed deeply.  He was a tall, tan man with the tell-tale signs of a farmer.  He had crowsfeet forking out from his eyes, he was slightly bent from always bending over, and his hands were always dirty.  He was John's favorite person in the entire world.
"Thanks, Pa!"  John shouted as he ran down the dirt road that would lead him to town.  He had his shiny new dime in hand, and he felt like he was on top of the world.  Of course, even back then a dime wasn't a great deal of money, but it sure was when you were a kid.

John walked into Marshall's and waved at Kirk Marshall.  Kirk was standing behind the counter, arranging packs of cigarettes.  To John, it looked like he was arranging them by color.  John smiled to himself and walked over to the pop cooler.  He picked himself out a Nehi and then walked over to the candy isle.  He ended up with two moonpies.  When he payed Kirk, he still had a penny left.  He didn't know if he could buy anything for a penny or not, but he decided that he would go shopping.  It was something that he rarely got to do, but he really did enjoy it.
He stopped in several stores, but the one that changed his life--or ended it, whichever you prefer--was Meggie's Toy Store.  There were hundreds apon hundreds of toys stacked up in that store, and more than a few of them for a penny.  As John was walking around the isles, he saw three older boys standing around a very cool set of marbles that cost twenty-five cents.  John couldn't imagine actually owning twenty-five whole cents.  He supposed that there wasn't much more money in the world than that.  Then again, he was only eleven. 
"Now, you two idiots listen up.  I've got the twenty cents, so these here marbles'll actually belong to me, got it?"  The tallest of the three older boys told the shorter two.  They both nodded their heads and exchanged slightly hurt glances.  John couldn't believe that the boy had actually said "idiot." 
As the three boys discussed how they were going to split the marbles up three ways, John tried to pluck up the courage to go talk to them.  Most times the older kids liked him, but there were times when he got the crap beat out of him just for talking to them.  After a few moments, John decided to simply go for it.  What did he have to loose?  Except maybe a couple of teeth. 
"Hey, what're you boys up to?"  John asked in his most amiable tone.
"Tryin' to figure out how to split these here marbles up three ways.  You any good at mathmatics?"  The tallest kid asked.
"Not really, but I sure wish I could help," John said, trying his best to make friends.
"Well, if you had any money you could go in on these with us and then we could split 'em four ways.  You know, four's an even number an' I can divide by evens," the tallest boy said again.
"Well, I got a penny," John said, felling a bit ashamed by his lack of money.
"Shoot, that's plenty.  What's your name, kid?"  The tall kid asked.
"John.  What's yours?"
"Henry Smithfield.  This here is Chuck Barret," he pointed to a kid with a straw hat on, "and that's Danny Hawford."  Danny was wearing a dirty pair of overalls and had a hunting rifle slung over his shoulder. 
"Please to meet y'all," John said and they shook hands all around.  John, for the second time that day, felt like he was on top of the world.
"I reckon we ought to head on out to the Gerrick place if'n we're ever gonna shoot us some squirrels," Danny said and hitched his rifle up his shoulder a bit.  The rifle appeared to be rather large for squirrels, it certainly wasn't a .22.  To John, whom knew a little something about guns, it looked like a .30-.30.
"Is that a .30-.30?"  John asked, his curiousity getting the best of him.
"Yeah, it is.  Why?"  Danny asked, looking puzzled.  The look on his face suggested that he was surprised to have someone ask him about the caliber of his rifle.
"It just seems to me that a .30-.30 would blow a little squirrel to pieces.  If you wanna just put a little hole through it's chest or head so you can eat it later, you'd need somethin' like a .22," John said and looked at his new friends.  Danny seemed shocked and surprised at himself for not thinking of this.  Henry looked impressed and Chuck, whom was the dumbest of the group (with an IQ of 77), just looked confused.
"I'll be darned if I ever thought of that," Danny said and unslung the .30-.30.  He pulled the bolt back and ejected a gleaming brass shell.  John was surprised that he kept a round in the chamber, but he suddenly understood that his new friends might not be much on hunting.  Maybe they just hunted to kill, not for food.
"Do y'all eat your kills?"  John asked, already sure that he knew the answer.
"Heck, no!  Why would you wanna eat a rotten squirrel?  I jus' kill 'em to kill 'em.  It's just a stupid squirrel, what does it know?"  Danny said, more than a little defensive.
"Well, let's go kill 'em," John said and walked over to the counter of Meggie's Toy Store.  He put his penny on the counter and waited for the other boys to drop their money and the bag of marbles onto the counter.  When they finally did, Meggie herself rang them up.  It ended up being twenty-six cents, which the original three boys would not have been able to afford had it not been for John.
The four young boys (Henry, the oldest of them, was only fourteen) walked out of Meggie's with smiles on their faces.  They had the rest of the day stretched out before them, and they were planning on blowing up some squirrels.  The field they were heading to was owned by Danny's uncle, and he let them hunt there whenever they wanted.  It was going to be a great day.  Or so they all thought.


By the time they reached Danny's uncle's field there were all hot and sweaty.  They had to clamber over a split-rail fence to get into the field, and then they had to cross a small but steeply banked creek to get to the real field.  It was nearing 3:00 PM by the time they stopped to take up their positions in the field.  They decided that Danny would be the shooter, mostly because it was his rifle and his uncle's field, and the rest of them would try to flush the squirrels and anything else they could from their hiding places. 
The first two squirrels they killed required no flushing out, they were just out in the open.  The third one came to Danny via Henry chasing him out of some low underbrush.  Their fourth kill was some sort of bird--John was pretty sure it was a crow--that John himself flushed from its perch.  It had taken two shots to take him down because the first shot missed by a country mile.  The second one hit the bird in its chest and blew the bird into several little pieces.  It was kind of gross to watch, actually.

After another forty minutes or so, John saw an enormous squirrel that he could flush out.  It was sitting low behind a clump of scrub that lay to the left of Danny and his .30-.30.  A moment before John was going to run at the squirrel, he felt a hand on his left shoulder.  He gave a little start and turned around to see the most beautiful girl ever.  She had long, flowing light brown hair, a beautiful and clean face, sparkling green eyes, and quite a body for only twelve.  Her breasts had about another four years of developing to do, but she had long legs, a flat but not too flat stomach, and thin but strong-looking arms.
"Hi, my name's Sherry McCree.  I live beside of Danny.  He's a good kid, 'cept I wish he wouldn't shoot them poor squirrels.  But . . . boys'll be boys, I s'ppose."
"My names John.  I live way on the other end of town, but I met Danny an' his friends at Meggie's.  They're nice kids.  How old're you?"
"Twelve.  You?"
"Oh, really?  Well, you sure are a cute one.  Mind if I watch y'all hunt?"
"Heck, no!  Watch all you want," John said and quickly turned his attention back to his squirrel, which was still where it had been earlier.  He had turned away so quick because he was blushing heavily. 
"John!  You still alive over there!?"  Danny called and laughed.
"Yeah, yeah!  I'm about to get this here squirrel, so be ready!"
"Alright, man.  Whate'er you say," Danny hollered back and brought the .30-.30 halfway to his shoulder.  A moment later, John ran the ten or so feet to his squirrel, yelling at it.  The squirrel dropped whatever it was doing and took off through the thin patch of underbrush.  John pushed it right through there and into the open field.  He only had to chase it for a few more seconds before Danny could shoot it.


Danny brought the rifle up to his shoulder and closed one eye.  He was going to get the little squirrel if it was the last thing he did, by God!  It was one of the biggest squirrels he had ever seen, and he couldn't wait to show it to his dad.  If, that is, there was anything left of it after the .30-.30 shell ripped through it.  Danny thought there would be, though.
Danny lined the sights up on the squirrel and then saw it zig backwards a bit.  He jerked the rifle to the left a bit to compensate for the squirrle's sudden movement and pulled the trigger as he did so.


John saw the squirrel zig backwards and launched his body backwards, trying to cause the animal to run back forwards and into the path of Danny's gun.  For a brief moment he thought that the squirrel was going to get away, and then he heard the crack of Danny's rifle.
Good, John thought, I did a good job.
Then he felt a searing pain punch into the right side of his chest and knock him flat onto his back.  He didn't know it, but his right lung had just been torn to shreds. 


"Oh, my God!  I shot 'im!  I shot John!  Good God, look at all the blood!"  Danny shouted and threw the rifle to the ground.  John was laying spread-eagle on the hard ground of the western field, blood pouring out of the hole in his chest.  His respiration was already becoming liquid sounding, and his vision was beginning to grey over.  It seemed to him that his entire body was in pain, and he tried to sit up to see what had hit him.  He had not heard Danny's shouts.
Suddenly, he saw shapes forming around his field of vision.  Then his focus fell back in and he could see that Danny, Henry, Chuck, and Sherry were crowding around him.  Sherry's face was the palest he had ever seen a face, but Danny looked like he had influenza.  Henry looked at the hole in his chest, reeled on his feet, and then fell onto his back like a brick had hit him in the head.  Danny slumped to his knees and grabbed John's head, making John look at him.
"Listen, you're gonna be okay, okay?"
"Ye . . . yeah . . . yeah, okay."
"Sherry, you can run fast.  Will you go get help?  My uncle's probably out in his barn over yander, and if he ain't there then he's in house."
"Okay, sure, Danny.  I'll be back as fast as I can," Sherry said and stood up.  She took one last glance at the gaping hole in John's chest and took off running.  Danny was holding John's head and stroking it in a calming way.  John was doing his best not to cry, but he wasn't doing a great job.  The pain in his chest was enormous and it was all his mind could focus on.  He kept trying to think of things to take his mind off of the pain, but his mind always returned to it.  So, to keep himself distracted, he asked Danny what had happened, although he was pretty sure he already knew.
"What happened to me?"  John asked, ropes of blood flying up from his mouth as he did so.
"I shot you.  I'm so, so sorry," Danny said and began to break into tears himself.
"It's okay, you didn't do it on purpose.  Heck, I know that.  I don't hold nothin' against you," John said and coughed.  Blood flew from his mouth in ropes that splattered on him, Danny, and the ground.  John noticed this and resigned himself to the idea that he was probably going to die. 
Danny looked into John's face and saw that he wasn't lying.  He did not hold him accountable for what he had done.  This did not change the fact that Danny would be haunted by memories of John dying for the rest of his life, but it did make him feel a little bit better. 
"Will you an' the others come to m'funeral?"  John asked and coughed yet again.  Blood sprayed more than ever, and Danny noticed that it was extreamly thick and dark.  That probably wasn't a good sign.
"Of course we will," Danny said and began to cry.  He hadn't even known John for twenty-four hours and he had grown so attatched to him that it seemed as if he had known him all his life.  And Sherry had fallen in love with him the instant their eyes had touched.  She had sensed something special about John Stone.  They all had.
"I've got your uncle, Danny!"  Sherry screamed from about twenty feet away.  She was running full tilt with Danny's uncle behind her, both of them sweaty and scared looking.  Sherry looked as if she had seen a ghost. 
"Is he okay?"  Danny's uncle, whose name was Ted, asked.  He had yet to actually see John.  If he had seen him before asking that question, he wouldn't have bothered.
"No, he ain't.  I reckon he's dyin'," Henry, who had finally come back to, said.  Chuck was sitting on his butt with his knees brought up to his chest and his arms wrapped around them.  He had tears streaming down his face and he was hitching up and down as he cried. 
"Oh, weepin' creepin' Jesus!  Help me pick 'im up.  We gotta take 'im to his folks," Ted said as he bent down to lift John.  Henry helped him and Danny led the way to John's house, going on memory and what he knew of the town.  It was a small place, and the old Stone farm wasn't difficult to find. 

They finally reached the long, twisting dirt road that led up to the Stone place and John's dad looked up.  At first he just stood there, then he waved.  Then he finally saw--really saw--what there was to see.  His eyes fell to his bleeding and crying son, and he took off at a run down the rest of the road.  It was about thirty feet or so, not much, but he really hit the ground running.  He had never ran that fast in his life.  Nor would he ever run that fast again. 
"What the hell happened?  Who are you people?"  A sobbing and horribly upset David Stone asked.
"I'm Ted, and this here's m'cousin, Danny.  His friend's here are Henry, Chuck, and Sherry.  They was out shootin' squirrels an' such in m'field and I reckon there was an accident.  Boy, I sure am sorry, sir.  If'n there's any way I can help, any way at all, you just let me know."
"I . . . I . . . don't . . . what . . . ."  David muttered, tears pouring down his face.
"Dad . . . dad . . . tell mom . . . I'm sorry . . . I ruined . . . my . . . shirt," John said.  It was odd, but that was all he had been worried about saying.  He was so afraid that his mother was going to be mad at him for ruining his new shirt that he had worried about it all the way from the start of the road leading to his farmhouse. 
"Son, you hush.  We're gonna take you inside and get you cleaned up.  You'll be fine . . . and your mother won't care about your shirt one bit," David said.  After that, John blacked out.


John woke up three days later with a pain ripping through his chest.  He knew it was his time to die.  He was nearing the end.  He opened his eyes and looked around the room and saw that his mother, his father, Danny, Henry, Chuck and Sherry were all gathered around his bed.  He then turned his eyes to his nightstand and saw some slightly wilted roses with a card written by Sherry.  He smiled, looked back at the wilted roses, and shut his eyes for the last time.


© Copyright 2020 Austin Bello. All rights reserved.

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