Once upon a time, there was a Dalmatian on a quest to find a green flower.

Specifically, he wished to find a green rose, but as he was made of porcelain and lived in a cupboard, he thought it best to adjust his expectations as his chances of finding a green flower at all were slim indeed.

“Why a green flower?” asked the rabbit, hopping over from her corner of the cupboard. “There are so many colors of flowers already.”

She was right. The lady with white hair kept vases of pink roses and violets of various shades, even a few blue hydrangeas, scattered around the house.

“They are beautiful,” the Dalmatian agreed, “but I’ve never seen a green rose, and I would like to.”

“Whatever for?” asked the brown owl. He was perched above them on a ceramic box. “Why would you go out of your way to see such a silly spectacle?”

The Dalmatian considered this. Finally, he said, “Because it is a spectacle.”

“But what if there are no green flowers,” the rabbit said softly. “The lawn is green, the leaves on the trees are green, as are the bushes and vines. I’m afraid green might be all used up.”

“I hadn’t considered that,” said the Dalmatian forlornly. His tail lowered between his legs. “But just because the grass and leaves choose to be green, why can’t a flower choose to be green, too?”

They waited for the owl to chime in as he frequently did. But before he could give his opinion, the lady with white hair approached the cupboard with the short girl in pigtails.

The arched door of the cupboard squeaked as the lady with white hair opened it. The short girl’s eyes widened, and her little hand reached forward and patted the rabbit with her index finger. The rabbit stood very still, uncertain of the little person.

The lady with white hair disappeared into the kitchen, and the tableware began its familiar disorganized harmony of clattering and tinking. The little person pulled up the sleeves of her pink cardigan and picked up the Dalmatian. She turned him over on his back for a moment, tapped his belly, and then stood him right side up again.

“Oh, thank you,” said the Dalmatian. “I was getting dizzy being upside down.”

“I’m sorry,” said the little person. She carefully returned him to the cupboard. “What’s your name?”

“I don’t know that I have one,” he replied.

“That’s ok,” she said, “I’ve met a lot of dogs whose names I never know. My name is Emily.”

“Sounds like a lovely thing to be,” said the rabbit.

“But what is an Emily?” the owl wanted to know.

The little person giggled. “I am, silly owl!”

The owl puffed his chest. “If there is anyone silly here, it’s the Dalmatian.”

Emily cocked her head. “What’s silly about the Dalmatian?”

“I’ve been searching for a green rose,” he sighed. “Every night when the lady and gentleman go to sleep, I nudge the cupboard door open and walk around the house in search of one. But I haven’t found one yet.”

“Maybe I can help.”

Hoooooow?” the owl wanted to know.

“Well, if we look together, we double our chances of finding one. Have you looked outside?”

“No,” admitted the Dalmatian. “the lock is too high for me to reach.”

“I can reach it! I bet we’ll find one out there because that’s where all the flowers live.”

“Really?” he asked hopefully.

“Best not to get your hopes up,” warned the owl.

“But if you don’t get your hopes up,” Emily reasoned, “then how can you hope to find anything at all?”

With that, she marched to the front door and opened it. “Are you coming?” 

He looked at the rabbit and the owl and shrugged. Then he leapt out of the cupboard, trotted across the carpet, and out the door Emily held open for him.

“Ah, the breeze is so nice,” the Dalmatian breathed, holding his head to the sky. The wind pressed against his polished face as he padded down the brick walkway next to Emily, his porcelain paws making soft clacking sounds against the walkway. He was only as tall as her ankles, but he had no trouble keeping up. “Where should we look first?”

“The garden is over there,” she shaded her eyes and pointed straight ahead with her index finger. She looked like a captain on the high seas directing her crew to safe port.

The Dalmatian scampered in the direction she pointed and bounded into a nest of ivy and stems. Mulch made uneven shapes under his feet as he slipped through curling green strands of plant life. “I don’t see any flowers at all!” he howled.

“Look up!”

The Dalmatian did as she suggested and was instantly in awe of the umbrellas of color above him: vibrant pinks and oranges the color of ripe pumpkins and bright copper, a few streaks of blue sky visible between them. He pranced through the valley of stems, dew brushing his glazed sides as he zigged and zagged.

“No green flowers here,” announced Emily. The Dalmatian bounded out from the garden and shook vigorously, a few drops of water sliding from his smooth, shiny coat.

“Let’s look down the path,” Emily suggested, skipping across the yard. The Dalmatian jumped atop the low stone wall that separated the yard from the street. He scampered across the jagged rock, making daring leaps, until he spotted Emily on her hands and knees under the dogwood tree. He jumped down onto a patch of dark earth and began searching with her among the weeds sprouting from the moss-covered ground.

They found dandelions: some yellow and high, others sagging puff balls of white stars. Emily plucked honeysuckle flowers and squeezed drops of nectar from the bloom onto their tongues. They searched through the small purple wildflowers that grew in the brush and among the holly bush’s waxy leaves and bright red berries.

Finally, Emily slumped. “Humph!”

“Do you think that green has been used up?” the Dalmatian asked, discouraged.

“What do you mean?”

“The rabbit thinks green has already been used up on all the grass and leaves, and that they ran out before green made it to the flowers.”

“I don’t think so,” Emily said defiantly. “Surely, some flower out there wants to be green.”

The Dalmatian was pleased to hear this and wagged his tail slowly. “I think so, too.”

“Let’s look around the back of the house!” she exclaimed. “I better pick you up, though. There are cars and trucks in the alley that might not see you.”

She scooped him up and ran around to the driveway in the back. As she turned the corner, her foot caught on a piece of uneven sidewalk. She hit the ground hard, scraping both knees. The Dalmatian flew out of her small, sweaty hands. She watched in helpless horror as he shattered on the rough concrete; white shards dotted with black splayed haphazardly across the sidewalk.

Emily’s mouth trembled. Large tears rolled down her cheeks, and she gasped for air between sobs.

“Emily!” called the tall woman. “Time for dinner!”

“Mom,” Emily called, choked with tears, “I broke him!”

The tall woman followed the sound of her daughter’s shaky high-pitched cries and knelt beside her. “Don’t cry,” she said hugging Emily, “we can put him back together.”

“We can?” she wiped her nose on her pink sleeve.

They gathered the pieces of the Dalmatian and returned to the house. The tall woman spread a paper towel over the table in the front hall and placed the fractured Dalmatian on it. Emily stroked a piece of the Dalmatian's face, new tears daring to spill from her eyes. Soon, the tall woman returned with a tube of glue. Carefully, she applied a streak of glue to the ragged edges of porcelain and pieced him back together. “Now, don’t touch him until tomorrow. We want the glue to dry completely before you pick him up again.”

Emily nodded solemnly but noticed a small sideways-square shape piece of the top of his head was missing. “A piece of him is gone!”

“That piece was lost,” the tall woman said, “but it doesn’t mean he’s any less of a dog. He’s still very handsome.”

“He is,” Emily agreed. She peered into the top of the Dalmatian's head, seeing the inside of him was hollow. “Oh, there’s nothing inside!”

“I know of lots of people missing the inside parts of their heads,” the tall woman assured her, “and somehow they get along just fine.”

She sat down at the dinner table, her face puffy and eyes bleary. She pushed her mashed potatoes and roast beef around in circles with her fork, making patterns and shapes in the greasy trails the food left on her plate. She took an occasional bite to please the lady with white hair. In the cupboard, she spied the rabbit and the owl waving, beckoning her. The rabbit’s eyes were wide and questioning. The owl’s head was cocked almost 180 degrees. While the big people spoke of weather and sports, Emily mouthed he’s going to be ok and nodded for reassurance.

The rabbit sighed with relief and the owl twirled his head right side up, his feathers pouffing out comically around his neck and head. He flew to the back of the cupboard and wrapped his wings around himself, his yellow eyes sharp and vigilant.

Once the dishes were cleared from the table, the gentleman got out his pipe, cleaned it, and prepared his tobacco. Emily brightened.

“Pop-Pop,” she said to the gentleman, “can I have one of your pipe cleaners?”

“Sure,” he said. He smiled as he handed her a length of wire wound in white felt. “What are you going to use it for?”

“A surprise!” Emily hopped down from her seat at the dinner table and went into the kitchen. The tall lady and lady with white hair were washing dishes.

“Grandma,” she asked the lady with white hair, “can I have some tissue paper?”

“Certainly,” she said, wiping her hands on a towel. She led Emily to the tall mahogany chest in the dining room and opened the top drawer. She routed around among pressed squares of wrapping paper and a tangle of colorful ribbons until she came out with several pieces of white tissue paper.

“Thank you!” Emily called over her shoulder, already halfway upstairs. She sat down and got to work.

****

In the pink dawn, before the sun’s gold rays stretched across the sky, Emily tip-toed downstairs to the front hall where the Dalmatian stood solemnly on his paper towel.

“I hope my glue has dried,” he sighed. “I get very bored standing still.”

“You should be ok by now,” she said. She leaned over the table, nose-to-nose with the Dalmatian. Her hands and face were stained with streaks of green. “How do you feel?”

“Pretty good!” he said, testing his cracked legs. He slowly wiggled his snout and pushed his ears forward and back. “Yes, everything seems in order. Except my head is very cold.”

“I have something that might help with that!” From behind her back, she presented him with a ruffled fluff of several folded sheets of tissue paper atop a pipe cleaner. Both had been heavily colored with a green magic marker.

“A green rose!” the Dalmatian gasped. “It’s just as beautiful as I thought it would be.”

“We learned to make these in art,” Emily said, pleased with her work. “If you’d like, I can place it in the crown of your head.”

The Dalmatian nodded eagerly. Emily placed the pipe cleaner through the gap in the Dalmatian's head and held him up to the mirror.

“Magnificent,” he said, his eyes beaming.

She took him back to the cupboard and placed him next to the rabbit. The Dalmatian strutted back and forth on the shelf, his head held high. “What do you think?” he asked his friends.

“Beautiful!” breathed the rabbit.

“Hmmmmm,” said the owl, “it’s a green rose alright, but it’s not real.”

“Of course it’s real,” scoffed the Dalmatian. “You can touch it if you’d like,” he said, stretching his neck high so the owl could feel it with his wing.

“I mean it isn’t a real flower. It’s just paper and wire.”

“He’s right,” admitted Emily. “We couldn’t find a real green rose.”

“But this is better!”

“What do you mean?” asked the owl.

“A thing can be anything it wants,” he replied, “so perhaps sometimes a flower wants to be made of paper and wire. And sometimes it may want to be green. It took time, but the flower found a way to become all of the things it wanted to be!” The Dalmatian tipped his head from side to side, experimenting to find the best angle to display his green rose.

“You’re a strange Dalmatian,” said the owl. “But I agree it does look quite splendid on you.”

At the breakfast table, Emily hungrily stuffed blueberry pancakes into her mouth, her lips and chin sticky with syrup. The sun shone through the window and glinted on the glass cupboard. Emily looked over and saw the Dalmatian standing on the shelf, his friends gathered behind him. He held his head high, his green rose triumphant in the splendor of morning light, and winked.

 


Submitted: September 22, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Emily Astor. All rights reserved.

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