Saturday, November 28, 2020

Gift of the Rose and Rufus

"Gift of the Rose and Rufus" is a rejected flash fiction story

Mallory gimp-walked the perimeter of the repossessed property with Rufus, his 12-year-old arthritic English Sheepdog following at a slower pace. He paused and studied the Tibet roses his mother had planted 50 years before as a memorial to the KIA Vietnam veteran father he’d never known.

Waiting for the old dog to catch up, Mallory turned toward the clapboard, two-bedroom house built for workers at the long-closed WWII shipyard. Always needed paint, but at least the inside looks better than the outside.

The rose was in August heat-stress and Mallory turned to get the hose. Crap! They cut off the water yesterday. A tear ran down his cheek as he looked at Rufus sniffing the dry soil around the plant. He’s never known another place – he’ll stay here when this is all over.

The next afternoon he penciled a letter to his estranged older sister. It said in part, “After Mother died, it took nearly a month to clear enough space to start some very necessary improvements before I moved in from my rental. I’d always assumed she used Father’s $20,000 military insurance to pay off the mortgage. The VA has records of the cashier’s check being endorsed by Mother, but I never found a bank deposit. I drained my savings to cover back payments and taxes. Mother left it in my name, but I felt you were equal in the estate. They’ve taken the property, so there’s no estate to share, but no debt either. My dog Rufus with severe arthritis; was put down this morning. I’ll bury his ashes next to the rose Mother planted for Father.”

None of Mallory’s neighbors were interested in the withering rose. He put the plant in yard debris recycling and got $10 from a scrap metal merchant for the brass plaque.

He felt emotional and physical pain as he pushed a spade deep into the soil where he’d taken out the rose. He pried up. A corner of a rusted metal box appeared with his effort. A block of paraffin wax dropped from the nearly disintegrated box when he removed it from the soil. He replaced the space taken by the box with the cardboard container of Rufus’ ashes.

Mallory found a sealed canning jar inside the paraffin block with 200, still crisp, $100 bills. If not for Rufus, I’d not have a gift from the rose left by Mother.

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