by Craig Yack
UM-Flint, English Prose Fiction 202
The garden had been blessed by the hatching of a new seedling. The stem had just emerged from the ground, and its roots were just starting to take foundation. It looked up at all of its companions, saw all of their full blooms, and looked forward to its life in the garden. Eventually, it would learn to open its bloom as widely as all the others.
The roses of the garden were cared for by a gentle elderly woman of 75 years. She always took great care to give each an equal amount of water and food, and she made sure any obstacles of the sunlight would be removed, to give each rose a fair chance to grow on their own. She never showed particular favoritism toward any of the flowers.
Occasionally, visitors would come by to view the garden. The deepest red blooms were the ones given the most attention. Blooms of other colors were given medial or no attention at all. This had upset those flowers of the garden, and they seeked whatever methods possible to get the same attention.
There came a time when any flower that did not have an attractive color was intentionally shunned and criticized by the other flowers. It was ironic, though, because these flowers doing the criticizing were once an "unattractive" color, and had artificially colored their blooms to imitate the attractive ones. Eventually, the rains would come and wash away the "paint" on their petals, and they would quickly close their blooms in fear of the others noticing and recolor themselves underneath, only to reopen later and once again criticize the blooms of less attractive color, some of which were the color that they once were.
This provided a terrible environment for the young rose to grow up in. His bloom was only of an off-white color, with veins of orange coarsing up the center of each petal, darkening and radiating outward as they reached the end. This color did not get him particular attention from the visitors, and he was shunned for it. He did not understand why he had to have an attractive color, he had only been treated as if he must have one or else. But he could not allow himself to color his bloom artificially - he appreciated the freedom of natural expression too much for that. But when the visitors came, they gave attention to the attractive blooms in the garden, and barely showed him any attention. This did not trouble him - he had already felt like he had everything he needed - all that was left was to live and express himself.
His biggest trouble came, however, when after the visitors left, the other roses looked over at this bloom that refused to follow accepted convention, and they criticized him as if he had something to feel guilty about. The rose had done many of his own private explorations : the many insects passing by, the way the wind ruffles the plant life, the way the sun warmed his leaves. All these wonders of nature humbled him a great deal, and this gave him a grave disadvantage toward the other flowers. They are all rooted in the same ground that he was, so how could they not realize the same wonders that he discovered? Yet, they were telling him he was doing something wrong. Was there something he missed? Something he neglected? Somehow, their lack of acceptance made him believe that he didn't even deserve the benefits of the caretaker. And the other roses would not explain why he had to paint himself. Perhaps he did not deserve an explanation. Perhaps he had not earned that status in the garden yet. It made him ashamed, and being as humble as he was, accepted their criticism, and closed his bloom in embarassment, self-shame, and honor toward those he was rooted with.
This had gone on for quite some time. The rose never colored himself - he did not yet believe in artificiality, and never planned to. Yet the others still shunned him. It had disheartened him a great deal. His freedom to express himself had been taken away. He could no longer appreciate the things he had experienced before he was shunned. The only way he could was to color himself as their blooms were and sneak by unnoticed - but why should he have to satisfy their authority? What made their opinions more important than his?
Out of anger and resentment, he opened his bloom full force, and it had opened wider and fuller than any bloom in the garden, yet it was only the same off-white bloom with veins of orange. The other roses were criticizing and shunning when the elderly caretaker came out. She had started the chore of caring for the roses, and the flowers proudly showed their falsely painted petals. The old lady showed no real favoritism as before. She was making her way down the garden, getting closer to the bloom that had denied the criticism of the others. And as she approached, the other roses taunted and whispered to him. He held strong and let their attacks pass right through him. When she arrived, she watered and fed him, and was about to continue beyond, when she looked down at the rose, its petals spreading outward in full expression. It was a sight she had never witnessed before, and a bright smile came across her face. She reached down and gently ran her hand across the rose's side. It was a sensation that the rose had never experienced before - a sensation that none of the roses in the garden had ever experienced.
It was at that moment that the rose had come upon its greatest discovery. The color of the blooms mattered only to the visitors, not the caretaker. The attention of the caretaker is what truly matters. The criticisms of the other roses came from their belief that the visitors' opinions implied the caretaker's opinion - if the visitors didn't show acceptance of their color, then to their belief, neither would the caretaker, and they would no longer gain the caretaker's benefits. These beliefs had been discovered by the rose to be false, so they no longer mattered to him. It could feel free to show its true color and deny their opinions unhindered, for it would continue to have everything it needed no matter what color it had, and its best feeling came when the caretaker showed her support to his own freedom of expression. The other roses, however, continued to believe that the visitors' opinions had significance, so they never learned to value what the rose had discovered.
It wasn't long after that the caretaker came out, potted the rose, and took
it into her house, where she placed it on a pedestal with several other roses
whose blooms were fully open. All were of different colors, yet they treated
none any better than the other. The rose had been given a family, and he had