Papa Preferred Roses This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

August 4, 2011
Green. That's right, green. And it wasn't even a pretty green, it was a sickly shade. You know, the shade of green that you find on ancient Kleenex boxes, or the lining of silverware drawers in old ladies' kitchens. Not to mention how itchy the darn fabric was. Papa would never have made me wear this dress.

And the flowers. Who in their right minds would have chintzy marigolds at a funeral? Papa didn't even like marigolds. He had always preferred roses. “But they have thorns,” I would say when he would go on and on about how he loved roses. He would gently shift the pipe between his clenched teeth and say, “Yes, they have thorns. But even the most perfect things in life cause pain. But that doesn't mean that we love these perfect things any less.”

I glanced at the clock. This was taking forever. To pass the time, I started to count the number of men who were bald in the church. One, two, three … Should I really count Mr. Laurie? After all, he did have a bit of hair that he oiled and whipped over the side of his head that made it look like he still had a ways to go before he was officially bald. Well, I'd better count him just so I can get an even number. I have always hated odd numbers. Don't ask me why. I guess they just bother me because if you had to split something up with an odd number, it wouldn't be fair.

I was getting a rash on my behind from this dumb dress. I started to relieve my itch when my mother poked me in the shoulder and whispered, “Stop that scratching. You look like you have fleas.” I stuck my tongue out at her, and waited until she had turned around in her seat before I gave myself another good scratch. I wish I did have fleas. Or perhaps some exotic illness that would have kept me home.

Anything, just so I wouldn't have had to come here.

The choir started singing, “Amazing Grace.” Papa loved that song. He used to sing it when he was bringing the horses in at night. I used to love when he sang it in the wintertime, because his strong voice cut through the cold air and made it seem warmer. I hastily wiped away a tear. I wasn't going to cry. Crying is stupid. I tried desperately to think of something else.

Standing in the corner of the room, I noticed London Willis. I grew up with him. He's my age, which is 16, in case you didn't know. He's all right, I guess. The only thing about him that irked me was the size of his nose. I swear, if you didn't know him, you'd think he was a living replica of Cyrano de Bergerac.

Actually, even if you did know him you'd think he was a dead ringer for old Cyrano. Today he looked especially bad. He was wearing a sport coat that hung too far over his waist. The sleeves came down over his hands. His mother had probably tried to do his hair, but the effect was anything but attractive. It was slicked back and shone as though he had put shoe polish on it. He looked like a used-car salesman. You know, the kind who yells and screams on TV about how their lot is having a big clean-out sale. They're always having big clean-out sales. Commercials like that make me sick.

Now the priest was reading a poem about loving people as much as you can and all that stuff. Personally, my motto is, “Love as few people as you can because you never know when they're going to die on you.”

My sister was sitting with her new beau. She was crying on his shoulder. It was nauseating. Papa would never have let her lean on him in church. I wanted to scratch out her eyes because she was being so disrespectful to my papa. Her lover was patting her hand and kissing her forehead. I could almost picture what he was saying: “Don't worry, my love. I'll take care of you now.” Or, “He was a good man.” What did he know about good men? He certainly wasn't in that category. I scratched my behind.

“And if the family members would come up now and give their last respects to Don.” The priest's voice broke into my thoughts. My mother was pulling me from my seat. She had her hand over her mouth, and there was a deep worry line in her brow. I waited in line to see my papa. I hated having to remember him like this. I made a vow not to touch him because he would be cold. My father was never cold. He could work all day outside without gloves in the winter, and he would still be roasting like a chestnut. I guess sometimes you just don't realize how warm something is until it's cold.

It was almost my turn. I closed my eyes and waited until the person in from of me had said their last words to my father. He was a rather short man, with odd, circular spectacles that sat at the end of his nose. He wore a double-breasted black suit with white gloves. Yes, I'm serious, white gloves. And I thought London had absolutely no style. His head was bent low over my father, and his lips were moving mechanically. Suddenly, I panicked. I had forgotten that you were supposed to say something when you were at the casket. The gloved man left. There I was with nothing to say. Then I realized that I had already told my father everything he needed to know. He knew what I was thinking already. I could tell that he was all around me. He was telling me that I didn't need to say anything. So I didn't. I never said a word. I stood by his casket for only a moment before I left him a final gift. Delicately, and lovingly, I placed a rose on his chest. A rose with all the thorns picked off.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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ReadingGal96 said...
Aug. 7, 2011 at 12:34 pm
This is really good! So sad though. But I have one question, what was the signifacance of London Willis?
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