After breakfast on a Saturday morning, his mother said, “I’m going to teach you something new today. Go pick a rose from the garden.”
So he went out behind the house and selected a bright red rose from thousands of blooms. He clipped it with pruning shears and brought it back to his mother.
“Smell it. Tell me what you see.”
He took a sniff and saw a little boy. The transparent image was hard to see. He mostly saw the refrigerator behind. He closed his eyes and took a deeper sniff. “Oh!” he said as he saw the younger boy clutching a stuffed dog, playing with dogs at the park and standing before a pet store.
“What did you see?” asked his mother.
“A boy who wants a puppy,” he said tentatively.
“Go get the newspaper.”
He fetched the paper for his mother, although he was tired of being the errand boy. He wanted to go play with his friends.
She flipped to the classifieds. “What about this one? ‘Dachshund/beagle puppies free to good home.’”
“No, it has to be a yellow Lab.”
“How do you know?” she asked.
He thought about it. “Ummm, just because.”
She scanned the ads, trailing her finger down the page until she found an ad for yellow Labs. She called and made arrangements to see the puppies.
Three males and two females were left. He liked each of the pups, but didn’t know which one to pick. His mother told him it probably didn’t matter which one. So he picked the runt. Next they went to a grocery store. His mother sent him in to buy a small bag of dog food. He dragged the bag across the store and across the parking lot out to the car.
That afternoon he played with the puppy in the front yard, tossing balls and sticks and Frisbees. He started calling the dog Yellow. His mother worked in the rose garden out back.
After dinner and after dark, they got in the car again.
“How do you know where the boy lives?” he asked his mother.
“I just do,” she answered. And she did. She drove right to a tidy house with an immaculate lawn in a neighborhood not far from their own. They watched the house for a bit, until they both saw a little boy in the window of an upstairs bedroom. He was exactly the boy from the rose-inspired vision.
They waited a bit longer then got out of the car and tiptoed around to the back of the house. His mother poured a small pile of food by the door and he put the puppy down on the patio.
As they snuck back to the car, he asked, “What will happen to Yellow?”
She said, “He’ll finish the food and then he’ll whine for more or he’ll curl up and go to sleep. Either way, the little boy will find Yellow and his parents will let him keep him.”
He smiled and was satisfied.
The next morning, his mother asked him to pick another rose. He selected a pink bloom, but some of the petals were brown and spotted. His mother was not pleased. “Throw that one away,” she said.
“Why?” he asked.
“Smell it. Tell me about the wish.”
He sniffed it and saw a woman who wanted a coworker to be hit by a bus. He shuddered.
“Why didn’t you get rid of this?” he asked.
“I did. I pruned it yesterday but it came right back. Go pick another one,” his mother said.
He returned to the garden and searched for another bloom, careful to stay away from the diseased plants. He sniffed the blooms as he tried to choose, but smelled only the essence of rose. At last he chose a peach bloom, fully open and starting to wilt. As he walked up to the house, he sniffed it. A woman, working long hours in a deserted office, thinking of her kids.
He handed the rose to his mother, who smelled it as well.
“Do you need the paper?” he asked.
“No, let’s go to the gas station.”
At the gas station, they both went in and his mother bought a lottery ticket. At home she tucked the ticket in an envelope with no return address. Without being asked, he took the envelope out to the mailbox.
When he came back, he asked, “Mom, will you grant me a wish?”
“Of course I would, but I don’t know how to find your rose.”
“Can’t I just tell you my wish?”
“That’s a start.” She hesitated. “But I need the rose to see the one thing in a million that could make your wish come true. That’s what I’m trying to teach you.”
“I want Dad to come back.”
“Honey.” She pulled him into a big hug and held him tightly. “He’s been gone for a long time. Even with the rose, I can’t bring him back.”
Leanna Timanus lives in Minnesota with her husband and son. By day she is an integration specialist for a technology company. By night she is an aspiring writer with no garret and no time to spend in it.