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Arms outstretched, Michael began to spin himself round and round. His fingertips swiped at the fringes of Technicolor blossoms. The lawn, the world, the kaleidoscopic swirl of foliage, all seemed to orbit about him in glorious madness. The energy in his head continued pumping like a Ferris wheel even after he stumbled dizzily to the ground and his skull cracked hard against the rocks. “The carnival of dreams,” his mother had said, “will carry you to the very tip of the sky.” And then always the descent through weighty perfume: the garden’s usurping gravity. Michael felt the grip of strong heavenly hands taking hold of his soul, scooping him up like fallen fruit. As he closed his eyes he prayed he would be able again and again to conjure this delicious loss of selfhood, this wonderland of vegetable darkness.

Grandmother Booth was sitting in the grass and cradling him in her arms.

“Are you all right?” she was saying.

Michael nodded. He had a tremendous headache.

“You nearly knocked yourself dead,” said Grandmother Booth. “I was watching from the window. Your father called back. Why did you hang up on him?”

“He said you were going to die this week,” said Michael.

“Oh, he did, did he?” She laughed out loud. “I’m sorry your father sees fit to drop you here like a stray dog, Michael. You have every right to despise the confusion in your life. But I want you to hear this: I know a thing or two about living and dying. I know how life begins on this planet, and I know how it ends. If I should decide to die this week, or any week, you’ll hear it directly from me. That’s a promise. Do you understand?”

The phone call can be explained away, but not the boy’s confusion. The theme of the story is loss, being left behind, wanting to rise up above all the mess of living as an adult on earth. But the grandmother is the salvation. Not just her as a person, or her fundamentalist beliefs, but the human strength and courage she represents that has served many generations in their anguish. Too often new writers depend upon a plot twist. That’s why they write a piece, they have a clever idea. But more often in a short story the reader’s insight comes from the better understanding of character. There isn’t enough time for a lot of plot development and reversals, as in a novel, so they are sketchy at best when attempted in the short story form. The ending should suggest a resolution to the external conflict, but more important speak to the underlying theme. It’s at that level, that it’s most satisfying.

“I think so.”

“Enough, then,” she said. “Let’s get you inside and wash the blood from your face.”

“Wash the blood from your face,” is suggestive of religious salvation, and that is symbolic for the hopefulness we feel for the boy and ourselves. I would like to thank Bob Wake for allowing us to use his story and hope these comments are hopeful to those of you considering submitting material to Rosebud and other publications. Good luck.

John Lehman, Associate Publisher

Visiting © 2000 Bob Wake