The Story Of A Rose

As the day grew old, weary and grim, James took one last look from the window pane. These were to be his moments in solitude.

He looked out of the window, and could notice the stark contrast to the weather that welcomed him and the weather that was when he was sent to prison. Winter had lost its spite, greys were replaced by yellows, and beautiful flowers in February bloom heralded the onset of spring. But it was still cold and damp where he was placed.

Convicted for a crime he had nothing to do with, you could attribute this to his knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He had pleaded not guilty, and had eagerly awaited the outcome of his trial. But legal tribunals only reaffirmed public sentiment. Even though he wasn’t a public favourite and had had a normal spat or two with his neighbours, he hadn’t anticipated the colossal hatred that he was subjected to, but then again, the crime for which he was convicted for wasn’t a very trivial one. Murder of the third degree was liable for the death sentence in those times…

James didn’t have any family, so all the more reason for people to hate him. Orphaned, distant, poor and indifferent was all they thought he was. All by himself in prison, he wondered what he had done to deserve such an unfair punishment, for until then, he thought he was tried for manslaughter, not murder of the third degree. The victim, a child of eleven was from a wealthy, well known and respected family. Politics butted its ugly face in and James was framed for a crime he didn’t do, and no one questioned Authority.

Lord, please send me an angel, for I have done no wrong, you know that. Send me my angel. Give me the strength to see this ugly world in a different light. Send me my angel…

You may think that such an unfair act in a man’s life may remove his trust off God forever, but not with James. He prayed hard everyday, piously. Although, he did wonder and grieve about why this was happening to him, but never once did he question God or his being.

About a month into trials and of being in prison, he saw a glimmering ray of hope, they might sentence him for lifetime with parole.

But the ray vanished as soon as he had seen it. The guard had come the next week and told him he was to go to the court to hear the date he was executed.

February 28th. A day he dreaded, the day he was to be breathe his last.

He tried to spend his time as much as he could outdoors, in the prison grounds. Life inside the prison never interested him anyway. Every other man in the prison would call him names, call him a coward for not playing those rough games with them. Even the guards would make fun of him. Everyday Billy, the jailor would come up to him and taunt him and ask” said your prayers young lad?” and every single time James would answer “Only for your soul Sir.” So James ended up a loner in prison as well, with no human interaction or conversation worth remembering or to look forward to.

The day James was first brought to the prison, he saw a rose shrub growing and ever since that day, he watered and tended to the plant daily. Soon winter came upon the land and James couldn’t move outdoors as much as he did and wanted to. The winter was harsh, in a way symbolizing the rough that was to come. Few weeks later, when he had ventured out, expecting the wild shrub to be withered and frozen, he was amazed to see the shrub which not only survived those chillingly cold weeks , unattended but also, actually grew some rose flowers, and not of the usual red type, but these were maroon, almost a shade of scarlett.It gave him a sense of hope in seeing that shrub, with flowers sprouting in the midst of harsh winters in the most richest and warmest colours that could possibly be.

He came out everyday and almost like a drug, felt high on hope and emotion after he left to go back to his quarter.

But this day, when he looked out of the window for the last time, he gave a sad smile when he saw the wild roses. Take care of yourselves little ones. You already have looked after yourselves through the harshest of times.

And the last time he was let outside that day, he smelt the flowers for he needed some emotion, he needed some reassurance, some hope from his old friends, but the more he wanted, the more he felt empty. Giving up, he gave them a last look and went in.

He could see the people gather to see him breathing his last breath. It hurt him that many people in that crowd knew he was innocent, but never opened their mouths. But James has forgiven them. People cannot lose the barbaric streaks in their blood. Like old grocer Jim used to say “It is always fun to see a bullfight, as long as you’re the spectator”.

And then the time came when they prepared him to be electrocuted. He was walked to the electrocution room from the prison. The outdoors seemed so normal and benign. Nothing to show there was evil at work inside. An innocent man was to be executed. James had a last look down the gloomy passage halls of the prison, and a yard away he could see the chair in which he was to be treated. He had loved days like these. Ironically, he was to die on one.

They seated him down in the chair and the Father asked him not unkindly, whether he had any last wishes. James looked from his chair through the glass window where people were gathering to see his death, but the people didn’t interest him…The flowers, the wild roses, they looked just so beautiful from were he sat, and from a distance so far, he was given hope, love and reassurance, from seeing their timeless and ageless beauty that they were so eager to share.

He was awed that the last images that he should be seeing were of wild roses, picturesque in their beauty. That’s why I felt empty earlier; the roses saved their best for now. It was ironic, that before dying a death so grotesque, and so unfair, the roses showed so much warmth and hope and created a scene fit for a spring party. It was nature’s way of letting him know that She pitied and sympathized with him, and that maybe there was a better life ahead.

The last image in James’ eyes was the wild roses, scarlet in their glory, giving him reason to smile inwardly.

James closed his eyes and answered in the non affirmative, he didn’t have any last wishes.

Shruti Rao

(The story was written by the author at age 13, and thought if the story remained untouched, it would add to the quaint charm of the world of a budding writer. It is hoped the reader would keep it in mind if he/she comes across a few technical misgivings, and enjoy it for the 13-year-old world it is)