Thorn of the Rose Issue 18: Reading a Rose
Who do you trust to provide what you need?
Thorn settled into the Greenhouse routines readily enough. Children kept arriving, terrified after seeing their parents destroyed in the illegal riots or crying and clinging to their mama’s skirts as parents left them in this safe harbor. Some left, vowing to make their way in the world, to find another life. Steadily, however, the numbers of children grew.
Only a few adults stayed here, as Petal said she could not keep families together—to save the children, they had to be away from any taint of the Invisibles, the unregistered, the illegals. Adults did not ask children for their identity cards, she would explain over and over to the crying parents, the beggars for sanctuary. And if the Illegal Killers found the adults here without idents, then they would torch the entire place. Only registered adults could stay here for more than 15 minutes. Petal was firm on that point.
The kids, knowing what would happen if they didn’t, organized themselves quickly. Older kids took on younger kids to mentor and care for and everyone spent nearly every waking moment either doing chores or studying. Slackers were taunted unmercifully. This help still wasn’t enough to allay Petal’s worries, as if anything really could.
“I swear, I don’t know how we are going to feed everyone—or keep this place at the rate we are going.” Thorn overheard Petal talking with Sister Mary Magdalene, one of the teachers as they all worked through the garden, bringing water in tubs and buckets to siphon amongst the plants. “The Lord will provide,” Sister Mary Magdalene said as she carefully measured water by the root of a tomato plant and adjusted its branches against the tomato cage,
“I hope you’re right,” Petal said, catching a child with an overfull can before any of the water could be spilled. Then under her breath, softly but still close enough for Thorn to hear, she muttered “because if God and I don’t take care of these kids, no one will.”
The routine was simple and did not vary, except for Sundays when everyone gathered on the main floor garden to pray. There were two meals: Breakfast and dinner. In between were chores (either carefully pruning and weeding the massive indoor garden or cleaning up or fixing dinners) school, doing your trades, and then a tiny sliver of free time, which most used to flop down and rest—even the little ones, who were supposed to have energy, but seldom did. Every morning before breakfast, Petal solemnly handed out a Rose Card for the day to everyone, kids and grown-ups alike.
Then at breakfast, you had to read your card to your neighbor and talk about the idea, and then your neighbor did the same. The Rose Cards had a graphic with a different squiggle on the front, showing a letter and a concept and then an explanation of that concept on the back. The first day, Thorn got the concept L: Hate, with a picture of a hand dropping a cup filled with spiders and snakes and unknown claws.
Hatred can bring you up for a bit—that fleeting sensation of superiority. I’m better because. . . I’m not fat. My skin is a different color. I’m not bald. Hatred can bring you power and control over others’ lives. But at what cost? Challenge: How can you care for yourself without harming others?