This is an exercise where I take the first line or two of a book and start writing. The goal is to write a complete story or scene. Another rule is that I haven’t read the book, so I have no idea where the beginning of the book is going.

This is how Kyle Keeley got grounded for a week.Apricot colored rose bush
First he took a shortcut through his mother’s favorite rosebush.**

Then he lied about it. It wasn’t like it was just a branch or two or just a flower or two that got damaged. Nope, it was pretty darn near the whole bush. It also wasn’t like it was just any old rosebush, you know, the kind you buy at Brakesmith’s Five and Dime, the ones that are half dead long before you put your money down for one. Nope, this was a one of its kind, bred, coddled and cared for by Kyle’s mother, Karen.

It all started when she made her annual trip to Lester’s Greenhouse and Gifts for tomato plants. Every year since before Kyle could remember his mother brought home eight tomato plants. Each one was set on one of the back room windowsills. They were nurtured with sunlight, water, some nutrients, and Karen’s “you got to talk to plants. You got to say nice things to them or they won’t take kindly to you.” Even so, one or two of them still died on her; but in the end, she always grew more than four dozen ripe, juicy, redder than her lipstick tomatoes. “Best tomatoes are the ones you grow yourself,” she was fond of saying. “Anything else and you’re better off just stickin’ to the not so fresh picked at Super Foods.”

She was especially proud of her rose bush, because it was a bargain, a freebie. Actually, it was a stowaway. When she brought home the eight tiny tomato plants from the greenhouse, she showed Kyle the one with two sprouts in it.

“Should have charged me double for this one,” she announced. “Maybe shoulda bought only seven, cause I got only eight baskets. Probably gonna have to get something for this extra one.”

Two days later it was twice as tall as the other plant.

“Come look at this Kyle,” Karen said the moment he got home from school. See, its leaves are different.”

“So pull it,” Kyle said.

It was quite a shock to her when she saw one of her tomato plants almost four inches high when all the others were still struggling to stretch up to two inches or so. She hadn’t paid much attention to it till then. That’s when she noticed the leaves were different. At first, she was just going to yank it out, thinking a weed had made its way into her tomato cartons. For some reason she didn’t though. She thought she should find out what it was before she killed it off.

“Ain’t no plant worth dyin’ if you don’t know what you’re killing,” she said to Kyle right after pointing at the ‘maybe it’s a weed, maybe it ain’t’ and said, “You got any idea what that is?”

Didn’t take long before it was killing its tomato plant sister because the – ‘maybe it’s a weed, maybe it ain’t’ got too darn big for the egg carton. Karen carefully spooned it out and set it into a six-inch pot filled with fresh tomato dirt.

She still had no idea what it was and she didn’t want the neighbors laughing at her if they saw that she transplanted a weed. So, she trundled off to the library and started looking through the plant identification books till she found something that looked about right. It might still be a week, of course, but her plant and the picture of the rose in the book, looked enough alike for her to take a chance. She transplanted it and watched with pride as it grew thorns and eventually some buds. She took it out to the front dug a nice hole a few feet from the front steps and planted the rose.

Kyle should have trampled through his mom’s tomato plants. He might have gotten away with that, after all, she had twenty some odd tomato plants growing behind the garage. That rose plant, though, it was special. Every neighbor lady from blocks around often went out of their way to admire it.

“You should enter that in the County Fair,” they would say.

And that’s what Karen was planning to do. She’d just picked up the forms the day before and maybe that’s what set Kyle off. Here it was, only two days before summer school and instead of worrying about helping Kyle get signed up for any of the advanced classes over at the college, she was running around all worried about some stupid, apricot colored flower.

When she saw Kyle head into the bathroom she didn’t think anything of it, even though there was blood on both his arms. ‘Probably slid into second base again,’ she thought. Of course, she didn’t put two and two together or she’d have known Kyle never scraped both arms sliding into second base, and that was an awful lot of blood just for a scrape.

It wasn’t until the next morning when she went out to water and trim her prized rose bush that she discovered there wasn’t much of it left.

“Oh, no!” she screamed. “Oh, my lord, no.”

That’s where she was, sitting on the ground moaning and crying when Kyle pulled up and parked his car in front of the house. He reached in the back seat and fiddled with something before he got out. That something was a rose bush. After he woke up feeling more guilty than he wanted to feel, he thought maybe if he replaced the plant, she might not know. So, he’d been driving all over until he found one with flowers that looked close enough.

Seeing his mom all sprawled out on the ground in front of her rose bush, he knew he was too late.  “What’s wrong mom,” he said when he got out of the car, knowing darn well what was wrong and hoping he could figure a way to get out of this one.

“Somebody ruined my roses.”

“Aww mom, who’d a done such a thing.”

“I was thinking maybe it was you.”

“Not me, mom. I’d never do something like that.”

“How’d you get all those scratches on your arms.”

“I was… I was up on the roof, getting a ball out of the gutter. I slipped, almost fell off. Scraped my arms something terrible.”

“How come you didn’t say anything? That’d be a pretty good story to tell, how you almost fell off the roof and all.”

“Maybe I didn’t want to say anything about being on the roof.”

“There’s one other thing Kyle. One other reason you’re grounded for the rest of the month…”

Apricot colored Rose bud“You can’t ground me. That’s like almost a whole month. I didn’t do anything to your stupid roses.”

“Okay then, I won’t ground you if you can tell me one thing.”

“She held out her hand and opened it.

“What was this little flower, this little apricot colored rose doing stuck in the laces of a pair of your sneakers? Take a close look at it. It’s not more than a day old.”

Kyle looked at the flower, mumbled, “I’m really sorry mom.” Then he went into his room, closed the door and cried.

# # #

** First lines from Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

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