Several authors are coming out with stories based on the song, "This Bed Of Rose's." There are two main versions of this song, one by Tanya Tucker with the main character (other than Rose) being a young girl and a version by The Statler Brothers with the main character a young man. Having a choice of male or female for the main character offers many options for variations in the story line.
The genesis of this story was an exchange of emails between Josephus and I and we decided it would be fun to have stories written by different authors based on the same starting story source, released at more or less the same time. We quickly added techsan and each of us invited additional authors to participate. Enjoy the stories coming out of this "invitational challenge."
Regards, Dynamite Jack
She was a handsome woman, just thirty-four
Who was spoken to in town by very few.
She managed a late evening business
Like most of the town wished they could do.
And I learned all the things that a man should know
From a woman not approved of, I suppose,
But she died knowing that I really loved her.
Off life's bramble bush, I picked a rose.
This bed of roses that I lay on
Where I was taught to be a man,
This bed of roses where I'm living
Is the only kind of love I understand.
'Bed of Rose's'
The Best of the Statler Brothers
©1987 UMG Recordings, Inc.
(Don Reid — Harold Reid)
Central Missouri, 1959: He was just thirteen when his mother drank herself into a drunken stupor from which she never recovered. Kenneth Lawson had never known his father, wouldn't know him if he met him face to face, nor did he carry his father's name.
His mother had been so ashamed of ever having been associated with such a deadbeat, much less having given herself to him intimately enough that he had impregnated her with Kenny. The only times she talked about him was when she was drunk and then the words contained so much vitriol that they seemed to burn Kenny as they bounced off him.
She tried to be a good mother to him. Without more than a seventh grade education, she was unable to get a good paying job but she worked many jobs that no one else wanted, even if they were minimum-wage tasks. She usually held two at any given time trying to make ends meet for her and her son.
Still it just wasn't enough. They moved from one run-down apartment to another, sometimes having to live in dirty back rooms of places where she worked. Although she usually kept him fed as well as she could, he had learned to scrounge for himself at an early age.
The young man was not shocked when he came home one evening from a foray to the back door of a local bakery, hoping to salvage some of the unsold and stale products, only to find his mother in an alcoholic daze. He had found her like that a few times before, always trying to comfort her until she came out of it and was again able to function. He was resigned to the knowledge that one day he would not be able to bring her back.
That night he found three empty bottles on the floor around his collapsed mother. He was sure that none of them had been full when she obtained them but there was no way to know how much of their contents had been left. She was lying on the floor of the one-room apartment, dead to the world, her breathing thin and reedy.
Kenny did the only thing he knew to do. He retrieved the ragged blanket from her bed, spread it over her and then snuggled close so that his body warmth would help fight off the cold.
When he awoke in the morning, he knew it was too little too late. His mother was stiff and cold already, beyond help. He notified a neighbor, who called the authorities.
In the confusion of removing the body, Kenny slipped away and faded into the early morning fog, a nearly invisible spirit in the early dawn. Kenny knew what happened to underage boys who were left without parents. He remembered how the Simms twins had been left without parents and had been taken to separate foster homes, only to be beaten and mistreated. He knew how Karen Davis had become a ward of the state, only to be raped by the respectable man in charge of the facility she was in. He wasn't going to leave his fate in the hands of such people.
For a while, he continued to go to school with some regularity. No one there seemed to know about his mother and he didn't tell anyone. As in times past, he qualified for free lunches and that was the main reason he went — that and the warmth of six hours in a heated building. However as time passed and the few clothes that he had managed to salvage became more and more ragged and dirty, he finally decided that he just couldn't take the chance of staying in school.
Homeless, Kenny spent his days going from store to store, hoping to salvage edible food from the outdated and unsold items that were thrown away. It was often a feast-or-famine existence, where sometimes he found enough good food to feed a small army, while other days he couldn't find a palatable morsel. Some days he begged change from passers-by and was able to buy enough to sustain himself.
During the nights, Kenny became an expert on hiding places in the small city. He knew every abandoned building in town, especially if there was some way to get inside, and usually there was. On some occasions when he could not get inside out of the weather, he found hiding places where he could curl up inside a cardboard box, wrap himself in newspapers, and sleep fitfully until time to start another day.
Kenny spent most of his days checking this dumpster or that around town, sometimes spending early evening or early morning hours going through residential neighborhoods to scour their trash bins for clothing or other useful items. He knew well each of the drop-off places for the Salvation Army and Purple Heart, because people often dropped clothes in plastic bags beside the full containers. He went through them in those early hours to keep himself in faded and worn but serviceable clothing.
Life for Kenneth Lawson was a series of day-to-day crises but he managed to survive and even to prosper, after a fashion, though he always felt hungry. Days turned into weeks and months and years. As the town changed slowly, so did Kenny. New buildings presented new opportunities as well as new dangers. Residents came and went, though the majority remained the same. Kenny had become quite adept at fending for himself, while staying away from the police and other authorities who were prone to harass the homeless.
A little over five years had passed since the death of his mother when his life took another ninety degree turn. Late one Sunday evening, having been notably unable to locate palatable food that day, he had asked a number of passing strangers for spare change. As he wandered, he found himself in a part of town he did not often visit, since it was primarily residential and not a very productive area for him.
He had noticed several men walking to one particular house, an old three story frame house with peeling white paint and fading green shutters. He found a covert location among the shrubbery and waited. Before long another man came down the sidewalk and turned toward the house. Carefully Kenny stood and asked the man if he could spare any loose change.
"Hey! Come here!" called a female voice from the open front door.
He turned to look, seeing only the outline of a woman in the backlit darkness. The man had already walked past him and slipped past the woman. Kenny looked around, thinking to evade her call.
"Come here. Don't be afraid," she said.
Now that was a challenge Kenny could not refuse. He was eighteen years old and afraid of nothing! Well, at least that's what he told himself. He turned and tentatively walked toward the house.
"Come on, let me see you," she said.
He stepped up onto the porch and stopped a few feet from the woman. She seemed to survey him from head to foot, her head shaking slightly from side to side as if in disapproval.
"Why, you're just a kid. How old are you?"
"Eighteen," Kenny croaked, straightening to his full height. "And I'm a full grown man."
"Yes, I guess you are," she said. "Are you hungry?"
His pride wouldn't let him answer. He just stood there, but the slump returned to his stance.
"Yeah, I know you are. Come with me," she said, and turned into the house, not waiting to see if he followed.
Inside in the foyer, she turned to Kenny and pointed down a long hall toward an open door to what appeared to be a kitchen. "Go in there and have a seat. I'll be with you in a minute."
As Kenny brushed past the woman and the man who had proceeded him, he heard them talking in low tones and saw the man pass some folded paper money to the woman. Seconds later the man hurried up the stairs that climbed above the hallway Kenny was treading.
The room was a kitchen, with a long wooden table big enough to seat a dozen people. Kenny sat on one end of a long bench and waited. It wasn't long before the woman appeared through the door. He got his first real look at the woman.
.... There is more of this story ...