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.
She was much older than his 18 years but not old as life went. The bare bulb of the overhead light showed her silhouette through the loose cotton dress she wore. She had a curvy figure, one that might be called dowdy by some people. Her face was scarred by some disease from her past. To Kenny - inexperienced in the ways of females - she was a vision of loveliness. Her voice, though husky, sounded like music from heaven to him.
"I'm Rose, honey, and this is my house. Take that filthy jacket off and relax for a while."
She turned to a huge refrigerator and began pulling out bowls of food. She put dishes in a microwave and started it humming, then turned to a cabinet and pulled out a plate and silverware.
As she set a place before him, she said, "Wash up at the sink. There's a towel on the door under the sink. Do you drink coffee?"
"Yes, ma'am," Kenny croaked, not actually remembering if he had ever drank coffee in his life.
He shuffled to the sink, pushed his dirty shirtsleeves up and washed his hands with soap and water. Bending down, he splashed water on his face until he and his scraggly beard felt something akin to clean. He fished out the towel and dried off before returning to the bench.
Kenny sat down to a steaming plate of roast beef, corn, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy and half a loaf of homemade bread. It may have been leftovers but it was a feast fit for a king, in Kenny's opinion. He leaned over the table and began to shovel it in, completely devoid of anything approaching manners.
"Whoa! Slow down," the woman urged. "There's plenty more where that came from. You don't have to be in such a rush. Take a little time and enjoy it while you eat."
She laughed softly and her voice again reminded Kenny of music. Soothing music that calmed his soul. He slowed down, sat upright and began to savor the meal. When he picked up the hot mug of coffee and sipped the sweetened liquid, he felt the sensation of the hot drink spreading throughout his body. It was magnificent, although he wasn't sure he really liked the taste of coffee.
No sooner had he cleared the plate of food than the woman took the dishes and refilled his plate. He dug in again, eating until he felt that he could hold not one bite more. All the time he ate, the woman sat around the corner of the table from him and watched his face, a small smile on her own. Three times as he ate, the sound of a tinkling bell reached his ears and she excused herself, only to come back in a few minutes and resume her watching of him.
Just as he was finishing the second helping and pushed away from the table, a cute young woman thinly clad in flimsy, lacy underwear and no shoes came bounding into the kitchen, giving Kenny a quick once-over before going to the refrig to pour a glass of orange juice from a big jug. She said something like "next" to Rose and hurried out of the room. He heard her footsteps as she charged up the stairs.
Rose asked him several questions about himself. He told her his name, stated that he was homeless, and described his mother's death. She clucked in sympathy as he told the tale matter-of-factly.
When he was finished, Rose told Kenny that she was the owner of the house he was in, and she operated her own business. She said that she was not very popular with the city's residents, particularly the females, but she thought her clientele was jealous of her and her business. Anyway she made a reasonable living and was happy with the services she provided.
Rose told Kenny that she frequently had jobs around the house that needed a strong armed man to handle and asked if he would be interested in taking on the job for her. She couldn't pay him much but she would provide room and board and some spending money. He thought it sounded like the best offer he had ever heard.
After Rose had put away the remaining food and Kenny carried the dishes to her to stow in the dishwasher, she took him back to the front of the house and into an apartment. There was a sitting room with furniture that looked more elegant than any he had ever seen. Next was a large bedroom with a bed that looked huge and was covered by a frilly canopy but it was made of heavy, sturdy wood.
She led him through another door to a bathroom with a large white tub. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had a bath, especially the luxury of sitting in a pool of warm water. Rose put the stopper in the tub, turned on the hot water and moved a few feminine garments.
"If you're going to stay with me, you're going to have to get clean and stay that way. Take off those clothes. Do you have any others?" she asked.
When he indicated that he didn't, she said she would wash the ones he was wearing and they could get him some more the next day. Kenny was not certain how that would happen; he had roughly 37 cents in his pockets.
He was reluctant to take off his clothes in her presence but she laughed at him.
"In my business, I see men naked every single day. I am positive you do not have anything I haven't seen before. Now take off those clothes."
Kenny stripped and Rose collected his clothes. When she insisted that he remove his holey underwear, he timidly complied but then tried to cover himself with his hands. Rose laughed again as she tested the water and poured something from a bottle into the water that immediately began to generate bubbles. She directed him to climb in while she took his clothes to the washer.
Kenny sank into the hot water as if he was in heaven. That had to be the greatest feeling he had ever known. He realized that the bubbles were a form of soap but he didn't really care for them. They interfered with him getting as low in the water as he'd like. However, when he found a bar of Ivory, he began to scrub himself, noting that his skin gradually turned a healthy pink instead of his usual gray pallor.
Rose brought a small plastic basin of hot water. Handing him a can of shave cream, a razor, and a small mirror, she held the basin while he shaved his face for the first time. He was even amazed at himself, since it was the first time he had seen his face cleanly shaven since he began to grow his scraggly beard.
As he noted that his fingers were beginning to wrinkle from being in the water so long, Rose returned. She told him that she'd have to shampoo his hair because it was filthy. While she sat on the closed commode, he leaned back into the water, letting her pour shampoo on his dark hair. It felt good when she took a rubber coated brush and began to scrub his scalp. Finally she had him stand and used a hand-held shower head to rinse him off from head to toes.
Rose handed Kenny a bath towel that would have made three of any he had ever used. He again felt like he was in luxury as he rubbed the soft terrycloth over his body and dried his hair. Leading him back into the bedroom, she had him climb into one side of the big bed. She said that his clothes wouldn't be dry for a while longer and she wouldn't be able to go to bed yet, since some of her clients were still coming and going. Kenny didn't even hear the last of her words; he was already asleep.
Several hours after midnight, Kenny awoke when Rose tried to gently climb into bed on the other side.
"Rose?" he called.
"Why did you... do those things for me?"
"Oh, baby. You and I are a lot more alike than you know. We need to care for each other."
"Could I... have a hug?"
"Yes, baby," Rose replied, putting her arms around the young man and molding her body against his. They lay like that for seconds... or minutes... until both of them drifted off to sleep.
It wasn't until the next morning when Kenny awoke in the soft bed... beside the soft body of Rose... that he realized that she was as naked as he was. It felt so good to be snuggled up to the round softness of her broad bottom, his arms around her loosely holding her chest... Kenny realized it was the first time he had ever touched... in his memory, at least... the breasts of a woman. It affected him like nothing had ever before. Oh, he had experienced erections before, but not this hard, this demanding.
Carefully he extracted himself from his position and sat on the side of the bed, not wanting to let Rose know of his reaction to her body. Looking around the room in the haze of early morning light, he saw where she had brought his clothes and laid them on a chair by the bed. They were clean and smelled good for the first time in... he couldn't remember when. He started to step into his shorts when he noticed Rose smiling at him.
"Come here, baby," she called, holding the covers back for him to climb back into bed with her.
He went back to the bed and climbed in. She spread her arms and gave him another tight hug, pressing her breasts into his chest. He tried to keep his erection away from her but she ran a hand down his back and tugged him close until his penis stabbed her belly.
She smiled and whispered, "Baby, you have nothing to be ashamed of. I'm flattered that you find a woman like me attractive enough to do that." She began planting gentle kisses all over his face, never relinquishing the pressure of her lower hand that held them together.
It felt so good for Kenny to be in the arms of this woman. She smelled sweet, like some of the spring flower beds he occasionally walked near. She felt soft, unlike anything he could think of to compare her with. He began to return her kisses and found that she tasted better than anything he could remember. His erection grew even harder, like steel but throbbing, almost painful.
Rose drew back a bit and smiled at him for a few moments, then tugged at him. With one hand around his shaft, she whispered, "Come on, baby. Let's take care of this."
Together they rolled until Rose was laying on her back, her legs spread outside of his. She guided him into her warm wet core and he slowly sank into her depths. Kenny's eyes closed as the most delicious sensations came over him. He bent to kiss her and her tongue slipped into his mouth. He had no clue what to do, although he had an urge to slam himself into her. Instead Rose quietly and gently taught Kenny how to love and make love.
When he was finally exhausted and his penis hung limply against his thigh as they lay side by side, Kenny was ready to die, certain that he would never experience anything better than what Rose had just yielded to him.
A few minutes later, both of them having dressed, Rose led him back to the kitchen, which had become a beehive of activity. There were fourteen people in the big room, most sitting or standing around the big wooden table, all of them female, ranging from near his age to older than Rose, he estimated. They all wore short, flimsy clothing that covered very little; nearly bare bottoms were everywhere and tits were minimally covered. There seemed to be more conversations going than there were people to talk. His presence drew a few smiles but didn't stop the gabbing.
One large black woman, wearing a white dress mostly covered by a large apron, worked at the stove and counter, cooking eggs and sausage, dispensing coffee, and punctuating her conversations with the other women with a wave of a large wooden spatula. She put a large cookie sheet with steaming hot biscuits on the table and the women scrambled to grab one.
Rose told one of the women to move down on the bench and then directed Kenny to sit beside her. Immediately the black woman plopped a heavy plate and silverware in front of him, gave him a huge grin and turned back to the stove. A mug of coffee and a glass of orange juice were put in front of him by different women without so much as a by your leave.