(and REMEMBER! Starting this week, everyone who has participated in the past and participates this week gets to vote for the winner! I’ll post a Poll w/links to all the stories on Wednesday PST. 🙂 )
Polish the Silver. Make it Shine.
“Toledo Fink! You little stink! I’m telling, Mom!”
Toledo rolled his eyes at the fence in front of his face, ignoring the fit of jealousy his big brother, Juneau, was throwing at his back. Juneau always got huffy when he wasn’t first. Wasn’t it enough that he was born first?
At the moment, Juneau was up in arms over the fact that Toledo found the next item of the scavenger hunt. Instead of dealing with the ranting of his brother, Toledo did the only thing he could do to abate the whining: he handed the rose petal over.
“Here, Juner, you hold it. Where do you think the next item will be?” Toledo asked, but he already knew the answer.
Juneau crushed the soft rose petal in his awkward, preteen hand, never setting his gaze upon its velvet sheen. “I don’t know. Mrs. Nantucket’s yard?”
“Well, she does have roses but not that color.”
Juneau finally looked at the crumpled petal in his sweat-greased palm.
Toledo spied it in Juneau’s hand, too. He wondered at the color. No one he knew ever grew roses that color . . . no one except Mr. Phoenix. Toledo wished he hadn’t released the delicate petal into his brother’s grasp. It was exceptional and beautiful, like nothing he’d ever seen before and would likely not see again.
“We’re wasting time, Tolly. I think it must be . . .”
“Mr. Phoenix’s place,” Toledo finished for Juneau. “I know that’s exactly what you were going to say.”
“Huh? Oh! Yeah. Right. That’s exactly what I was gonna say. C’mon, slow poke.”
Toledo followed along ignoring the fact that he knew Juneau had no clue until he’d given the answer. It had taken several instances of throttling and a few tattlings for Toledo to figure out it was best to let Juneau think he had come up with the answer on his own.
He stopped next to his brother at the open gate to Mr. Phoenix’s garden. Both boys panted, out of breath, as they stared into the abyss that was the neighbor’s back yard. Toledo still couldn’t figure out why the next clue had sent them here. They weren’t allowed to cross this threshold. That single silver rose petal in Juneau’s hand was like an invitation, and yet . . . .
“Go in there and get the next clue, Tolly.”
“Because I’m the oldest, and I’m in charge.”
Toledo wanted to argue but knew it would do no good. Juneau wanted to win this little competition more than anyone, but he wouldn’t get his own hands dirty. Toledo dug his fingers into the top of his scalp and scratched hard. “Okay, Juner, but listen. If I die, it’s your fault.”
“Whatever, just got get it.”
He took a deep breath, resolved to do what had to be done. Toledo knew Mom wouldn’t listen to Juner’s tattling, but that didn’t mean his brother wouldn’t try to wallop him if he didn’t go in. He made one more quick glance over his shoulder and saw the other team rushing their direction. It was now or never.
Toledo ducked through the open gate which stood between two high walls next to Mr. Phoenix’s house, but what he saw once on the other side was like nothing he’d ever expected to see.
He stood in the midst of the most amazing jungle. From the outside, one couldn’t glimpse what stood behind the tall brick walls. It was an eden! Toledo had seen the silver roses before when Mr. Phoenix put huge bundles of them in his front window, but he had no idea they were grown in a place like this!
Behind him, Toledo could hear raised voices. It was obvious that Juneau was either keeping them out or insisting that he’d win if they were too scared to come in. Tolly hoped they’d stay out. This garden was too beautiful to be smashed to smithereens by the Louis brothers.
“What you’re looking for is over there, lad,” said a deep, soft voice from the shadows off to Toledo’s right.
He peered into the darkness, “Mr. Phoenix, sir? Is that you? I’m sorry to disturb your garden, sir. But you see, we’re on a scavenger hunt, and our clues led us right here.”
“Yes, that was the point.”
“Your mothers helped me to set up the hunt, Toledo.”
“I don’t understand, sir.”
“I am getting old, young Tolly. This garden needs a caretaker. I asked your mothers to help me because I needed to choose someone to take my place when I’m gone.”
Mr. Phoenix stepped out of the shadow. Toledo had never been this close to the man before and was shocked by his extreme age.
“You won as I hoped you would, Toledo.”
“Me, sir? Why?” He didn’t know what to say or what to do. Running away seemed unacceptable, but staying had its own set of misgivings.
“Walk with me.” Mr. Phoenix moved with slow steps, each one landing in slow motion as if he was walking on the moon. “This rose sits at the center of the garden.” He pulled a pair of shears from his pocket and with delicate motions, lopped the shimmering silver head off one of the stems, letting it fall to the ground.
When the rose touched the soil something amazing glittered before Toledo’s eyes. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Where the rose head had fallen a new rose had grown.
“That’s not all these roses can do. They heal hearts, too.”
“Like Juneau’s?” Toledo couldn’t believe the words had slipped from his mouth. He covered his lips with the palm of his hand.
Mr. Phoenix laughed. It was a candid, amused sound putting Toledo at ease. “Oh, my boy, yes. It can even heal Juneau’s tempestuous heart. Silver shines when polished, but is dull when ignored. If you treat Juneau’s heart like silver, it will grow new again, too.”