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Short Story: The Handbook

Updated on January 10, 2013


This short story really ended up being kind of a sequel to "The Gardener" (posted in another hub). I hope you enjoy!

The Handbook

“If you had studied your color guide you would know that it’s fuchsia.”

“It doesn't have enough red in it to be fuchsia! Clearly you’re color-blind. It’s magenta. Don’t you agree, Autumn?”

Autumn looked at the two of them and sighed. “It’s all too confusing. I’ve never understood the color guide, honestly. To me it looks more like a pink sort of lavender.”

“Wow. You’re worse than she is.” snickered Violet, who stood shaking her head. “Both of you are on the hopeless side of confused. If you don’t understand something this basic about the handbook, clearly you will never get what it really means to be a rose in the first place. Certainly you will never understand what it takes to become a good one!”

Autumn considered this. “But it’s just color after all. I have color, you have color, and April has color. We understand the colors differently, but it doesn’t change what we are. We’re all still roses, right?”

Violet shook her head. “The gardener only keeps the best roses. The rest he cuts down and throws away. You may be a rose, but not a good one like me. I have studied the handbook tirelessly since I sprouted! You have to study every day. You have to know everything in that book, including which color is which. If you can’t do that, you’re not a good rose and you won’t make it into a vase.”

“I have read the handbook too, and I say you are the one who’s confused,” retorted April. “The handbook has good information in it but you’re trying to wrap your entire life around it. When I look, I see magenta. When you look, you see fuchsia. Who cares? Whatever the color is to you is what it is!”

Violet turned her petals away in disgust. April did the same. Autumn stood there wanting to do exactly that—but didn’t have the heart. The gardener had given them the handbook, after all. Why was it so long? And why was it so confusing? Surely he could have written it in a way that was clear to everyone! This is really the gardener’s fault! Autumn hated fighting, and she wanted the fighting to stop. The gardener likes beautiful flowers. She needed to get his attention, which wasn’t going to happen if she looked like the rest of them. She slowly and painfully ripped out all but two of her petals and let them fall to the ground. Then she waited.

Several days went by, and she had heard nothing from the gardener. She had only heard more arguments as Violet and April fought over other things… Both were convinced that they knew best. All Autumn wanted to do was hear from the gardener himself. And finally it happened. She heard the footsteps rustling in the nearby grass. She tilted her face in his direction.

“What happened to you, little one?” he said.

Sheepishly, she looked down at the ground. “I was trying to get your attention. I don’t understand this handbook you gave us. It’s very confusing.”

He smiled at her. “I suppose it is, at first. Have you read the entire thing?”

“Well, no… not really. I’ve read some of it. But April and Violet have read it start to finish and it’s so confusing that they argue about what it means all the time!”

He nodded. “I know. I can hear them. It’s very sad. Do you know why they do that?”

Autumn shook her head.

“They both read it out of their own desires, don’t they? Violet desires to be more important than everyone else. She wants recognition. So, when she reads it, she looks for things that will make her look impressive. She also wants to be able to tell others what to do. April wants to do whatever she likes. She looks for things that seem to agree with what she has already decided is true, picking and choosing things that are of interest to her. They want the book to support them rather than supporting the book themselves.”

“If they read it right then there would be no fighting!” Autumn smiled petal to petal, sensing the answer to her dilemma.

“More or less”, he said, “but not because they wouldn’t disagree. If they understood why I gave them the handbook in the first place then they wouldn't argue so much. But they still would not agree on everything. You see, flowers see and think like flowers. I’ve tried to explain things to you and tell you the truth, but you won’t always understand. There are things you may think you understand but you don’t really.”

“Why explain it to us if we won’t understand?”, she blurted.

“Flowers need love to grow. Did you know that? The love inside you makes you grow, not information in the book. The information helps you know me and know why I made you—why I care for you. When you know me you will love me. So I want you to know me--as much as your little flower brains will handle. You are the smartest of all of the plants in my garden, but you can only handle so much. As you grow, you will love each other too. I want you to grow big and tall, so you will last through the winters that are coming. You are already an inch taller than both April and Violet, and you were planted on the same day. They stopped growing, you see.”

The gardener smiled down at her, tipped his hat, and began to walk away.

“Can you tell them that?” she blurted.

“I have, little one. They hear what they want to hear. Don’t become angry and fight or argue as they do. Love them. Respect them. It’s actually possible to disagree and love at the same time. You’ll see.” And off he went to tend to the rest of the garden.

“Oh,” she sighed. She looked at her friends, one on each side. She realized that she did love them. Maybe they will understand one day. Maybe the love in her will help them see. “I will try,” she said finally. “They deserve for me to try my best--to respectfully try my best. Maybe sometimes trying and loving are the same.”


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