R. C. SmithShort Stories and Vignettes

Do not read my works if you are offended by descriptions of sexuality and violence.
(Do not read them just for those descriptions, either.)

Plucking Roses

Audio read by RC (2:13)

In the garden of the Prince’s summer palace, about an hour’s ride out of town, a man and a girl are walking hand in hand. After a while, they sit down on a bench opposite a large bed of roses, and admire the flowers.

She points to a sign that says, “Picking of flowers prohibited — six whiplashes for each plucked rose!”

“Isn’t that a rather cruel punishment?” she asks.

“Oh, it’s not about cruelty, it is about beauty,” he says.

“Have you ever watched a whipping here?” she asks him.

“No, I have not,” he says. “It is supposed to be done on that old stone terrace with the two marble pillars, by the swan lake in front of the old castle, next to that little grove of chestnut trees, with the victim stripped bare and tied between the pillars. But, who would pluck one of the roses for this price?”

“Still, you would want to see it done, if you could?” she asks.

“They’d use a heavy whip,” he says. “With a beautiful girl, it would be a very memorable event.”

She looks around, and sees two guards standing by the fountain next to the stone lion. She starts to sing a happy melody — her voice, soft and clear, carries easily across the distance. The guards turn their heads and look at her. Still singing, she gets off the bench, walks the few steps across the path, and kneels down at the edge of the grass, lifting up the hem of her light summer dress to keep it from getting soiled. When she gets up again and lightly brushes the dirt off her knees with her left hand, she has finished her song. She looks at him, and she smiles. In her right hand, she holds three red roses.

(08/2007, edited 11/2012)

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