Story: The guilt of the roses

We had been staying at our grandparents’ house in London while our parents were abroad in Russia, and one afternoon my brother and I were overcome with the desire for the chocolate sold in a nearby shop. I don’t know why we didn’t ask my grandmother for the money: we must have thought she’d refuse, or maybe we were thrilled by the idea of laying hold of the chocolate surreptitiously. In the garden in front of their semidetached house, my grandfather grew roses that remain, for me, the archetype of a rose; I can’t think or say the word without summoning those delicate, fragrant English flowers. We found my grandmother’s heavy metal shears in the kitchen, and squeezed the stems between the blades, high up under the flowers’ sepals, until the large heads rolled. Coolly, we wrapped the stumps in aluminum foil, and decided that a lie would be necessary to convince people to buy them. We stood out on the street, and began to sing: “Roses for sale, roses for sale, roses for children’s charity!” A woman stopped. I remember her as lovely, with tidy, dark hair beneath her woolen hat. She set down the bags she was carrying. “Are you sure it’s for charity?” she asked us. Later it was her question that undid us. She had given us the chance to reconsider and come clean, but instead of taking it, we dug ourselves more deeply in. We nodded: quite sure, yes. She took out her wallet and unburdened us of our handfuls of roses—six or eight of them. My brother took the coins, and we began to walk quickly in silence. But as we made our way toward the shop, a crushing black guilt descended on us. We had done something we couldn’t undo: beheaded our grandfather’s roses, sold them off, lied to a stranger, all to serve our appetite. The sense of the permanence of our wrongdoing, our inability to ever correct it, was immensely heavy. I don’t remember whether I turned to my brother and finally spoke, or whether it was he who turned to me, but I remember the words clearly: Are you feeling what I’m feeling? There was nothing more to be said. We bent down in the earth alongside the sidewalk, dug a hole, and buried the coins. That we would never breathe a word of what we had done to anyone was implicit. One day, I told my children the story. They were crazy for it, and wanted to hear it again and again. For days, they continued to bring it up. But why did you bury the money? my younger son kept asking. To be rid of it, I told him. But it’s still there, he said, shaking his head. To this day, if you go to that spot and dig, the coins will still be there. Nicole Krauss, Dark House 

http://www.lovebookvampire.com/newest-books/Forest-Dark-by-Nicole-Krauss/page_58.html

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