the short story project


CM Riddle

Bob’s Roses

Yesterday my husband planted new roses in the front yard. It was time- we moved into our house 18 years ago, and the old ones looked straggly.

My great-grandparents settled in Marin and I wanted to keep us there, but I would be able to stay home with our baby, Mia, and my two middle-schoolers if we moved to Sonoma.

“I found a house,” my husband said. “There’s plenty of room, and the yard is full of roses.”

Pulling up to the prospective house, the first thing I noticed was the yard. It was the end of May, so the roses were beginning to bloom. Red, yellow, pink, white, coral-  lovely rosebuds all welcoming me. We moved in June when the roses were in full bloom.

I met my new neighbor, Lucille, an ancient woman with short red hair. She was slender and tall, and she was a gently nosey-neighbor. She welcomed me and immediately suggested I call her gardener to tend the roses. Her garden was lovely. I suspected she didn’t want my yard to fill with weeds. I accepted his number.  

I used to belong to the Marin Rose Society, but I didn’t recall how to prune them. I was fascinated by all varieties of roses and was happy to have such beautiful specimens in my new yard.

“Those are Bob’s roses,” she said, indicating my rosebushes.

She watched my response and began her story:

“You see, my beloved late-husband Bob and I  bought our house in the mid-’70s when our daughter, Cheryl, was small. We raised her, and she graduated from high school. Then she got married, and left us to live in Southern California.”

I shook my head, and I only met Bob a few days ago.

She continued, “Bob planted all of these roses (again indicating my yard) so every time I came home, they would be the first to greet me. They greeted me every day, even after he died.”

I was just about to call her nuts when she went on with her story.

“ A few years after Bob passed away, I got re-married.”

“Ah,” I said.

“To Bob,” we said in unison.

She went on,  “My new Bob moved into this house with me. He could cope with just about everything; where my first Bob and I ate dinner together every night, where we sat at the small wet bar sharing stories with the neighbors, even to sleep in the same bedroom. But he couldn’t get over Bob’s roses greeting me every day.

My new Bob wanted to do something as meaningful as Bob had. He took all the roses from Bob – the first Bob – and gave them to the people you bought your home from, Pat and Judy. We got together regularly- sometimes for cocktails or dessert. We played games and got along just grand. The whole neighborhood did then.“ She wandered down memory lane, then brought herself to the present. “Bob’s roses were dug up and moved to your home. My new Bob replaced every rose in my yard, and he made sure each one smelled just as lovely as it looked.” Lucille said. “So now you know about Bob’s roses.”


I was the first person Lucille called after dialing 911. Her second Bob had died of sudden cardiac arrest. She asked me to call her daughter. Lucille kept screaming “He’s dead, he’s dead!” into the phone as I tried to explain the happenings to Cheryl. Paramedics placed Bob on a stretcher and carefully took him out the front door, past all the roses.

The funeral took place, and before I knew it, Lucille was moving to Southern California to live with Cheryl. For nearly two decades, in both the neighboring yards, the roses continue to bloom.

My daughter, Mia, graduated from high school, and my husband planted some new roses for me. They greet me when I come home.

Removing the old and failing roses from my yard this summer was tough.  I can’t stand waste, and  I felt a piece of Bob slip further away. I never met the first Bob, but oh, I know he loved Lucille – and the love she had for him. Anston Jones, Sweet Peggee, American Beauty and Joseph’s Coat succumbed to newly tended roses; Just Joey, Cherry Parfait, Peace, and Singing the Blues – but really, I still call them Bob’s Roses.             


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