Jesse fidgeted from one foot to the other and chewed hard on his bottom lip. He couldn’t believe that he had really rung Mrs. Finster’s doorbell. Maybe she wouldn’t answer. Some of the kids at school said that she was a witch, but Mom said that that was silly and to not talk mean about people.
Jesse glanced back at the huge rosebush next to the sidewalk. He and his best friend, Billy, walked by that bush every afternoon on their way home from first grade. It was loaded with large pink flowers. He could barely see the top of Billy’s head ducked behind that bush. He could have just used his pocket knife to cut off a rose—Mrs. Finster would have never known. Maybe he could still do it. …
The door opened suddenly, and Jesse jumped. A gray-haired woman, her face creased with wrinkle upon wrinkle, stood silently in front of him.
“I’m Jesse Brown. I wanted a rose for my mama, and you have a bunch, and pink’s her favorite, and it would make her really happy, but it’s OK if you say no. Sorry to bother you.” Jesse turned to run. Billy was already halfway down the block.
“Wait just a minute, young man. You want one of my roses for your mother, is that it?”
Jesse turned slowly back to face her, “Yes, ma’am, if you don’t mind.” He hoped that he could remember his manners—this was no time to mess up.
“Haven’t you heard that I eat little boys who bother me?”
Jesse would have run, but his legs wouldn’t move. “Yes, ma’am, but I don’t believe it. It’s against the law, you know.”
Mrs. Finster’s smile lit up her whole face. It twinkled from her eyes and melted away most of her wrinkles. “I’ll get my clippers, and we’ll get the biggest, prettiest pink rose your mother has ever seen.”
As they walked down the driveway, Mrs. Finster said, “Your mother must be very proud of you. Other boys might have just taken a rose. But you see, if a rose isn’t clipped just right, it damages both the bush and the flower. I’m glad that you asked first.”
“Me too.” Jesse felt pretty good inside. Mama would be pleased with him—and she was going to love the rose!
They searched the bush together for the biggest, brightest rose. When they found it, Jesse thought that it smelled almost as good as fresh-baked cookies. Mrs. Finster clipped it so that it had a nice long stem and handed it to Jesse. “Be careful of the thorns,” she warned with a smile.
Jesse held his prize gently in his hands. “Thank you very much,” he said. He turned and started for home.
“Stop by anytime,” Mrs. Finster called after him. “I have plenty of roses.”
“I will,” Jesse promised as he waved back to Mrs. Finster. “I’ll stop by soon.”