Roses

As they headed in from the loading area, past piles of mulch and tangles of yard decorations, Jenna looked at Gunny, and back at AJ. “Thank you for coming with us. I know you hate plants.”

Gunny snorted. “Doesn’t matter if he hates them or not. He’s the one who’s going to be doing the grunt work of digging the bed and putting them in. You get to do all the maintaining afterward, unless the chore requires enough muscle you need to call in backup. That’s what husbands are for.”

Jenna thought about that, and put a hand on Gunny’s arm. “I thought you liked roses? You grow such beautiful ones!”

“My late wife’s fault. I just put them where she told me, like he’s going to do for you.” Despite the disclaimer, there was a smile sparkling in his eyes that was working its way down to his mouth.

“I like plants fine. In their place. Properly controlled.” AJ replied. He was not a fan of mowing the lawn, but that came with the house, and damned if he’d let strangers go poking around and leaving gates unlocked for them, just because he didn’t want to deal with it. As they walked through the crowded shop, full of scents of earth and loam, pottery and greenery, he fought not to sneeze to clear his nose. And then they walked through the doors beyond. Warm, humid air wrapped him in its welcome, filled with the vibrant smell of lush growth and blooms. Light poured in from the translucent roof and wall panels, high overhead and braced with a minimum of framing, with dangling water lines run along the bracing… it felt like home, like the hydroponics sections of the larger space stations and mining habs, right down to the tables with all the greenery in their proper trays. “Oh. This is magnificent. Look at all the constant-g adaptations!”

An employee who’d come in on their heels giggled at him, and paused with her cart of things being returned. “Can I help you find anything?”

“Are you doing hydroponics sets on the tables? There aren’t nearly enough water lines…” AJ was still caught up in the overwhelming infrastructure, so very like what he knew, but so very different.

“No, no, they’re set in potting soil. Very controlled soil, lighting, and water mixtures, but not pure hydroponics. Are you looking for your ship’s greenbox? We cater to the general public who’s planting on planet, but our sister nursery specializes in spacefaring strains.”

“No, we’re here because my wife wants roses in her yard.” He looked up at the roof. “That’s cleverly passive. You don’t even have to run diurnal cycles, because the planet does it for you! How do you handle seasonality?”

“Carefully extended with heaters, but when it’s winter, we’re resting, too. Roses are this way! Do you want tea roses, rosebushes, or climbing roses?”

Jenna looked utterly confused. “Roses climb?”

AJ laughed. “Oh, do they ever! Given the faintest hint of the wrong genetics, and low gravity, and they will promptly try to take over the entire greenspace, and the tendrils, they get in everything…” He shook his head. “Given physical space and usefulness constraints, we never should have taken them to space in the first place. They’re finicky, prone to molds and blights, eaten by every bug out there, and will wilt at the drop of a degree. They’re volume hogs, picky with their chemical mix, and utterly inedible. They also all have thorns, to rip you open when you’re trying to maintain them!”

“Um…” Jenna was looking like she was questioning the wisdom of the whole madcap gardening adventure now.

As they came around the side, to another door, AJ’s nose told him what awaited beyond. His voice got soft. “And then they bloom, and you realize we no more could have left them behind and called ourselves human than if we hadn’t taken our shipcats and dogs.”

Before them was an entire greenhouse full of roses, in all their multicoloured, fragrant glory. And the look on his wife’s face… he knew why Gunny kept the yard full of roses alive. He’d learn, even in as messy an environment as in-atmo could be, to do the same.

(This is not in the next book. This is purely spawned by one of my alpha readers claiming that AJ hates plants. AJ, I protested, does not hate plants, when they’re in their proper place and controlled. Now I have two chapters, of which this is an excerpt, in which Jenna, AJ, and the resident expert on roses (well, Gunny has them, and they’re not dead) go shopping. He may have consulted with a certain widow hastily before the madcap adventure commenced. Something about digging in rosebushes recently because he lost a bet… but that’s a different story for another time.)

Photo by Seemann at Morguefile.com

25 comments

  1. Rose hips are edible and an excellent source of vitamin C.
    My grandfather was a gardener, and rather proud of his rose beds, plural. As I recall he had five, each about the size of a king bed arranged around the back yard. Every spring and summer people would stop by after church to look at Mr. Bauer’s flowers. And every spring my brother and I would venture out with grandpa to a family friend’s farm to gather two bushel baskets of cow manure to fork into the rose beds. Always hoped for a dry spell as transporting wet cow droppings was “a unique experience.”

    1. I have very few dislikes when roaming rural America. Certain “aromas” coming from fields and pens of critters I love to eat are among them. Sparseness of services covers most of the others.

  2. I love this little peek into the everyday life of AJ and Jenna. Pretty hilarious that it’s “her” yard, as if it’s not both of theirs. AJ might need his own little indoor hydroponic herb garden. 🙂 Can’t wait to read more!

    1. We bought this house together. And yet, despite having collaborated on everything in the search, the purchase, the remodeling…
      It’s my back yard. (Okay, granted, I’m the one who grows herbs out there, does most of the mowing, and sits out there every day of good weather, but still…)

      Everything else is ours, except for his office, my office… and the couch we bought because it matched the colour of Kili-cat’s shed fur. It was also long enough and comfortable enough for naps, and looked nice, but that’s the cat’s couch.

      1. Our backyard is THE backyard, but the garden boxes are mine. Possessive descriptions are interesting. And yes, it is certainly Empress Kili’s couch! She permits other beings to sit on her couch throne, but only if they will serve her with scritches. LOL

  3. Also rose petals are edible, and used to be “candied” or sugared, and used as cake decorations, can be put into teas, and be distilled to make various face “potions” or perfumes. There is a reason that roses were so valuable. Here is a modern person making various traditional rose petal products. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSX3ik9Z4X8

    If you haven’t watched her channel, she has LOTS of videos of traditional cooking and living, And they are just so addicting in their peacefulness.

    Love the little sound bite of story!

    1. Oh, yes. I personally am not a fan of teas with rose petals, though I know my favourite Russian photographer and my darling husband both enjoy blends that have them. Yes, I have cooked Moroccan dishes that called for orange blossom water and for rose water. And attar of roses is a thing of glory…

      But AJ, after almost 30 years in space, isn’t necessarily going to know that. Or to consider a delicate dusting of nasturtium petals as “food”, even when served on a hydroponics-grown salad.

    2. I can’t stand the taste of rose water, but we buy about a gallon a year to mix with conditioner and make detangling solution for our girls.

      (The boys’ is mint, in theory it helps with bugs….)

  4. Hi. I loved the first three books. I saw them on Peter’s blog and figured I would try one out and was hooked. Do you have a publication date for more? Thank you.

    1. Glad you liked them!

      I am currently beating my head against writing the next AJ & Jenna story – it’ll end up being a long novella, not quite a full novel. Which, given it was supposed to be a short story for an anthology that was published back in November, and I’m still writing it, means I have no idea when it’ll be done. At least 5 chapters from now.

      If I don’t set the computer on fire and run screaming into the night, swearing to write only Lovecraftian-themed horror from now on…

      What? You saw how my attempt at a fluffy girly shopping expedition at the mall with no greater worries than finding the perfect shoes to match a dress worked out! (And the shoes didn’t even match, in the end.)

      1. Lady, you write it, I’ll buy it and read it. I read the snippet above to my wife Michele and her smile warmed my heart and curled my toes.

      2. If your muse allows it, after two books mainly involving Fed-supposed terrorism, I’d love to read a book where the Empire goes on the offense, and kicks some Fed butt. But of course, more AJ & Jenna is wonderful 🙂

  5. Thank you for your reply. Banging your head on a wall could really hurt you, thus delaying the writing. Maybe a nerf bat instead? I look forward to it.

  6. I got hooked on this series reading the snippets you have posted previously on this site. All I can say is please keep them coming. So many tantalizing story lines, I just wish the stories poured in more frequently.

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