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tearing the rag off the bush again

The woman s husband is having an affair with a mysterious woman named Rose, and the amazing thing is, now that s he s having this affair with Rose, her name appears everywhere: Rose owns the street. Overnight Rose has bought the woman out.

The woman drives downtown, drops her clothes off at Rose s Cleaner s, stops after to pick up a pot of Chrysanthemums.  Sclafani s Florist is now Fleur de la Rose. They don't have Chrysanthemums, in fact they have nothing but American Beauties. The woman goes into Rosie s Coffee Shop for a bottomless cup. It s good coffee, but they won t give her a refill.

Straight through, she goes to the ladies room where the floor is wet but smells of roses. A four pack of tissue stands on the back of the toilet imprinted with a garland of sweethearts, she can t resist and presses her face to the plastic and smells.

Even the soap attached to the bowl of the toilet is scented. The woman urinates in the toilet, but her own hot spoor does not rise to comfort her, the perfume she smells is attar of roses, and when she flushes the toilet petals swirl around the bowl like flowers thrown in the ocean to honor the dead.

There was a time when the woman was a child who had a white rabbit with pink eyes. She thought the eyes were beautiful and decided to name the rabbit Rose.  Her mother said,  Why is it they re all named Rose?    

There is a display case in the hall of the woman s house filled with bones passionately labeled: Horse Skull, Pig Snout, Orange Beaver Tooth, Wallaby Jaw, Seal Pate, and Cow Femur. It s his collection which he has not removed. The woman and her husband have recently lost a few good friends. One couple, dog lovers, were not happy when the husband sized up the head of their ancient family pet, and  asked   May I have the skull when she dies?

The woman s husband says he is moving out but doesn t leave. He lingers, talks of going, and reminisces. They cry in each other s arms. He says,  I am living your death.

He also says he is no longer sleeping with Rose, but the woman knows Rose has moved into the bedroom.  The woman thinks of sleeping with Rose  She saunters through the bedroom wearing a dressing gown in a mossy shade of old rose, touching her own throat with the tip of a glass perfume stopper, casting dark glances in the mirror.

The woman tells her husband to go away so that Rose will get out of the house. He leaves and takes half of the household furnishings and says,  Throw away the bones.

No one has yet seen Rose.

The woman says,  Why don t you tell Rose about the bones.

The woman walks miles on the beach to keep her head clear, but Rose is underfoot, upside down and solid, her name scratched into the wet sand.

She finds Rose on the street more often than she finds God.

The woman says,  Rose is a secret weapon, to disarm the mechanism everybody needs to know her name.  The woman lets out the news: How her husband went off with a woman named Rose. The woman s friends are stunned. They say,  But yours was the perfect marriage. How could it happen? They cry when she tells them, and she has to comfort them.

She says,  I m sick of mothering. I want to comfort myself.  

She goes to see her other mothers.

They are older than God.

They re sitting in front of their sewing machines sewing shirts. The woman moves a pile of gray shirts off the chair, sits down, and gives them the run down on Rose.

The one with thin rusty hair says,  Rose broke your nose. Nothing big enough to cry over.

The pale, rachety one says,  What will it all matter a hundred years from today?

The one who is always smoking, coughs and says,  Take a trip. Don t take a lover.  

One of her friends comes rushing in and says,  I saw them whizzing by on bicycles. Rose has dark hair, is short waisted, and not young. He looks terrible - thin.

Thin is good,  says the woman.

The not so good reports continue:  Overblown, sort-of-dark haired, kind-of-tall, and short stemmed.

Short stemmed is the only thing anyone agrees on, and they laugh when they say it.

The woman doesn t want to hear them laugh. Not at him.

The daughter says,  What you need is plan.

The woman says,  I don t want another man. Rose is not demanding. She is my own body younger.

The woman knows women. She has laved and powdered her baby girl; washed the delicate vaginal folds of her husband s mother; put on a rubber glove and plunged her whole hand into the sick anus of her mother to pull out excrement and blood. The woman will always smell that smell. It s not the smell of roses.

The woman has a yard sale, a garage sale, and a front porch sale. The woman sells anything not bolted down or over three generations old. Gets her grandmother s engagement ring appraised, and also the ring her husband s mother gave her for taking care of her last illness.

The jeweler says,  These diamonds are the mine cut, sometimes called the rose cut. I can t give you much for old fashioned stones.

Right in the middle of the sale the husband comes in with tears in his eyes. He says,  You re cutting all ties.

I can t cut it here,  she says.

The woman rents out the house. There are lots of empty rooms. She rents a room to a gospel singer who sings about the devil. She rents to a young artist who gets paint on the oriental carpet. She rents to a black store manager who won t pour a glass of ice tea for another person.

Thank, God,  she says, no one named Rose applied.

I feel homeless,  her youngest says.

She says, Sooner or later everyone leaves home.  

The woman takes a plane. Someone she thinks she knows is getting on first.

The woman finds her seat on the aisle. Takes out her day book and starts writing.

Write about me,  says Rose.  Write about my breasts. Are you writing about my breasts?

The woman is writing about her own breasts, passing them off as Rose s breasts.

The woman writes,  They are large and white with lightning rod nipples connected by live wires directly to her womb.  The words short out and jump off the page to project on the white movie screen. Huge shadows leap and stagger around the plane. It s hard to tell what the picture is: The Alps; the Himalayas -- mountains on the moon. The audience is attentive, trying to get it. The woman taps on the glass housing and moves the lens to direct the beam. In color now, her breasts bubble at the nipples, lava - magma at the core. The woman s breasts take over. Take a hostage.

Those are not my breasts. That is not my magma,  screams Rose

The woman talks it over with her mother whose legs are popsicles frozen to the bed , a  trapeze swings over her head. These are limited conversations.

Her mother says,  He used to pass my house five to ten times a day trying to see me. I could have had a nice affair.  This is not a new conversation. The woman s mother is long dead, but sometimes makes up new lines for herself.

It would be nice to have a playmate -- maybe I ve forgotten how to play,  the woman says.

Her mother sticks to her script.  He was a good looking man. Lots of dark hair.

The woman is grateful her mother has not mentioned Rose. She knows she will always be first with her mother.

The woman is lying on a bed in a hospital. The aide comes in with a straight razor and pushes the curtain shut. The woman shivers.  The aide puts the razor down, throws up the woman s hospital gown, and begins to lather up her pubic hair.  She shaves off the curls with the blade held flat against the pubic bone.

The aide gets chummy as she shaves the folds,  How many babies you got at home?

Two,  the woman answers.

How come you re having another one?

I thought he would stay home.

It s a shame they sliced you up, you ve got a pretty face. .

The woman lies very still, doesn't  talk. The aide talks.

A girl comes in yesterday. Her privates was like a rose - just like a rosebud.

The woman decides there s only one thing to do.  She gets a loaf of white bread from the flight attendant and makes sandwiches, slathers the spread on thick and gives the first one to Rose. The woman keeps making sandwiches, passes them out to the flight attendant, who passes them out to everyone on the plane.

The woman, knife in hand, says,  My mother used to tell me:  Be a woman.  

I told him  You are my hand. You are my arm. You are my roe deer. My other face. You are my cunt. You are my prick. The other side of me. But, if thy right hand doth offend thee, cut if off.

I sure hope you still like me,  says Rose.

Don t worry, you re a nice girl, Rose. I may not have to cut anything off you, but if I were you I d change my name. You see it everywhere.

I d like to be you,  says Rose let s change my name to yours

If you play your cards right, Rose, you might be able to change your name, but whatever you do you can t be me.

The End
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