Rotten Rose

Percy Flage was her stage name. Not that she ever stepped foot on an actual stage during her brief career as a therapy clown. Strictly speaking, stages, spotlights, curtains, and everything else used in theatrical productions weren’t part of her performances. Concrete floors, fluorescent lights, beeping medical machines, and extras in the form of nurses and doctors milling about were all that she had to work with, aside from a small assortment of props. Brittany Victoria Adelaide was her given name and her breech birth widowed her father. She entered the world through a cesarean section. Something went wrong and the bleeding wouldn’t stop. This tragedy made for an early introduction to death and its long, pitiless trail of six-foot holes.

Her father struggled with alcoholism yet he managed to get sober during the last trimester of the pregnancy; a battle won in a war destined to be lost. Having to bury his wife three days after holding his newborn child in his arms nudged him permanently off the wagon. He stuck around for as long as possible, singlehandedly raising his child to the threshold of adulthood. But a few weeks after she turned seventeen (the age her mother died at), he locked himself in his bedroom and put an end to his depression. The last words spoken to his daughter before she headed off to school that morning, were odd but not ominous: A friend’s picking me up and we’re heading out to his deer blind for the week… The bills are paid and the fridge is full, he said, kissing her on the forehead. She would’ve had to have been psychic to foresee his carefully planned accident.

Year after year, people shot themselves while cleaning their guns. These fatal mishaps were common enough to raise him above suspicion, or so he figured. Unfortunately, his friend cancelled the hunting trip at the last second, forcing him, out of desperation, to adopt plan B, which was the same as plan A, save for one messy detail. Halfway through scrubbing the bore of his barrel, he withdrew the cleaning rod, lowered his chin, took a breath, and pulled the trigger while sitting on the end of his bed. Unaware of the changed plans, she returned from school and made supper for herself, did her homework, watched a movie, and fell asleep on the couch, oblivious to the hideous work of art decorating her father’s room. A few days later a dark stain formed on the kitchen ceiling, and she wondered if it was mold. On the seventh day, a gelatinous droplet the colour of a rotten rose landed on the kitchen table. There’d also been a bad smell reminiscent of mothballs and decaying cabbage emanating from an unknown corner of the house and this, in combination with the droplet, brought on a sickening feeling. The door to her father’s room was usually locked and this day was no different, but when she pressed her ear against it, she could hear a faint buzzing sound. Maybe he’d been in a hurry to leave and forgot to turn his electric razor off, she thought, until a fly crawled out from under the door and took flight, struggling under its weight to stay airborne. A feast had clearly been had by this bug and when it landed on her arm to assess the freshness of her flesh, she shuddered violently; realizing in that moment the awful truth of the matter: There’d been no hunting trip. Slowly, she backed away from the door as her gaze, like a bird flying through fire, faltered, and dropped, landing on the screen of her phone. The 911 operator answered and tried to get a word edgewise as the caller rambled on incoherently for several minutes. Miss, you’re going to have to calm yourself down so I can understand what it is you’re trying to say, came the rote voice at the other end of the line. I—I guess I always knew he’d kill himself… Please send someone to clean up the mess, she said, finally, through hitched sobs.


7 thoughts on “Rotten Rose

  1. Hi A.,

    You are marching on. Good images. Hitched sobs. Yes. “Someday all of this will be over.” That is a line I heard somewhere, sometime, but like “fire thrusters” it has remained in my brain. I remember reading a bit of Loren Eiseley and he was walking around his neighborhood and wrote where death was sure to come. It had to do with blind corners, leaves growing down over a stop sign, a pond near a school. He described what was to come, the people crying, the wreck, the EMS, etc. And when I go outside, I know I’m walking on bones deep in the ground. Ancient scenes of bad stuff. Europe is the same way. People don’t like to move into houses where murder has occured. A while back, there was a house near me where eight young people had been killed one night by an out-of-towner looking for gays and liberals. After a few years sitting empty, the owner finally sold it and somebody tore it down and built an out of place modern thing that looked like a tombstone to me. All of these things, yeah, all of these things … and someday, they will end. Someday it will all be over. Good luck on your writing. Love. Duke

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was just reading about Hemingway’s wife who claimed he was just cleaning his gun. My step mother claimed the same about her first husband and I’m sure her 911 call somehow included the words “just clean it up” – nicely done.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Reno and Vegas have the highest # of suicides in probably the world – I’ve known so many that I am almost numb to the idea of it being good or bad. My friend – a hs teacher in the valley – lost so many students she came to the conclusion it was a disease caused by fungus – all the tulle fog and pesticides used on the crops.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I once wrote that depression kills more than cancer. I still believe that. The depression leads to suicide, yes, but also to a decline in health. Depression causes stress and when you look at cells under a microscope, they go haywire due to stress. I knew a doctor once who said that all disease is caused by stress. I think she was right. Of course, the stress can be external or internal, physical or emotional, genetic or environmental. Our felt trauma is the cause of stress and when it comes, it takes advantage of the opening. We are all walking science experiments waiting for a final evaluation on some table beneath good lighting. Today, in the early morning hours, I discovered that Canada had a fairly flexible euthanasia law. Congratulations Canada. I learn something new everyday, life-long learner that I am. Love, and good luck in your ever growing way of looking at the world. Self exploration should be considered a duty, but alas, it is not, and so we plod along making all manner of monumental mistakes, speaking and writing and watching and learning pure drivel. Duke

        Liked by 1 person

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