When Rose drank whiskey and the ice clink-clinked in her glass, it lifted the stone inside her belly, let it float away from her tender edges. She felt respectable for a while.
Ms. Baker, the squirrel monkey, also understood the urge to get out of inescapable places when NASA stuffed her into a leather bomber jacket, tucked her into a tiny capsule and shot her into orbit. Ms. Baker floated above Earth for nine minutes and reflected on all she’d lost between the Peruvian jungles and her training at Cape Canaveral.
Rose sent a letter to the monkey upon her return to Earth and her appearance on the cover of Life.
“You are a national treasure and you deserve a ticker-tape parade down Fifth Avenue!”
Rose never married, but she had a baby in her for a few weeks, and that was the stone that rolled around no one could see. She’d hoped the baby would be a girl, but would never know if it was.
Rose’s daddy got thrown out of the house more than once for being a sour, jagged drunk. He nearly killed a man named Norman who flirted with Rose’s mother at the grocery store.
“You can’t blame everything on the war!” her mother shrieked.
The father of Rose’s baby backed away from her at the news of their loss, his arms spread wide in confusion, as if he’d lost any grasp of what he might have possessed.
Men were nothing but disappointments.
Rose couldn’t blame the monkey bride when she tore the trail off of her lacey gown at her wedding to her second husband — also named Norman. Big George had only just died and Ms. Baker had been rushed into another marriage so quickly! Neither husband could ever soothe her nightmares about the astronaut, Able, who journeyed to the stars, then died on re-entry. Ms. Baker understood sacrifice.
Rose’s brother worked at a zoo. He let her visit the primates. Sometimes, he let her hold one. Rose felt so proud: how gentle she could be! She was calmed by how soft they felt in her hands. She sang to them about Ms. Baker. Rose’s brother shushed her when class trips came through, but Rose refused to be quiet; schoolchildren needed to hear about astronauts’ adventurers. And she wanted the zoo’s monkeys to understand all that was possible, all that they could one day become.
Katherine Gehan’s work has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize, Wigleaf’s Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions, and Sundress Publication’s Best of the Net Anthology. Find her writing at www.kategehan.wordpress.com.