Thorn of the Rose: Issue 26: Pistil’s Names
Do you trust your birth or your soul?
Pistil’s birth name—which he told no one, not even Stamen—was Elizabeth. “Bitsy Betsy” his two older brothers called him from the time he could walk. “A wee little bitsy doll that really truly wees” they would sing-song in imitation of the commercial for a doll that could do nothing but drink colored water from a bottle and empty that same water. As he was five years younger than his brothers, it made sense that his mother would buy all new clothes, all new toys.
His mother had always wanted a girl, a little thing she could wrap in those frilly lace confections with about 50 petticoats, making his hips the width of his outstretched arms. He suffered through the pink ones with the little embroidered strawberries. The yellow ones with the ducks and daffodils. The blue ones imprinted with rainbows and unicorns.
He kept the fuschia ruffled curtains around his bed untouched. For under his bed was his kingdom. He carefully saved the toys Manny and Johnny cavalierly threw out: the football which held air only for a few hours and had to be pumped up each time he used it, the toy soldiers marching in neat uniformed rows, the plastic spiders and almost realistic looking green and khaki colored camouflage snakes, the dark spider webs of doom. These he kept in neat boxes under the bed, moved around carefully so that he could squeeze under the fuschia bed ruffles and play there.
There was even a tiny worn space below one of the floorboards, which he kept his most prized possession: last week a real live beebee gun pellet, this week a marble, next week who knew. Often, though he simply lay under the bed, pretending that the fuschia was the color of blood. He would trail after his brothers all the time, always begging to be let into their games, always thrilled to be the one left alone in the woods to catch the snipe after they promised to chase the snipe toward him, the one left abandoned on the playground to hold down their spot while Manny promised to get ice creams and Johnny promised to get bikes—even one for him.
These promises, of course, were never kept—but Pistil kept on hoping that the next time it would be real. They would all play together. Be on the same team. Fight the same fights. When he was nine, he borrowed Manny’s jeans and tank top, with the Great Transformers printed on it. He also took Johnny’s real live beebee gun and swaggered off to school with it, aiming at everyone he didn’t like, chasing them down. The principal caught him by the ear and called his mother.
Handmedowns were strictly forbidden after that.