Thorn of the Rose-Issue 27: Stamen’s Names
Do you trust your family or your soul?
Stamen’s original name, which she had never told anyone, not even Pistil, was Brian. “Brainy Brian” Bob Cassidy, her father, called her when she was little and chose the books over the toy trains, the electric car set, the monster truck lego set, the guns and battleship games. Not that she liked the books so much, of course. She read them, dutifully at first and then with a bit more enthusiasm, finding that certain satisfaction in discovering an answer, working out a problem.
But books were much better than the other things her father wanted to bestow on her. Since she lived just with her father, he was always trying to call the house their “man cave” and find new things to showcase a realm where women would not enter: a stuffed bear head or a motorcycle circa 2020, complete with a Hells Angels inscribed helmet.
And even though she lived in a room that he had festooned with a pirates and fast cars motif on the wall, she still tried to make it as much hers as possible. She imparted fashion and makeup advice to the pirate every night before going to bed. “You can make that eye-patch just super sexy, honey, if you would only use some eyeliner on your other eye. “
More than anything else, Stamen also coveted her neighbor’s Barbies. Little Sandra was four years younger, and lived in the house next door to hers. Always a spectacular mess, Sandra’s room hid hundreds of Barbies, with every accessory they could wish for, from the little jeweled barrettes that held their hair to their perfect green and pink shoes, the ones you could turn up to the light and shine prisms against the wall through the gel-like plastic. There were tiny minidresses and little tutus, a poolside scene with cups and dishes glued to the fancy table, plastic made into wrought-iron lace. But these treasures lay hidden under discarded dresses and swaths of fabric Sandra’s mother meant to sew into ruffled curtains and never did, nestled amongst costume jewelry and girl scout uniforms.
Whenever Stamen could, she went up to Sandra’s house to “help out.” “Let’s play clean your room!” she would announce brightly to Sandra, who would scowl and put her teeth against her chin, looking up at Stamen with doubtful eyes. “We always do that,” Sandra said. “Let’s do something else. Let’s play Princesses and Dragons. I’m the Princess, and you’re the Dragon.” “Fine,” Stamen would pretend to growl. “I’m a Dragon who is going to eat you all up if you don’t clean your room!”
And they would run about shrieking, picking up handfuls of Barbie clothes, brushes, hair extensions, and makeup parlors and throwing them into the pink plastic Barbie PlayLand chest. Inevitably, a few Barbies or things that her Barbies really needed ended up in Stamen’s pockets or her lunchbox, which she always brought “for snacks after.” And Sandra’s mother thanked her, telling her what a sweet kind boy she was to give up baseball and basketball to help out a neighbor—and what a handful Sandra was, to boot.
Stamen would smile and plan out just where her newest acquisition would go in the elaborate closet she kept closed and locked from her father.