portion of the artwork for Michael Cooper's fiction
Pink Lady
Michael Cooper

Once upon a time, just before my father left, he gave me a human anatomy model no bigger than a Barbie. Boys on my block got jealous. One of my closest girlfriends even tried to stow it in her underpants and walk right out of my house. Too bad for her, the doll slipped out. It fell to the floor and its pieces scattered, the detachable spine that felt so good tucked under my lower lip, plastic nodes biting whenever I smiled or frowned. Tongue-colored pieces rolled along the hardwood floor, organs weighty as marbles, so small I never risked putting them in my mouth for fear of swallowing them. I called her Rosy. Never again did I speak to the little bitch who tried stealing her.

I’d bring Rosy on board my father’s charter boat (Lady Pink) with the bloody stainless-steel floor and the pink hull, where the men on board drank, reeled in grouper and sail fish, drank, and sang pop songs from their boyhoods as the sun sank. Every time I called the ship Pink Lady my father would sigh, the weight of the world on his chest, and then correct me, the girl he’d never raise, though he had no trouble keeping watch over Andy, my little brother. One terribly windy day, she fell overboard, Rosy. For the span of a deep breath, she seemed to hang suspended in the blue water, a constellation of organs surrounding her, but then she sank rapidly, as though an angry mermaid lay somewhere deep with a line of her own, getting revenge for all the drunken men who’d stolen her nephews and nieces. I almost dropped over the railing to follow Rosy in.

I didn’t. But I did. And for all of these years, I’ve pictured Rosy old and full-grown, like me, still dropping as though she’d fallen into a bottomless ocean, a woman in a checkered blue dress topped with plush anatomy parts, her arms straight at her sides to hold down her billowing gown, the sun wobbling through the choppy surface above her, Velcro patches stitched to the frilled polyester at her breast and on the smooth fabric at her abdomen. All those sopping organs attached. All so soft you could keep them as squishy pets.

One day, I know, Rosy will very nearly reach the sea’s floor. I don’t fool myself about this. But just before her fall ends, she’ll swim off, the mermen and mermaids turning their heads, her body as lithe as an eel’s. She’ll maneuver so fast that the fabric organs will come loose, drop, until only her unraveled intestines and her murky silhouette are visible in the distance, giving the impression of the toy Ruby once was, her fabric bowels like a line keeping her tethered to the sands, until they drop, too, and her body lifts, a helium-filled woman clipped from a string.

Eventually, my father retired and sold his boat to a man who painted it a different color and named it something else. Now that he’s old and weary and ready to join my mother and Andy, my father calls her Pink Lady, too.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 36 | Spring 2012