Joe Van Gogh
Rosetta was born in June, but she died in the middle of November, a month she had never been particularly fond of.
The day before her funeral, a freak blizzard hit town and it took friends and family eight hours to pay their respects, slipping and sliding on the icy roads and sidewalks.
Her nephew Stan, in his sixties now, had stopped at a cigarette outlet six miles outside of town to buy a case of American Spirits and was never able to leave. He spent Rosetta's funeral smoking inside the tobacco shop and waiting for a tow truck that never came. It took hours for the tail lights of his car to finally fade, their light reflecting pink off the snow drift the car had landed in.
For those who did come, the experience wasn’t much better. It was a funeral, of course, so no one was expecting a party. But no one had expected Rosetta to die either, even if she had been eighty-something. Women like Rosetta – beautiful, sly, birdlike women with laughter like porcelain bells ringing – well, you just didn’t look at them and think about death. You thought about sugared rhubarb (Rosetta's favorite snack) and tart lemonade. You thought about silk nighties that shone like the moon under even the dimmest light.
Across from the funeral parlor was a coffee shop where Rosetta's granddaughter was pleased to find a better-than-decent cup of coffee, not to mention an assortment of plastic action figures on the counter, which occupied Rosetta's great-granddaughter for a good twenty minutes before they had to head back across the street in the snowstorm to the funeral. One of the action figures was an astronaut, all white, silvery bubble obscuring his action figure face. “He been to the moon, mama,” Rosetta's great-granddaughter said and Rosetta's granddaughter nodded, sipping her coffee. “Yes baby. He’s been to the moon.”
In the coffeeshop, everyone sat behind the silver screens of their laptops, each one as shiny as the window of a spaceship.The next time someone lands on the moon, thought Rosetta's granddaughter, they'll stream it straight into our brains.
At the time of the first moon landing, Rosetta had been forty-seven. She'd been even more beautiful then than she was at thirty, her hair still dark and worn in finger waves, her hands slim and purposeful. She'd watched the landing on the television with her husband and the ad executives he worked with, all of them clinking glasses to the future, the men marveling at how far they'd all come since the Model-T. But Rosetta was thinking about how free it looked up there on the moon, so clean and airy, a place where even your own story couldn't weigh you down.
Back inside the funeral parlor, Rosetta's husband watched photos reel across the television screen - a still-life movie of he and Rosetta's life together, on a loop he’d watched maybe 100 times in the past several hours. There was Rosetta on the front steps of her childhood home, bows on her patent leather shoes, Rosetta in a wedding dress on a mountaintop in Oregon. Rosetta with her grown-up children, Rosetta with windblown hair on a ferry to Sugar Island, Rosetta waving from the window of a train.