Visual Art 11-17-2008

miniStories: “Rosebush” by Tiffany Bolk

"Rosebush" by Tiffany Bolk, selected by novelist Michael Kimball, quietly explores that moment on the cusp of adolescence when the longings of a child's heart vie with dawning adult truths.



It’s summer, early 1980s, and I’m lying on a dark brown leather couch in the cool basement of my aunt and uncle’s home. My cousin Bryer is kneeling on the floor next to me.

          “I can plant a rose garden on your arm, she says.

          “A rose garden? I say.

          “Yeah, a bunch of rose bushes, she says and pulls my skinny arm towards her.

         She slowly pinches small chunks of the skin along the under part of my forearm and twists each bit into a “rosebush. I wince at each new pinch, and I think this game is strange, but she is older and I figure she knows what she is doing. She does this several more times along the length of my pale arm until I have large red blotches, or “rose bushes, covering my arm. I feel myself begin to doze off as Bryer pretends to split my arm open with a spoon and fill it with sand, another strange game she knows. This causes my arm to feel heavy. She proceeds to sew my arm back up with more pinching for the full effect.

         When I open my eyes again, she’s gone. My arm still feels heavy, but she hasn’t left any scars. I look around the room slowly, cautiously. I am in a strange home, not my own territory, and I feel somewhat frightened. There are large, sliding screen doors across the room from me, and I can see out onto the lawn that is shaded by a small forest of trees. The sunlight filters in through the leaves and dances across the tiny holes in the screen. I can hear the growl of a lawnmower as it comes to life, and the chirps and squawks of birds. When I listen closer, I hear the crickets keeping time and, even further off somewhere, someone is listening to opera music. I bring my awareness back to the room I’m in, and I remember my parents had left me and my brother at our aunt and uncles for a while because they had some business to take care of.

          “It’s not your fault, the older girls that babysit for us told me.

         It made me think about the movies that we watched in school, about kids whose parents got a divorce. They, too, emphasized the fact that it wasn’t the child’s fault. I thought it was strange for the girls to tell me that, because I hadn’t really thought it was my fault. But when they mentioned that, it made me wonder if I could have had something to do with it.

         My aunt calls to me from upstairs. Supper is ready. I stand up and make my way up the stairs, dragging my arm full of sand behind me.

About the author: Tiffany Bolk has a MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art and a BFA from MCAD, both of which are in photography. She has always liked to write and often conceives photo ideas through stories, but photography has always been her main thing. Right now, she does wedding photography and teaches art to kids.