Recycling of Rosalie
A Novel By
Hollywood, California, March 1975
never going to get up on that roof and fix the antenna. He’s acrophobic!
Hell, I’m a little acrophobic myself, but there he is out selling vacuum
cleaners to all the pretty little housewives and here I am stuck in a
house with a TV that can’t get two or four so that I have to miss my
favorite soap opera and all the really decent programs and walk around the
stupid house talking to myself. I mean—you can only scrub the floor so
often. You can only dust so many times. And you can’t sit around and eat
all the time when your rear-end’s already bigger than it should be. So
who’s going to end up climbing up onto that goddamn roof? Rosalie, that’s
who! Who else is stupid enough or cares whether I watch two or four?
“David doesn’t care—even if
they are the best networks with some of the best shows. David hates
television. He calls it a conspiracy against intelligence and creative
thinking. Well, if David Rosenberg is so goddamn intelligent and
creative; then what the hell is he doing out there selling vacuum
cleaners? I mean—why isn’t he president of the whole goddamn world?”
Rosalie was talking to
herself, pacing back and forth, something she did often. After all, it
was supposed to be better to express herself than keep it all inside and
make herself sick because she was repressed. But then, Rosalie was also a
little repressed. She hadn’t asked David to fix the antenna for at least a
week. Granted, she’d asked him to do it several times over the past
several weeks, but David almost never watched television. He couldn’t care
less about two or four. Maybe it was because he sold vacuum cleaners days,
was taking creative writing classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and
trying to write a book the rest of the time.
Rosalie took a deep
breath and sighed. Then she walked out into the front yard. Sighing helped
her to relieve tension as she turned to glare at the roof.
A large black crow was
perched on the antenna.
“Get off of there, bird!” she
called out in dismay.
Rosalie shook her short,
curly hair. In a fit of depression, she had cut off her long, dark hair
only last Wednesday afternoon. David had yet to notice. He could be
unobservant at times. Maybe he needed glasses.
Rosalie narrowed her large,
brown eyes and headed for the open garage. There was a tall wooden ladder
resting against the wall. “What the hell do I know about antennas?” she
muttered dragging the ladder to the middle of the driveway where she
could better see the roof.
After four months things were
beginning to shape up. The house still needed paint on the outside, but
Rosalie had already painted three rooms. Only that morning she had added
orange and yellow poppies to the corners of her freshly-painted kitchen
cupboards. She planned to add the green leaves and stems that afternoon.
The landlord wouldn’t agree to repaint the neglected house. He seemed to
think of himself as generous by providing the paint for them to fix the
inside. It was a small house, nothing to rave about, but it was beginning
to feel like home. David hated apartments. Rosalie liked to grow things,
especially flowers. It was hard to grow flowers in an apartment except in
boxes and pots. She turned to study the yard, thinking about the flowers
she would plant that month. Spring was on the way. It was early March.
Still frustrated about
missing her favorite soap opera yet one more time, Rosalie decided it
might be easier to get up on the roof from the back of the house. She
carried the ladder with her.
The back yard didn't look too
bad. To her way of thinking, it just needed lots of flowers and more green
plants. There were no trees, so lots of sun. Rosalie was planning a rose
garden. She loved roses. All colors. All sizes. Daisies bushes, too. She
wanted pansies and geraniums, lots of colors all around the yard. But for
the moment, she stopped mentally landscaping and stared up at the roof.
The large crow was still
sunning itself on the dilapidated antenna.
“Get off of there, bird! For
all I know, it's your fault I can't get two and four!”
With that, the crow flew
away, apparently intimidated.
With effort, Rosalie placed
the ladder near what she hoped would become their patio. Then she stared
up at the roof, telling herself it wasn’t really that high. It was hardly
like climbing a mountain or even the Statue of Liberty, and yet, she had
this strange feeling in the pit of her stomach that crept up into her
chest¾a heavy, gnawing sensation that wouldn’t go away. But she wanted to
see two and four, so up the ladder she climbed.
The antenna was on the top of
the roof, so she had to climb all the way up to reach it. All the pieces
of metal linked together with screws, nuts and bolts looked sort of
strange and puzzling. It reminded her of a futuristic scarecrow. Totally
put off by the whole situation, she sat and glanced around the
neighborhood. Rosalie had never seen it from the roof before, and it
looked different. The mail truck was two blocks away. Probably just more
bills and advertising, she thought, although maybe Honey had sent her a
postcard from Miami.
Honey was visiting her
retired uncle in Florida. She hoped to meet a tall, dark stranger who
would sweep her off her feet and beg her to marry him. She said that was
what she saw in her tea leaves. Among other things, Honey MacIntosh read
tea leaves. Strange as it seemed to Rosalie, Honey had managed to predict
a few things that actually happened, like David changing jobs. But then,
no one had been buying encyclopedias. Vacuum cleaners were more in demand.
People could go to a library to read an encyclopedia. Everybody needed a
Sometimes Rosalie thought
Honey was a little bit nutty, but sweet. Really sweet. The name seemed
to suit her. Honey MacIntosh was her best friend. They had known each
other for five years, since right after Rosalie moved from Brooklyn to Los
Rosalie noticed two dogs at a
standoff down at the corner. One dog lived down the street. The other was
a stray. Someday Rosalie hoped to have a dog of her own. But David didn’t
want her to get a dog yet. He thought she should go back to work to help
out with expenses, so they could save more money. Then a dog would have to
be left alone, and that wasn’t a good idea.
Grocery checker! What an
exciting job, standing on her feet all day checking groceries, with
everyone complaining about inflation and about how people wouldn’t be able
to afford to eat anymore with the way things were going. Why didn’t people
grow their own food and stop buying groceries? That way they could stop
complaining. Why did people gripe and never do anything about changing the
things that bothered them?
Rosalie had never realized
that climbing up on a roof would make her think about so many different
things¾like the Goldsmiths' swimming pool south of the boulevard in
Encino. Only one of her North Hollywood neighbors had a pool, and it was
cracked. It leaked. Someday Rosalie wanted a swimming pool, and maybe a
Jacuzzi. Why not? She could wish, couldn’t she? It didn’t cost her
anything to wish.
Why didn’t people in that
neighborhood take better care of their yards? They rarely even mowed the
grass. God forbid they should plant flowers. What a shame, she thought.
The world definitely looked different from up there. Roofs were obviously
a good place to think, even if it could be depressing. Then she remembered
her soap opera would be on in an hour, so she turned to stare at the
“It’s too bad you can’t talk.
Then you could tell me which way to turn you to bring in two and four.”
As she stood to study the
metal maze before her, she heard a car pulling up in front of the house.
David got out. It wasn’t his car. He said something she couldn’t hear to
a driver she couldn’t see. He waved and the car sped off. Then David
headed for the front door. He hadn’t even bothered to look for her on the
“Hey, David!” she called out.
“What are you doing home so early?”
David stopped and looked
“I'm up here, stupid! On the
roof! Trying to figure out this goddamn antenna.”
David looked up, shading his
eyes from the sun, as a startled expression formed on his face. He
frowned. David wasn’t bad looking. Honey thought he was handsome. But
then, Honey was twenty-five, single, overweight, and slightly desperate.
David had beautiful teeth and a really nice smile. But according to
Rosalie, his ears were too big. They stuck out. And his hair was getting
pretty thin for a guy who was only thirty. Besides that, he was skinny.
He seldom ate enough. Rosalie always told him he was lean like Jimmy
Stewart, with ears like Clark Gable, and half of Jimmy Durante’s nose. No
one could miss it right there in the middle of that face.
“So what do you think you’re
doing?” David was standing with his hands on his hips, shaking his head
and rolling his eyes.
“I told you. I'm fixing the
antenna. You may not like television, but I do. And if you won’t fix the
antenna, I will. It’s as simple as that.”
“You’re crazy! Do you know
that, Rosalie? Plain crazy!” She figured his blood pressure was probably
rising. “I told you I’d get Kenny to help me with that as soon as I can
find time. I told you that! What do you know about antennas? Nothing!
That's what you know—a big fat nothing!”
“So where’s the car?” She was
really starting to like the roof.
“It caught on fire.” David
stared at the bushes with a disgusted look on his face.
“On fire? What do you mean
the car caught on fire?”
“The electrical system
short-circuited, something like that.” He shrugged it off. “Smoke and
flames poured out from under the hood and dashboard. The fire department
came. It was awful. The car had to be towed.” He looked discouraged.
Rosalie, if you want to know the God-honest truth, this has not been one
of my best days—not in the least!”
“So what are you going to do
“I don’t have a clue what I’m
going to do now,” he said as an increasingly anxious expression appeared
on his face. “But I know what you’re going to do. You’re going to get down
off that stupid roof...that’s what you’re going to do...before you fall
and break your stupid neck!” He sounded tense. After all, David was
“You want to know something,
David? I like the roof! Being on a roof is very interesting. You should
try it sometime. Really, David, you should try it!”
She knew she was being
ridiculous but she couldn’t care less. So now the car had caught on fire.
What next? How could David sell vacuum cleaners without a car? He
couldn’t carry all that stuff around, door to door, and they did have to
pay the rent.
“Rosalie, will you please get
off that roof? You're making me nervous. Please!” he yelled. Then he
started pacing. Next, his ulcer might start giving him trouble.
That was when a strange thing
The big black crow that had
been sitting on the power lines across the street suddenly flew off and
took a dive straight at Rosalie. As she dodged to one side to get out of
its way, she lost her balance, fell, and started rolling down the front of
the roof. She was so startled by what had happened that she didn't even
The last thing she remembered
falling headfirst toward the front porch was David running toward her
crying out, “R o s a l i e!” at the top of his voice.
All around there was a
bright golden mist—sort of like fog—but it wasn't cold and damp—and it
wasn't hot. It was pleasant. Rosalie could hear music. Not ordinary music,
more like harmonious notes accompanied by a choir of perfectly blended
voices. It was indescribable. Nothing she had ever heard before could even
begin to compare with it.
She had a warm, lazy,
drifting sensation like floating in the Goldsmiths’ swimming pool with the
temperature at eighty-eight degrees, or lying in a warm bathtub full of
bubbles. There was a sweet fragrance that reminded her of spring flowers
after the rain combined with the scent of freshly mowed grass. And just as
she was beginning to adapt to the mist, strange light, and lovely
sensations, she discovered she was lying on freshly mowed grass. There
were beautiful, brilliant flowers all around her. Flowers she could not
remember ever having seen before.
“Now why can't my yard
look like this?” As usual, she was talking to herself.
The mist was clearing.
About a hundred yards away was a wide, calmly flowing deep blue river. In
the distance were gentle rolling hills, lush and green. Rosalie was
entranced when an orange and white and blue butterfly lit nearby. She was
very fond of butterflies and had never seen this kind before.
Rosalie talked to
butterflies the same as she talked to flowers and plants and to herself.
To her delight, the
butterfly fluttered up and settled on her knee. Onetime when she was a
child, a brown and yellow butterfly with bright blue dots on its wings had
stayed on her hand for several minutes. It was one of her fondest
memories. The same as back then, she was afraid to move or to say
anything, afraid if she did that the butterfly would fly away.
Nonetheless, the butterfly stayed on her knee, gently moving its wings in
the soft breeze.
Slowly, Rosalie sat up.
She took a deep breath and gazed at the magnificent landscape around her.
The butterfly was still on her knee. She wondered if the butterfly thought
her bright green pants were part of the grass. Suddenly, it fluttered up
in front of her face and navigated a change of course toward the river.
She watched it and sat very still, filled with an extraordinary sense of
Then, from out of
nowhere, a rowboat appeared on the river. The man rowing was dressed in
black and wore a clerical collar. He had a Santa Claus kind of face
without a beard, and as he rowed he sang, “Row, row, row your boat,
gently down the stream…Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a
dream…Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream...” What he lacked
in voice, he made for in enthusiasm.
He got out of the boat
at a small pier near the edge of the river and he waved.
Rosalie looked all
around. Since she was the only one there, she waved back. He looked
harmless enough. He was all smiles as he walked toward her at a quick pace
for such an old gent.
“Hello, hello! And how
are you this fine moment?” His voice had a lilt that sounded Irish.
Rosalie tilted her head
to one side, the way she always did when she was trying to figure someone
out, and said, “I'm fine. Just fine.”
“I'm so very glad to
hear that.” And with that, he joined her on the grass.“Lovely here, isn't
it? I particularly like this spot.”
“Yes, it's beautiful.”
That was when Rosalie
realized she had no idea of where she was or of how she had even gotten
there. Strange, she thought, and she started searching her mind.
“Excuse me,” she said,
“but for some strange reason I don't seem to remember...” she abruptly
stopped and cautiously inquired, “That is, could you possibly tell
me...where we are?”
“Most call it Halfway
Point here near the crossing. It has other names, of course, depending on
your point of view. I like Halfway Point. It's a descriptive name and
Rosalie was puzzled.
For the moment she felt so good about being there that she guessed it
didn't matter how she had gotten there, and yet, “What river is that?” she
“Before we discuss the
river, allow me to introduce myself. I'm Father Timothy.” As he spoke he
pulled a piece of paper out of his jacket pocket. “Naturally, I already
know your name. Rosalie…Rosalie Rosenberg.”
“How come you know my
name? Are you psychic?”
“You could say that,”
he said with a chuckle. “Actually, your name was given to me by my
“What superior?” Things
seemed to be getting stranger by the minute.
“Well, I call her
Mother Superior," he said, chuckling. “It's a private joke we share. Most
folks here call her Marcella. You'll like her. She's a wonderful being.”
He refolded the paper and placed it back in his pocket.
Rosalie began searching
her mind trying to remember how she had gotten to this place. Nothing made
sense. How could this Marcella know her name when she couldn't remember
ever having met anyone named Marcella at any time in her life? And even
if she had, why would this Marcella give her name to this odd little man
dressed in black? And, how did he know she would even be here in the first
place, wherever “here” was? There was something really strange happening.
“Are we anywhere near
Los Angeles?” she decided to ask.
speaking,” Father Timothy replied, “you could say that, and yet, we're not
really anywhere near Los Angeles.” He thoughtfully closed his eyes for a
Rosalie braced herself,
tension mounting as she asked, “Then where are we?”
Again, Father Timothy
closed his eyes. There was a long pause before he opened his eyes to
directly look at her. He seemed to be searching for the right words when
he said, “What's the last thing you remember, lass?”
“Asking you where we
are.” Now, he was making her very nervous.
“No, I mean...”
“Before what?” she
blurted out. “What I mean is, what do you mean by before?”
“Before you found
“Before I found myself
here?” she more or less squeaked, scratching her head. Not that it
itched, it something she could do when she was nervous. “That's one hell
of a question. I mean, just minutes ago I was trying to figure out where I
am and how I got here—and now you're asking me to remember.”
She frowned before she
went on, “If you want to know the truth, I seem to have amnesia or
something—like I don't remember. Honest, I plain don't remember.”
With that, Rosalie let
out an audible sigh. Then she stood and looked all around as though the
flowers and trees might fill her in. “This is the weirdest thing that's
ever happened to me. Honest to God! I'm not putting you on. I don't know
where I am. I know who I am. I'm Rosalie Rosenberg—like your friend
Marcella, or Mother Superior, or whatever you two have going on, tells
He raised his eyebrow
in some disapproval.
“No offense intended,”
she added, once again scratching her head. “And if you want to know
something really strange, for some crazy reason, I don't even give a
At the word shit
Father Timothy closed his eyes for several seconds, and then he released a
very controlled sigh.
“I’m sorry. I guess my
choice of words isn't always the greatest,” she said with a grin. “I mean,
you must be a rabbi or something, and I guess religious folk aren't too
keen on hearing obscene language, so I apologize. I'm sorry.”
“I accept your
apology.” He took a deep breath and squared his shoulders before he said,
“It's not uncommon for people to feel as you do when they first arrive.
The truth is, many do. Some at least remember that they were on their
way, but in your case, I guess there wasn't time to prepare for your
“Transition?” Again she
scratched her head.
“My dear Rosalie, you
have crossed over.”
“Crossed over where?”
“To the other side.”
“The other side of
what?" her voice rose in pitch, the way it always did when she was
extremely nervous. “Los Angeles?”
He simply shook his
head with a strained look on his face.
Again he was shaking his head.
“Not exactly,” he
said, momentarily pausing. “But I suppose you could say that.” Father
Timothy was aware of her plight, having dealt with many such souls.
Recently, they seemed to be becoming his specialty.
Rosalie was ready to
panic. “Since your friend Marcella knows who I am and that I was going to
be here, maybe we should ask her how I got here? I mean, I'm sure she'll
be able to clear everything up for both of us in nothing flat.” For all
she knew, this guy was some kind of nut case recently escaped from the
state hospital at Camarillo.
“I really wish they
wouldn't give me these assignments,” he said half to himself.
“I'm an assignment?
Sure, that makes sense.”
“We have jobs here.
The same as you do, tasks to help us grow. The jobs we have here can be
just as trying as the ones you have on the earth plane. Trust me.”
“Oh, come on,” she
started laughing “you're not going to tell me I'm on Mars or something?
I'll admit I've never seen butterflies like that before, but I haven't
been to a lot of places. For all I know, those butterflies are common in
Africa or the Amazon or someplace like that. And I know I've never seen
flowers like those before, but I've only been in New York, New Jersey, and
California. I haven't been to lots of places with all kinds of strange
things that most people only see in pictures—or on those nature programs
on TV. Am I dreaming? Am I having some kind of freaky dream where I can't
wake up? Maybe I've lost my marbles. Or I'm hallucinating because some
stupid doper put LSD in the drinking water.” Her head was starting to reel
at all the implications.
“Come on, Timothy,
level with me. You're not trying to tell me what I think you're trying to
tell me, are you? I mean—the last I remember is trying to figure out the
stupid antenna. And David drove up, and then, this stupid crow took a dive
at me so that I lost my balance and fell and rolled down the roof and,”
she stopped and raised both hands to her face.
“Go on,” Father Timothy
said with an understanding look on his face.
Rosalie took a deep
breath and let it out very slowly, her voice just above a whisper as she
said, “What you're trying to tell me is... I'm dead. That Rosalie
Rosenberg has died?”
Father Timothy nodded.
Rosalie had finally
accepted the truth.