Track Three: Carry the Zero

A Rose Mary Stretch of the Imagination, pt. 3

The story of Richard Nixon’s secretary told as if Built to Spill’s seminal release Keep it like a Secret was a concept album about the Watergate Scandal.

“I’m not knocking it,” Tom Woods said, his fork hovering over a plate of bangers and mash, “You’ve had a good career, Rose. And he’s a good man. You wanting to go on: I get it.” It was 1961 and Rose was home for Christmas. The moment she’d stepped down from the plane, she knew it had been a mistake to come. At the dinner table her parents looked older, but in every important respect they were the same. Nothing had changed since the day she’d left.

“We just don’t see you hardly at all any more,” her mother picked up where her father had trailed off. “And we miss you. What do you do out there? I mean, when you’re not working?”

I am never ‘not working,’ Rose thought, that’s the point.

“There’s a lot of good you could do here in Sebring,” her father said. Her parents were trading off talking points. There was a pitch here that they had prepared. It amused Rose to picture her parents in strategy meetings, deciding how to get their daughter to move home. She wondered who their speech writers were.

“Do you have time to see any of the museums? Do you meet any nice men?” her mother’s voice softened like it always did when she was nearing her point, “Do you have time to date?”

“I’m just surprised that you want to carry all that on,” said Tom, his voice rising slightly like it always did when he sensed Rose wasn’t paying close enough attention. “He’s a good man Rose. Richard’s done a lot of great things but they’re saying he’s about done, you know, after Kennedy. If I’m being completely honest, I think you both have probably seen your best years in politics.”

“You’re still young enough to meet someone,” her mother added, “And it’s just that California is so far away…”

“Mark my words,” her father said, “even if he does decide to run against Brown, he won’t beat him.”

“He’s already married…” her mother said, almost whispering.

Rose sighed. They were missing the point, entirely.

The next time Rose returned for Christmas would be in 1973, after everything had changed.